92: God in the Cockpit

92: God in the Cockpit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

God in the Cockpit

Peace is not the absence of affliction, but the presence of God.

~Author Unknown

Working in real estate, I’d had the chance to meet and befriend a client who was a property developer. Clarence also happened to be an experienced pilot. He and I had done several business deals together and it was not unusual for him to fly us to see remote parcels of property suitable for development.

One night in late April 1985, I had a dream that Clarence and I were in a plane flying to view some property. A few minutes into the flight I saw engine oil on the windshield of the plane. Looking down in panic, I couldn’t see the ground at all. The first thing I saw was the tops of pine trees as they peeked through dense fog, and I knew the plane was going down. Remarkably the next thing in the dream was a clear picture of the actual crashed plane, nose down, as Clarence and I stood back surveying the scene. Miraculously, we had survived.

I woke up really frightened. The image of the plane nose down stayed in my mind. I could not shake the dream. It seemed so real and it had to be a premonition of some sort.

Though the dream continued to bear on my mind, I did not tell my wife. I didn’t want to burden her or cause her to worry. I decided, however, that I had to tell Clarence because I did not intend to fly anywhere with him for a while. I truly believed this dream had been a warning, which I intended to heed. I had worried for several days about how to tell him without either insulting him or having him think I was being ridiculous. So one afternoon while he was in the office to see me on business, I finally got up the courage as he started to leave. He was halfway down the hall when I called to him. “Clarence, hold up a minute. There’s something I need to tell you.” He was standing with one of my other colleagues and he turned back to me. “Yes, Alton? What is it?”

“Clarence, I had a dream the other night that you and I were in a plane crash. It was the most real dream I have ever had. I don’t feel good about the dream and I don’t think I’m going to be able to fly with you for a while.”

Clarence and the other agent started to chuckle. Clarence patted me on the shoulder and said, “Oh Alton, try not to worry. It’ll be all right.”

Even though he obviously did not take me or the dream very seriously, I felt relieved at having finally told him.

Several days went by and I received a phone call from Clarence telling me about a client who wanted him to build a freight terminal around Daytona, Florida.

“Alton, how about you and I taking the plane down and seeing if we can find something for him?”

I could not believe that after I’d told him about the dream, he still was asking me to fly with him to Florida. I knew then that he really had not believed me or taken the dream as seriously as I did. Not knowing quite how to handle that, I just said, “Well Clarence, I’ve got a pretty busy schedule for the next few days. Let me look at things and get back with you.”

It was really a dilemma. Maybe I was being a little paranoid. He was a good friend and business associate, and he was just asking me to help him find a piece of real estate for a client that I stood to make a pretty good commission from. After serious consideration I decided maybe there was a solution. It had been a while since Eleanor and I had taken any time off — why didn’t we drive down to Florida, spend a few days at Epcot, visit my sister Ruth in Melbourne, and then I could drive to meet Clarence in Daytona and check out some properties with him? Clarence went ahead and flew down, and we found a suitable piece of property. Later, I drove him to the airport feeling good about avoiding this flight and what I feared was sure disaster.

About 10:00 p.m. I got a call from Clarence’s wife. She wanted to know what time he had left Daytona — she was beginning to worry because she thought he should have been home by then. Cold panic set in. It had been four hours since he’d left Daytona and yes, he should have been home by then. I tried to play it down and not frighten her, so I told her that he’d probably run into some delay at the airport after I left and to give me a call if she had not heard from him in an hour. Turns out there had been a report of bad weather, and he had decided to land at a small airport and complete the trip once the threat of danger had passed. He was fine and I felt relieved knowing now that he had avoided the crash I had dreamed about.

Although the deal closed on our first trip, there were still details like surveys, soil samples and permits. So one morning Clarence called and wanted to know if we could fly down to take care of the things. Feeling confident the danger of the plane crash was behind us, I agreed. Tuesday morning, about 5:15, we left Covington, Georgia and headed for Daytona. Around 5:30 a.m., after we had reached about 5,000 feet, Clarence leveled out the plane. He turned on the cabin lights and we had some of the coffee and sandwiches his wife had made us for the trip. Once settled, he turned the cabin lights back out. That’s when I saw it — oil all over the windshield. Just like in the dream. We watched as the oil pressure fell.

We searched for an emergency landing field, but below us was a complete covering of dense fog. We could see no landmarks, no lights, nothing. We turned back towards home to try to get out of the fog. Minutes later the oil pressure dropped to zero and the plane shook so violently that we feared it would break apart. Then the engine locked up, the propeller stopped turning, and the silence in the cabin was deadly. Both of us, however, seemed strangely calm.

“Clarence, remember the dream I had — we’ve been in these same seats before. And although we crashed, remember we both walked away. Let’s just stay calm and try to think of what to do next.”

We checked the altimeter, calculating at what point we would hit the ground. This all took less than five minutes — but time seemed to stand still. When we got to about 1,000 feet we saw a break in the fog. All I remember seeing was pine trees. Again, just like I saw in the dream. On its glide path, the plane cut down about eight of those trees and came to rest on its nose in a clearing the other side of those pines. I smelled the strange odor of fresh cut pine and gasoline as it gurgled out of the tank. For the first time, I felt fear.

We managed to get out of the plane and made our way over to a log, where we sat to assess our injuries. We looked back at the plane to the exact same scene I’d first seen in my dream.

I believe God sent me that dream as a warning and a message. I thought I could avert the crash by driving to Florida that first trip. But with that crash, He made it perfectly clear that He, and not I, was in control of my life — in fact, all life.

Several weeks later, a friend asked me if Clarence had been the one piloting the plane. “Well,” I responded, “he was the pilot when we took off, but he and I both were passengers when we landed.”

~Alton Housworth

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