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Mercy Flight

A guardian angel guides a plane carrying a young boy in need of brain surgery safely through a storm.

Guardian angel guides plane through storm

Thunderstorms. The blips on the radar screen disturbed me as the copilot and I ran through our preflight checks. I leaned around the cockpit door. A young boy lay on a stretcher, unconscious, pale as death. His doctor and four nurses stood by.

Medical equipment crowded the aisle. I was chief pilot for a charter airline, and I’d handled hundreds of ambulance flights, but I seldom knew much about the patients I transported.

This boy was named Toby. He was 11 and had something wrong with his brain. We were all set to fly from Cincinnati to Branson, an hour and a half away. A new hospital there had surgical equipment that could help him. “He’s got a 50-50 chance,” a nurse said.

Fifty-fifty chance, I thought. Just like the weather. I would not have given the boy even those odds, considering how sick he looked.

I ducked back into the cockpit. “What do you think?” I asked the copilot. “Gonna be rough,” he said. This was the kind of storm that spawned tornadoes. Commercial flights were canceled in weather like this.

Our Learjet had two engines and two generators. The medical equipment drained our power. If we lost an engine or a generator, I’d have no choice but to cut off the power to the boy’s lifesaving equipment. And what kind of choice was that? Was I risking all our lives to try to save a boy who might not make it anyway?

My starched uniform felt like a straitjacket. Sweat rolled down my forehead and dripped onto my crisp white shirt. I reached for the checklist. My hands were shaking. Then I glanced back at the boy, unconscious on the stretcher. We were ready for takeoff. God be with us on this flight. “Let’s do it,” I said to the copilot. We hit the controls. The jet zoomed into the sky.

Once aloft, I turned around again. The boy was beginning to stir, ever so slightly. Low murmurs came from his lips. The medical staff worked furiously over him. They had no concerns about the flight or the storm, only the boy’s welfare. These courageous people are entrusted to my care. I would focus on my duties, not my fears, just like them.

The radar blipped its warnings: electrical activity, severe turbulence, pounding rain. Solid lines of thunderstorm cells seemed to dare us to approach. “They look angry,” the copilot said. I had to find openings to make our way through. Dear Lord, I can’t do this alone. The plane bounced and dipped in the turbulence. I’d read that a mature thunderstorm had the power of an atomic bomb. Now I believed it.

“Captain!” shouted the copilot. “We need to take evasive action.” I gritted my teeth. I pictured God’s hand on the controls, his angels calming the storm with their wings. I guided the plane into what appeared to be a safe zone. The radar warnings faded.

As we approached each storm cell, the blips disappeared before our eyes. The flight became eerily calm. We continued rising, finding even smoother air.

I sat back in my seat, relaxed but still cautious. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I didn’t turn around. I kept my attention dead ahead.

“Excuse me, Captain,” the nurse said. “What is our altitude?”

“Fourteen thousand feet and climbing,” I said.

After a while I felt another tap on my shoulder: “Captain, what is our target altitude?”

“Target flight level, 41,000 feet.”

Another tap. “Captain, what is our speed?”

Now I was annoyed. Why was this nurse distracting me from piloting the plane? I turned around to scold her. “Who wants to know?”

“Toby wants to know, Captain!” I was astonished. The boy was no longer lying unconscious on his stretcher. Toby sat upright, watching the activity in the cockpit. His brown hair was tousled and soaked with sweat, but there was a sparkle in his blue eyes. “He loves planes,” the nurse said.

A curious, vibrant boy looked at me. The same boy I didn’t think would make it. But that wasn’t for me to judge; only God knew the outcome for each and every one of us aboard this flight. My job was simply to fly the plane to the best of my ability.

During the remainder of the flight I answered a few more questions for my star passenger. We arrived in Branson a little late but without incident.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Toby,” I said when he was put into the ambulance. Excitement still sparkled in his eyes. “Thanks,” he said. “That was fun! Will you be back to fly me home?”

“I’d like that,” I told Toby. “I’d like that very much.”

That was many years and many flights ago. Someone else flew Toby home, but I have never forgotten that I’m a better pilot because of him. I focus all my energies on my own job without worrying about the things that are beyond my control. Angels guided me through the storm that day. One of them had sparkling blue eyes.

Download your free ebook, Angel Sightings: 7 Inspirational Stories About Heavenly Angels and Everyday Angels on Earth.

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