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The Lost Pilot

Where does a lost pilot go for help when he's away outback, lost over the desert, and almost out of fuel?

Here's what happened years ago to a student pilot, and here's how he got out of it.

Back in the 1960's, when I was a new padre in the bush, we were flying our old 1933 De Havilland Dragon bi-plane from Bourke to Longreach in far western Queensland at about 3000' feet, about the limit for that old bird on a hot summers' day. The two Gypsy Major engines purred happily away in the warm thin dry air when suddenly a frantic call came over the radio from a lost student pilot!

"Mayday … Mayday … Any Station … Any Station … Rrequest urgent assistance," went his first calls, but after half an hour of fruitless calling, he began to panic. Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! He had become disoriented on his first cross country solo exercise. His maps were useless. Low on fuel, he needed a co-pilot who knew how to get him out of his trouble.

He was hundred of miles from me, and, it seems, others, so there was little I or they could do-but pray for him, and hope someone was close enough to help. "I'm almost out of fuel—someone help me," and a hundred other pilots listening could do little but offer suggestions and wish him the best.

No planes seemed near enough to assist. My frustration too, was overwhelming. Miraculously-through the static of the radio—out of the blue, came a quiet, stoic voice of that impossible helper from above. A mysterious presence from nowhere who assessed the situation, found an answer, and directed the frantic pilot what to do. "Yes, son, I have you in sight," droned the pilot of an old Ansett DC3 flying overhead, who'd heard his call for help.

"Now, listen to me. As I talk, simply do what I say. Now, turn to your right-north-yes, that's it, you're doing just fine. Line up on that paddock over the fence and you'll find you can easily land on the ploughed field, stay with your plane, and I'll get someone there to get you."

He'd been watching from above-even as the frantic lad had been quite unable to work it out for himself—followed him for a few minutes, and found the answer to his problem. Then, he continued to quietly talk the lad through each maneuver and movement until he placed him safely on an outback paddock.

In next to no time, the distressed pilot found extra strength from the experienced old pilot, followed his directions implicitly, and was saved from possible disaster.

Daily, as a Christian, I need the Captain of my Salvation to take over and guide my flight through another day of living—and bring me safely to the end of the day without fear or failure. That's why I must treat prayer as the 'key of the day and the bolt of the night.' It's better than the plane radio. It allows fellow travelers to keep in touch with the source of all knowledge. And I must treat the Bible as a road map—a daily mediation. Its vital doctrines, helpful and tender guides—matched together with the prayer—makes a good way to achieve a satisfactory result. Day by day I can review essential teachings from God's Word and gain strength, wisdom, correction and comfort—and the guidance needed for decisions to do with life management. That's what the lost pilot teaches me. That's why God's Word is the answer, the secret, and the source of blessing it is.

That's why "success is getting up just one more time than falling down."

Les Nixon and Australia's Outback Patrol

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