Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Little Help From Our Friends

When I was a Naval Aviator in the USMC, believe it or not, I had approximately 80 takeoffs and landings aboard US Navy aircraft carriers. I am going to use one of my missions aboard the USS Midway in order to illustrate a point. Two hours prior to each mission the pilot and I would always brief together and talk about the requirements of the mission, the expected weather during takeoff and landing as well as coordinating the tasks in the cockpit prior to our catapult shot and prior to our arrested landing back aboard the carrier.

Because the EA-6A was a two crewmember aircraft where the crew members sat side-by-side (Pilot on the left of the centerline of the aircraft and myself right of center), we always had a tendency to drift to the left during approach. Additionally the layout of the instrumentation was not particularly conducive to the pilots’ instrument scan and control of the aircraft during a fast paced carrier approach. As a result I would always provide a pilot with line-up and airspeed information during our approaches back aboard ship.

During this particular mission that was in the middle of the Indian Ocean and hundreds of miles from the nearest land, the pilot decided that he was so good that he did not need any information from me during the approach. In my estimation he was making a mistake but I played it off and went down to maintenance in order to check the status of the aircraft we were scheduled to fly. The aircraft that we were scheduled to fly was in excellent working condition. I then went and got the latest weather update during takeoff, along our route and during the time of our approach and landing back aboard the ship. We were scheduled to launch at approximately 12 p.m. and scheduled to recover back aboard ship at approximately 2 p.m. The weather was expected to be CAVU (Clear and the Visibility Unlimited).

Since the aircraft was in good condition and the weather was expected to be perfect I decided to play along with homeboys’ display of arrogance. Understand that I had flown with more experienced and highly seasoned pilots than the one I was crewed with on that day and they always asked for line-up and airspeed information during our descent and approach back aboard the carrier.

After we had completed our mission and prior to starting our descent and approach back aboard the carrier I asked homeboy one more time if he needed my help during the approach. He said “no” and since the aircraft was in good condition, the weather was perfect and we had enough fuel for two approaches, I kept my mouth shut. I was not surprised when the Landing Safety Officer (LSO) said "bolter, bolter, bolter" over the radio, which indicated that we made a missed approach in our attempt to land aboard the carrier and had to work our way back into the pattern of other landing aircraft and try to land aboard the carrier again.

Since pilots are graded on each approach that they make aboard the carrier, I knew that homeboy was unhappy because a “bolter” is not a good grade. This next time just prior to beginning our descent and approach to the carrier homeboy said “Al, can you give me airspeed and line-up during the approach?"

Since he was no longer "Stuck on Stupid" and my rear end was on the line as well as his since we had enough fuel for this approach only without having to go find an airborne tanker (if we made another missed approach), I gladly provided the necessary information. We made a normal arrested landing and during our debrief homeboy was as red as a beet and said nothing about his missed approach.

I brought up this illustration in order to make a point. The point is that even when things are going well in our lives we always need "A Little Help from Our Friends."

I know that there are times that we think that we have everything under control and have attained our present position as a result of our intellect, education or strength. In my opinion, we need to focus our worship on God and thank Him for providing us the intellect, education or strength necessary to attain our current position.

We may think that the money we have in the bank or stock market is enough to protect us and provide us income during our retirement years. In my opinion, we need to realize that we are placing our faith in pieces of paper with numbers on them and as a result we are worshiping the creation and not the Creator.

Now do not get me wrong, God gave us Dominion over the earth and everything that is in it. Sometimes however we have a tendency to walk right past God and worship a new home, a new auto, a new pair of shoes when Matthew 6:33 states "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

My goal in today's Post is for us to focus on seeking God's help even in the midst of good times. We should ask him for his input and guidance even in the midst of our most mundane affairs. I believe that if we'd make this a constant habit then we will have very few missed approaches in life.


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