“Flying Blind at 100 MPH,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 62–64
On a cold winter morning in January 1992 I went to the airport in Provo, Utah, and signed out a Cessna 172, which I planned to fly over the mountains to nearby Heber City. Assured that the plane was in good working order and that the weather wouldn’t be a problem, I pushed in the throttle and the plane lifted off the runway.
I felt the usual excitement I experienced whenever I fly. When I was above Provo, I turned the plane toward Provo Canyon and climbed to about 8,500 feet and leveled off. The weather report had stated that the sky was overcast with mild northerly winds, but I could see that the blanket of clouds was dropping closer to my altitude.
Before long I could see the airport in Heber just ahead, so I lined up and prepared to land. After landing, I shut the plane down and went to get something to eat. As I ate, I noticed that the sky was rapidly becoming much darker than before. The clouds began to look ominous, and I was concerned about the sudden change in weather.
I decided to take off immediately and to try to get home quickly despite the worsening weather—a decision I was soon to regret. The wind had picked up, and tiny raindrops accumulated on my windshield as I taxied toward the runway. I was beginning to feel very anxious to get back to Provo. Any small plane is at the mercy of the weather, especially in clouds and storms. Even if I had the training to fly through such weather, the airplane I was flying that day did not have the instruments needed for a flight through clouds.
Lifting off the runway at Heber, I noticed that the cloud ceiling was dropping fast. Because the surrounding mountains were covered with storm clouds, I would have to fly through Provo Canyon instead of over it. As I headed into the canyon, however, I found that it was blocked by clouds and filled with snow showers.
Frantically I turned the airplane back toward Heber so I could wait out the storm there, but I saw nothing but thick clouds and snow showers. Heber was no longer in sight! Never had I been so scared. I was traveling blind at more than 100 miles per hour with nowhere to land. I was boxed in, and death seemed certain.
As I sat there in shock, an eerie silence enclosed me despite the engine’s steady rumbling. Snow fell on my windshield, and I could see ice crystals forming on the wing struts. It was all I could do to keep the wings level and stay in control of the airplane. I was terrified, but suddenly I recalled a painting in my room back home. It was of a boy piloting a ship in rough seas. Standing behind him with a hand on the boy’s shoulder was Jesus Christ, who was guiding him through the storm. The image reminded me that I needed divine help. I bowed my head and, with one eye shut and the other on my instruments, prayed for help. I asked Heavenly Father to help me somehow find a way out of my desperate situation.
Finishing my prayer, I felt a complete calm come over me; I no longer felt alone. I turned the plane again toward the canyon, and ahead of me a tiny patch of blue sky opened up through the clouds. I pushed in full throttle and raced to make it through the opening to Provo. As I traveled through the canyon, the hole in the clouds slowly closed behind me.
Just ahead I saw the Provo airport through the clouds. I no longer was worried, because I knew Heavenly Father was watching over me. I managed a smooth landing just as the wind picked up and the storm descended with a fury.
I would not have made it through that situation without divine help. Though I had erred by ignoring obvious signs of possible disaster, the Lord was merciful in answering my prayer in my time of great need. That experience strengthened my testimony of prayer and reminded me in a powerful way to do all I can to avoid danger by exercising good judgment and being sensitive to spiritual promptings.