“A Flight in the Snow,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 61–62
One winter’s night during a particularly nasty snowstorm, there was a serious automobile accident in a small Idaho town not far from the Utah border. A young child was critically injured. I was an air ambulance pilot in the Salt Lake City area and was dispatched in a fixed-wing aircraft to pick her up and bring her back to Salt Lake.
The closest airport to the accident was in Pocatello, Idaho. While it would take us only about 45 minutes to fly from Salt Lake City to Pocatello, it would take the ambulance crew nearly three hours to transport the girl from the accident site to Pocatello because of hazardous driving conditions. Even though the air transport team would arrive well before the ambulance crew, the doctor in charge wanted us there early to transfer the little girl from the ambulance to the airplane without any delay, getting her on her way to a major trauma center.
The weather was bad; these were the absolute minimum conditions we could land in. A small commuter airliner was also on approach to Pocatello, about 10 minutes ahead of us. I listened intently to the other pilot’s radio communications, knowing we would encounter the same conditions. His approach was routine, until he should have been able to see the runway. It wasn’t visible, however, and he had to give up the approach and go around.
Now it was our turn. I was very concerned—what if we couldn’t get in and had to return without the injured girl? I quickly said a silent prayer. I told Heavenly Father if He wanted us to pick up that little girl I would need His help.
I began the descent. It seemed to take forever. I couldn’t see a thing except gray cloud and snow blowing horizontally past the windshield. I was quickly approaching the point where, like the commuter airliner, I would have to break off the approach. I waited until the last possible instant, and then suddenly the runway lights came into view. They were dim but good enough. I reduced the power and landed and offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the miracle I had just experienced.
As I taxied to our parking spot, two things were obvious—the storm wasn’t going to let up, and the company that usually provided us with deicing service and a hangar to protect the aircraft from the weather had closed for the evening.
A few minutes later the commuter airliner landed safely. Immediately the control tower closed and the controllers went home. After the passengers and crew of the commuter plane left, the ground staff locked up the airport terminal building and went home too. My colleagues and I were left with no way to deice the airplane or to put it in a hangar, and the snow was beginning to fall even harder. There was a very real possibility we would not be able to leave until the next morning.
The transport team and I decided it would be best to wait and see what conditions were like when the ambulance arrived. As I looked out the plane’s window, I could see the snow starting to stick to the commuter airliner, parked not far from where we were. Knowing it would be unsafe to attempt a takeoff with any amount of snow or ice on our airplane, I went outside. The snow was falling very hard and beginning to stick to our wings. I walked around to where I would be out of view and offered another prayer.
Time seemed to pass very slowly that evening. Occasionally I would look out at the snow accumulating steadily on the commuter plane, but I avoided going outside again to check our own wings.
After nearly two hours the ambulance arrived with the little girl. I opened the cabin door and got out. The commuter plane was covered with snow and ice. I turned around to see what condition our plane was in. Although I had tried to have faith and be optimistic, I am ashamed to say I was astounded by what I saw. Tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes as I walked around the airplane. It was clean and dry—absolutely no snow or ice anywhere on it. It looked as if it had just come out of a heated hangar. The snow had also stopped falling, and visibility had improved to the point where it would be possible to take off.
Heavenly Father had provided the miracles we needed that night to get a little girl to the hospital. It was a very humble pilot who bowed his head in gratitude that evening for the great blessings he had received.
The flight back to Salt Lake was completely routine. Certainly my prayers and the prayers of that girl’s family and friends had been answered. I never did hear what the little girl’s final outcome was, but my testimony of the overwhelming love and compassion our Father in Heaven has for His children was strengthened that winter night.