Mechanics of Flight
September 2017

“Mechanics of Flight,” New Era, September 2017

Mechanics of Flight

An airplane can teach you a lot about obedience, revelation, and spiritual direction.


Photographs from Getty Images

Two Forces

When I worked as an airplane mechanic, I learned that, to fly, an airplane requires two forces:

  1. Thrust, or forward momentum, at a speed sufficient to create lift. Thrust overcomes drag, the resistance to movement.

  2. Lift, which is created by the difference in pressure of the air going over the wing and the air going under the wing (referred to as Bernoulli’s principle). Lift overcomes gravity, which would otherwise pull the plane back to earth.

airplane and wing

Course Correction

Of course, there’s a lot of other stuff going on when an airplane flies. But much of it involves two additional systems.

  1. Navigational aids help the pilot keep the plane on course. These include gauges and dials in the cockpit, but also include radar beacons and voice contact with flight towers.

  2. Flight controls facilitate change of direction. They include rudders (flaps on the tail of the plane), ailerons and trim tabs (small flaps on wings), large flaps and spoilers, slats, and stabilizers. These enable the plane to roll, climb, dive, turn, and come gently back to earth when it’s time to land.


Pilots depend on the ground crew. The crew prepares the plane to fly, guides the aircraft to and from the runway, conducts pre-flight and post-flight inspections, and performs or recommends maintenance. The crew is responsible for the upkeep and safety of the aircraft.

airplane instuments and ground crew

What This Has to Do with You

Make a few simple comparisons, and you’ll find some inspiring similarities between the principles of flight and the principles of the gospel.

Spiritual Lift

Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel builds momentum. It provides spiritual thrust that creates spiritual lift. It keeps us moving forward. It enables us to rise above the world, where we can see clearly how to return to our Heavenly Father.

Course Correction

After you were baptized, you received the Holy Ghost, the best of all spiritual navigation devices. As you continue in obedience, the still small voice will provide constant promptings about what to do, where to go, and how to act. If you listen carefully, it will guide you.

But it is up to you to use the means the Lord has provided to correct your course. These include checkpoints—are you praying regularly, searching scriptures, attending meetings, preparing for and going to the temple? And they include repentance, which enables you to make both major and minor adjustments to spiritual attitude, altitude, and direction.

Spiritual Certification

Like a pilot, you must rely on your spiritual ground crew. Your crew includes your parents, Young Men or Young Women leaders, your bishop and his counselors, home teachers, seminary teachers, and righteous friends. Think of interviews with them as pre-flight and post-flight inspections. Just as an airplane is checked at regular intervals, you will have opportunities to verify your readiness to fly during regularly scheduled interviews. Your spiritual ground crew will help you assess your abilities, prepare your flight plan, and counsel you about spiritual wind speed and potential turbulence. Certain activities, such as going to the temple, will require verification that you’re cleared for takeoff. General conference talks are like hearing from a flight controller who can see all the planes at once and provide far-reaching navigational instructions. Obedience to the counsel provided will help you steer clear of potential danger.

Ready to Fly

In a spiritual sense, we are meant to fly. We are children of our Heavenly Father, and He wants us to reach spiritual heights. As His children, we should reach for the sky because with His help, we can always soar to new heights.