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From the Pastor's Desk

  • Writer's picturePastor

Good Morning Pioneer Baptist!

It was Alaska Airlines Flight 261.

This is a very, very, sad story, the story of an Alaska Airlines passenger flight from Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Washington. On January 31, 2000, the aircraft operating the route, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83, experienced a loss of airplane pitch control resulting from the in-flight failure of the horizontal stabilizer trim system jackscrew assembly's trapezoidal nut threads. The thread failure was subsequently found to be caused by “excessive wear resulting from Alaska Airlines' insufficient lubrication of the jackscrew assembly" according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The pilots were both highly experienced aviators, with Captain Edward "Ted" Thompson, 53, accruing 17,750 flight hours, and First Officer William "Bill" Tansky, 57, with 8,140 total flight hours. Both were well experienced with this particular plane, the McDonnell Douglas MD-83, and neither pilot had been involved in an accident or incident. But on this day, the horizontal stabilizer stopped working properly. They communicated with ground, got permission to land in Los Angeles, used every tool they had mechanically and mentally, & pulled the yoke with all of their might, fighting through who knows how many pounds of pressure in the process. Ultimately, they actually flew the plane upside down (inverted) in an attempt to control it, but success was ultimately an impossibility, and at 4:22 pm on January 31, 2000, the airplane impacted the Pacific with such force that it was destroyed and all eighty-eight persons aboard were killed by blunt force impact trauma. Captain Thompson and First Officer Tansky were both posthumously awarded the Air Line Pilots Association Gold Medal for Heroism in recognition of their actions during the emergency, the only time the award has ever been given posthumously.

Again, it is a very, very, sad story involving human error, agent heroism, and questions of “why” – questions we do not have answered this side of Heaven, if even those questions remain when we get there. But Flight 261, which no longer exists for Alaska Airlines, makes me think of this world and the Christian’s flight through our journey here. Poor maintenance can destabilize things in a moment of time during our flight, and this because of prolonged inattention back in the hanger. Then, the next thing we know, God’s applied truth had been inverted by Lucifer and man’s disposition for ignoring God’s whispering in our ears. Christians dutifully pull on the yoke of right and morality with all of their might, but things have descended into such a nosedive that we fear there is no righting the airship. Nobody really thought or thinks that their inattention and shortcuts will lead to destruction, but God’s warnings absolutely state differently, and when it’s too late, we find upon proper investigation that simply following the manual would have prevented catastrophic loss of life.

Upside-down, speeding toward eternity and loss, we are too often unaware through ignoring the inherent dangers that lurk. Thank God for the pilots who are trying to save us, for their eternal reward from God at the Judgment Seat for doing so, and thank God that He saves all the passengers on this Airship of Life as they put their trust in the ultimate Pilot, the LORD Jesus Christ, and in His Miraculous Manual, the precious Word of God. Keep that Jackscrew anointed with the Holy Ghost, and know that as Christians we have a safe landing waiting!

Call it Heaven Flight 777!

Love and prayers to all


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