Summary: Wake-up and Fly Right!
Are You an Eagle or a Kiwi?
It’s early morning at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in southern California many years ago. The coastal fog is dark, damp and thick as I taxi out in my fighter jet. You literally can see only about a plane length in front of you and the only way you can find the duty runway is to follow the white line on the taxiway. If I weren’t intimately familiar with the airport, I would have never found the take-off runway. Ground control frequency is quiet, there is no one else taxing for take-off. Most pilots are waiting for the fog to start to lift.
I’m cleared for take-off on runway 7 left by El Toro tower. Again, I’m the only one on frequency. I add full throttle, check the engine instruments, made a one last quick check of the flight controls and release the brakes. The jet jumps forward like something that has just come alive. Now everything is gray fog, a gray fishbowl. The only thing that is preventing disaster is the white dash line down the middle of the runway and my ability to keep the nosegear of the jet right on it. If I lose that white line and go off the side of the runway, my goose is cooked, literally, by 6,000 gallons of jet fuel. However with training, proficiency and confidence, this instrument take-off is a very doable task.
The airspeed indicator shows 125 knots. A little back stick and we’re airborne. Now even the white line is gone. Total concentration on the artificial horizon.
Got to keep the wings level and climb. Vertical speed indicator shows a nice positive rate of climb and I can relax a little. The hardest part is over. Can’t relax completely though, because Saddleback mountain is directly in front of me and I’m still in the soup. Got to turn right to my departure heading and continue the climb until I’m on top of the fog.
Minutes later we break out on top to a most exhilarating view! The sky is totally cloudless and a stunning blue color. The rush of adrenaline in rising to the challenge of the take-off and conquering it, coupled with the awesome beauty of God’s creation is an unbelievable experience. On top of all that, I can
see San Diego to the south and past LA to the north and I’m the only one flying. I own the sky. I tune in a local radio station and listen to Frank Sinatra
sing "Fly Me to the Moon" as I barrel-roll around the sky. Pre-Jesus, I thought it couldn’t get any better than this. I’m free from the bonds of earth! I’m
making like an eagle while the rest of the world is down in the fog. When I land, I tease the pilots waiting for the weather to improve - "when are you
kiwi’s going to fly!"
We are all familiar with eagles. They soar majestically with outstretched wings upon the updrafts around mountains and even ride fearlessly in the angry winds of thunderstorms. They rise higher and higher with no effort. They nest in rocky crags in high places where no one else goes. With their excellent eyesight they are able to spot their prey and swoop down and seize it and crush it with their mighty talons. They are the king of birds.