by Lori Miller
"NNOO", Dave screamed and sat straight up in bed. What a horrible dream. He had been flying, the weather was perfect, but his flight wasn't. When he woke up, the Aztec plane he was piloting was plummeting into the earth like a meteor.
Dave was trembling and sweating. He tried to shake off the terrible dream. Nothing like that would ever happen to him. He looked around his bedroom. The moonlight was shining off all the pictures of his successful, and memorable flights. Nothing had ever gone wrong before, why would they start to happen now? All the dreams he had been having about flying accidents were just career nerves. Dave was preparing to become an Airline Pilot, his dream since he was a child.
Dave decided to get up and check the weather for his upcoming trip. As he passed a mirror, he noticed that he had lost a little more of his Norwegian blonde hair. He was going to have to start his career soon, or he was going to be the first bald airline copilot. He also noticed the worried lines in his face, and the redness of his face. "Boy that was some dream," he thought. "I look terrible."
He was headed to Wisconsin to pick up his girlfriend. She had been staying with her parents in Wisconsin. Dave had offered to bring her back to Cedar Rapids. She had an apartment by Coe College, where she would soon be starting summer school. Dave had already finished school and the two had met at a alumni function. They hadn't seen each other in two weeks and Dave missed her.
The weather man said the weather was good. It was one of those perfect summer Iowa days. The ones where the sky is a light color of blue and the clouds are so fluffy and white that it looks like a pillow exploded. Dave wandered out to his small Cessna 152 airplane, complimenting himself on choosing this day to fly. The plane was a small two seater with one prop stuck on the nose. The wings were on top of the cockpit, his girlfriend would like that. She could see more of the landscape on the way home. Dave enjoyed coming back to the small planes after training in the larger ones. He had first decided to become a pilot in a plane like this one. The light blue stripes down the side would blend perfectly with the blue sky today.
Dave had been flying for around five years and had never seen a more perfect day. The winds were calm, the sun was shining, even his en route weather was perfect. The perfect day to impress his girlfriend. He was really looking forward to picking her up. He thought about the dream from last night. Maybe someone was trying to tell him something.
"Awe come on," he told himself. "You're just being silly. Dreams are just that, dreams. It'll never happen."
He climbed into his trusty Cessna, fastened his seatbelt and taxied out to the runway. The plane seemed to be running smoothly. Dave called his departure and pushed in the throttle. A small jerk, a little pull and he was off. The buildings slowly got smaller as Dave and the plane climbed off the gravel runway. He loved the departures most about flying. He loved the feeling of the ground going by faster and faster below as he climbed higher and higher. He also got a feeling of freedom by watching the ground and people getting smaller and smaller, taking their problems with them.
He felt like he could see forever. Dave climbed up to his altitude of 3000 feet and set the trim on the airplane so he could sit back and relax. He checked his course and where he was, everything was running smoothly. Time to sit back and enjoy the peaceful flight.
The ground below was a beautiful shade of green. The dark green of the tree tops and the lighter green of the lawns blended together to look stunning. There were tan squares marking the farm fields the farmers had already planted. Even the murky Iowa creeks looked clean from this altitude today. Out the sides of the airplane were other pilots and airplanes up enjoying the beautiful morning. Some of the planes Dave could make out, and others were just dots on the horizon.
He took this time to think about his girlfriend. Lynn was everything Dave had ever wanted in a woman. She was beautiful. Not perfect looking, but she glowed from the inside out and it made her the most beautiful woman to Dave. She had long blonde hair, that was usually back in a ponytail, it matched his slowly balding head. She had deep hazel eyes that were always pinched from the smile on her face. Lynn cared for Dave, and took care of him. He had no doubt she was waiting for him at the airport now, even though they weren't supposed to meet for another hour. But she'd want to be there to check that the weather was good and to see him land. Dave knew that she was one he would eventually marry.
Just then Dave got a strange feeling deep in his gut. Maybe he had something bad for breakfast. Maybe it was that Mountain Dew he had before the departure. Or maybe he was just nervous about meeting Lynn's parents. Then it dawned on him that maybe this flight wasn't going as perfectly as he had originally thought. He flashed back to the dream from last night and started to feel uncomfortable. Dave checked all the instruments, they all looked good. He looked outside, there was no way the weather was making him nervous. So what was this feeling?
All pilots have felt this feeling at one time or another. You know that something isn't right. It could be something as simple as having the map opened to the wrong area or as scary as realizing you took off without filling the gas tank. That sudden comprehension that if something really is wrong you can't just pull over to the side and check it out like in a Ford. But rather you must land in those freshly planted fields or on a (hopefully) deserted road somewhere and face injuring yourself and your plane.
Then it happened, silence. Pilots say the sound of flying is beautiful, since silence is a very frightening thing to a pilot. The hum of an engine can be loud, but it is better than no sound at all. The silence was so deep Dave felt like he could cut it. No noise meant no engine. Dave looked out the front at the motionless prop. He started to wonder if maybe he was dreaming again.
"Stay calm," Dave told himself. He pulled out his emergency checklist. He checked everything that might point to what was wrong with the plane. The carb heat knob was pushed in. The fuel was on. Dave took a deep breath and tried restarting the plane and still only heard silence. He started to think maybe now was a good time to panic. "I still have the wings. I can glide down to a landing. Even though the 2-bladed propeller is eerily still at the moment, I can still glide down." Landing without an engine can be difficult, but it is a part of every pilot's training.
Dave looked around at the landscape for a place to land, assuming the plane was not going to restart. "If only I had listened to my dreams. I would be sitting in my Oldsmobile right now. With Lynn looking radiant next to me."
With his heart pounding so hard he thought his chest might burst, Dave called the emergency over the radio. "Marion Unicom, Cessna One Zero One Zero Tango engine failure, approximately twenty miles north of the airport." Hopefully someone at the airport heard the cry and was calling "911" to help him. Now all he had to do was land the plane safely.
There was a hay field straight ahead that looked smooth enough for a plane to land. The field, unlike the others around it, didn't have any trees on it, it looked like a good place to go. A runway would make him feel better, but that was out of the question right now, since there were no runways close by. At least this field would allow Dave to land and a mechanic could find out what was wrong with the stupid thing.
As he neared the field, Dave prepared the plane, and himself for the landing. There was no time to panic. Everything had to be set perfectly for the plane and him to be safe, and to allow him to concentrate on the landing. He remembered practicing his emergency landings, but they were above a runway. Even then he had trouble. He tightened his seatbelt and secured everything in the cockpit. The flowers and candy he had bought to surprise Lynn, he secured in the seatbelt next to him. He wondered if she would ever get them? But there was no time to think like that.
When everything was set, Dave took one last look around outside. That's when he noticed the farming equipment. Right in the middle of his landing spot was a bailer and numerous other wagons and tractors he hadn't seen earlier. They weren't painted the normal John Deere green or red of most tractors. They were rather painted a dark green almost a brown, so Dave had missed them before. But it was too late. He was already committed to this landing, he was too low to choose another spot to land. He also noticed surrounding the equipment were hay bails, making him even more nervous.
Dave's heart started pounding harder and faster. He started breathing so fast he thought he might pass out. At that moment he decided to try something that he hardly ever did. Dave closed his eyes and began to pray. It seemed like the only thing left try to get himself out of this situation. He prayed for his beautiful, kind-hearted girlfriend, who was waiting at the Grant County airport for him. He prayed for his parents and sisters, who didn't even know he was airborne today, and would find out about this on the six o'clock news. In his mind he said "Goodbye" to everyone. Then he opened his eyes to try and land the Cessna, with the least amount of damage to everything, and everyone.
The ground was approaching faster and faster and the bailers and wagons were getting bigger and bigger. Suddenly Dave noticed the altimeter showing a gain in altitude. He was climbing, but how? Was he dreaming? Was he already dead? The propeller was still straight up and down and not moving. There was no wind to carry him. How?
When he looked around the plane he got his answer. Along the wings of the plane were the most beautiful creatures Dave had ever seen. They were small children, but they weren't children. They had the large wings of a Dove and the innocent beautiful faces of newborn babies. Their small hands were holding and carrying the wings of the airplane. Dave couldn't believe what he was seeing. They were angels. He felt he had to be dreaming. Things like this only happen in the movies, or in fantasy stories.
The plane floated this way across the field, flying only by the angels flapping wings. Dave couldn't take his eyes off the angels so he didn't notice when they turned and set the plane down on a gravel road with no problem. He couldn't believe this was happening.
The beautiful creatures let go of the plane and started to soar away, with Dave still watching them. As they floated away one of the angels turned and smiled a brilliant smile, like he had just heard a joke, and gave Dave a thumbs up. Dave waved back still in shock and disbelief.
He didn't remember doing it, but somehow he removed the seat belt, opened the door and stumbled from the Cessna. Next thing he knew, he was kneeling next to the unscarred airplane with his head in his hands. He still could not believe what had just happened. He rose to his feet and stumbled against the plane.
Within a matter of minutes a large Dodge Ram came to a halt next to the Cessna. A man stepped out, he was wearing overalls and no shirt. He had a Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball hat on, and a concerned look on his face. He scrambled over to Dave, "Sir, are you OK? How did you do that? I thought you and I were goners. I was sitting on my tractor with the plane coming straight at me and then you just climbed away. How did you do that? You must be the luckiest pilot in the world, or the most gifted."
"You mean you didn't see the angels?" Dave muttered. His legs shaking so badly he could hardly stand.
"Angels?" the farmer asked. "You must have knocked your head pretty hard when you landed, let's get you to the hospital, pronto."
Later, he tried, but Dave couldn't explain it. He still had a little trouble believing it himself. Until this day he had not believed in angels or anything else supernatural. How could he tell people he was saved by angels? But it had happened. There was other life somewhere watching over us.
Dave explained the story to his girlfriend. He tried to explain it to the other people but they thought he was crazy. No matter what they say to this day Dave never forgets that the pilots are protected in their "silence", and the first thing to do on that emergency checklist is to pray. After everything was settled, Lynn told Dave she had never seen such beautiful flowers and tasted such wonderful candy in her life.Acknowledgments: I would like to take a moment to thank all the people that helped make this paper what it is: Dave Westby (great-looking, Norwegian pilot), for modeling for my character - Jan Walton (my flight instructor), for rereading this story many times to get details - Brian Collier, for all the extraordinary ideas - Cessna N65485, for the great flight still in my head - Professor Terry Heller, farmer extraordinaire, planting in July? (you were right!) - Skyking, for letting me burrow his name - Christy Guyer, for the description of the girlfriend - Dana Voss, for creativity with the description - Jeremy Pigg, conversation with the hick farmer - Brian Collier, the motionless blade - and everyone else that helped me out, this story would be just bones if it weren't for you!
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