The Clipper Intrepid

With the flights to and from London during our recent vacation, and this being the week-end of July 4th, I have been thinking about the first time I flew to London, back on July 1, 1970. I was 17 and living at home with my mother, father and brothers when I had the opportunity to go with the French club from high school on a trip to Europe for several weeks. My mother was reluctant to let me go, but my uncle came up with a great alternative.

I would work in southern Germany, in a little town called Pfronten, making precision drafting tools for Frederick Post Company, one of the factories my uncle was in charge of, as President of Post. I would fly to London, spend several days there, and then fly to Munich on July 4th. After a train ride through the German countryside, I would be picked up in Pfronten and spend 6 weeks living with a German family and walking to work each day. During the week-ends, I would be free to travel and at the end of my work obligations, I would fly to Paris for several days, before returning to the US on Aug. 15, 1970. By the way, I was to be paid $.97 per hour – women’s wages – because it was not legal for a foreign worker to come into Germany and take a “job” from a German man!

Dad had a client whose son was anxious to go with me, so after a meeting or two to get acquainted, we made arrangements to travel together. This was the back-up plan; a friend of mine who was going to go with me ended up having to stay home and helping his mother, who was scheduled for surgery during the summer months.

Anyway, July 1 was approaching, and we were scheduled for an evening flight out of O’Hare airport in Chicago. We were to land in London at Heathrow airport. I was really looking forward to our flight. Because we were flying out on the 2nd scheduled day of service for the brand new Boeing 747 jets. The inaugural flight had occurred the day before, and they were only flying once per day to London from Chicago. So, we were on the 2nd plane heading to London. I had studied up on the aircraft. It was 363′ long – longer than a football field and the end zones. The wingspan was 192′ and the interior of the engines were 8′ tall – I remember seeing photos of a technician standing in the engine, with his arms extended, and he still could not touch the top of the turbine. There were onboard computers to control everything from taxi speed to landing.

Anyway, we boarded, and my parents were headed up to the observations deck to watch this behemoth take off. We were excited. Anyway, after boarding, we taxied to the runway, and eventually started our take-off.  As we approached the speed necessary to fly, the front of the plane lifted, but the back wheels never left the ground. Honest to God, I thought I was sitting at a 45 degree angle – looking up at the passengers in front of me. The curtains between the sections of the plane were swinging back in my face, and I was several rows back.

Then, just as suddenly, the plane slammed back down on the runway. The underbelly cameras had been turned off during our take-off and everybody was quiet as the plane rolled to a stop. A moment earlier, we were all scared! The pilot came on to apologize and let us know that the tower had mis-estimated the time it took for a 747 to take off. Inadvertently, the tower had cleared a 707 to land on the same runway, and the inbound plane landed under our wing! Apparently, the onboard computer raised the front of the plane up enough to provide enough clearance for the inbound flight. But the take-off angle was wrong, so it was aborted and the computers set the plane back down on the runway. I’m telling you – it was scary.

The pilot made a joke and said, “Let’s try that again” – I could only imagine what my mother was thinking, on the observation deck – she later told me that she thought she was going to see the planes crash. Anyway, we made it safely to Heathrow in London. And when we exited the plane, down a stairway to the tarmac below, I looked up at this huge jet and noticed that it had a name – The Clipper Intrepid. It was the first 747 in the Pan-Am fleet, and I had flown on it!

I have thought about that story many times during the last several weeks. Who would have thought that I actually remembered the name of the jet! I looked for names on the sides of the jets we flew this trip, but there weren’t any. Too bad!

Anyway, the truth is that very easily I could have been killed that evening. Instead, apparently, God wasn’t done with His plans for my life. How many times I have thought about that incident since it happened. And how I have wondered what it is that I was put on this earth to do. Someday, in the presence of God, I will find out!

For now, tonight’s verse is from Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.” So my encouragement is to look for God’s purpose in your life. And be open to things that may seem counter-intuitive to what you think you are supposed to do. Because when I sat on that jet, I would have laughed in your face if you would have ever suggested a life in ministry – but look what has happened. And my prayer is that God will use you to advance His agenda. Because if you are willing, and subordinate your will to His, anything can happen. Have a great day in the Lord!


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