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Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, carrying 163 passengers and 13 crew members, left New York’s JFK Airport on Friday, Dec. 29, 1972, at 9:20 p.m., en route to Miami International Airport. The flight was routine until its approach into Miami International Airport. After lowering the gear, the co-pilot noticed that the landing gear indicator, a green light identifying that the nose gear is properly locked in the “down” position, did not illuminate. The pilots cycled the landing gear, but still failed to get the confirmation light. They then told the tower that they would discontinue their approach to the airport and requested to enter a holding pattern. The tower cleared the flight to climb to 2,000 feet, then hold west over the Everglades. The second officer was dispatched into the avionics bay beneath the flight deck to check visually if the gear was down through a small viewing window.
Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude, the captain instructed the co-pilot to put the jet on autopilot. As they worked on the light, the jet began a descent into the black night sky so gradual it could not be perceived by the crew. The altitude-warning chime, located under the engineer’s workstation, was triggered, but the engineer had gone below, and there was no indication by the pilots’ recorded voices that they heard the chime. The plane was at half its assigned altitude as they started another turn, and noticed the discrepancy. Co-Pilot: “We did something to the altitude.” Pilot: “What?” Co-Pilot: “We’re still at 2,000 feet, right?” Pilot: “Hey! What’s happening here?” Less than 10 seconds after this exchange, the jetliner crashed. The crash occurred as a result of the entire flight crew becoming preoccupied with a burnt-out landing gear indicator light and failing to notice the autopilot had inadvertently been disconnected.
[2 Corinthians 4] “... We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (1John 1:5-7) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (v.16-18).
Nearly everything being sold to the consumer of the world today is in some way related to improving one’s lifestyle. The world is constantly reminding me that I’m getting older, but that there is a solution to my every problem in life, and most of the time all I have to do is take a pill. The focus of man has become so self-centered that he can no longer feel in his heart, his separation from God. The worldly man is unaware that his attitude and altitude toward a safe landing in the heavenly realm is, in reality, going to crash short of his goal, because he’s so focused on himself; he’s taken his eyes off of God. I think some treat Jesus, our Savior, like an auto pilot, and at the same time, ask God if they can go into a holding pattern while they live life in the world as they please. Man cannot perceive the depths he is falling into and one day it is going to be too late to avoid eternal punishment. Read the last Old Testament book, Malachi. Man’s behavior then, which brought about the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, wasn’t much different than it is now. The Day of the Lord is coming again and this time all of creation will be destroyed. Are you a crippled and blind “living” sacrifice to your God? (Malachi 1:14; Romans 12:1-2) Are you robbing God with worldly self-centered thinking? (Malachi 3:6-18)
Thomas W. Bonham is an associate minister with the Floresville Church of Christ. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find his column on his blog at http://wilsoncountynews.com.