Area Pastor Experiences Fright In Flight
I made it past PSA security at the Billings International Airport and headed to Gate C to wait for my flight to Wolf Point. The call to board the aircraft was delayed due to nearly subzero weather and the possibility of a snowstorm. Passengers were getting restless from the uncertainty of the flight.
The gate agent invited the five passengers on the Wolf Point flight to make their way to the boarding gate for an announcement. “I have good news and bad news,” he announced to the anxious passengers. “The good news is: it looks like we are going to fly tonight.” There had been three earlier flights canceled. “The bad news is we have booked too much weight for the plane to fly in this kind of weather. We are leaving all the luggage behind.”
“What, no luggage,” I thought, “That isn’t going to work for me.” Disappointed passengers made their way back to the waiting area, happy at least to be flying. Our luggage was scheduled to arrive the next morning, if weather permitting.
I quickly stepped to the desk and said, “Sir, I’m a minister in Wolf Point and without my luggage, I can’t fly. My church is waiting for my arrival. I need my luggage.” He gently informed me there was nothing he could do to help me. “I need to make a phone call, sir, how much time do I have?” I asked. “Five minutes” was his answer.
I did what every God-fearing husband would do in a crisis like this. I called my wife at home who was praying for my safe flight. She was concise and to the point, “When you land ask your transportation to take you to the store and get what you need to get ready for the service. The clothes you have on will work for church. You won’t die without your medication for a couple of days.” I quickly made my way to the desk and said, “Sir, I’m flying.” He nodded his head in acknowledgment.
Ten minutes later, the gate agent once again called the passenger to come to the desk. “I have more bad news. We still have too much weight. I need a passenger to volunteer to stay behind until the morning flight.” Fortunately, a young man stepped forward and was rescheduled. Then the agent informed us, he had exciting news this time. “We can take one piece of luggage. We are going to put the minister’s luggage on board.” Everyone smiled and seemed happy with his decision.
Twenty minutes into the flight, we flew into a blizzard and lost sight of the lights from small towns along our journey. The pilot shined his flashlight every 10 minutes on the leading edge of the wing and the cowling out the front window checking for ice. I could sense the nervousness of the passengers growing more intense. The lady in front of me reached across the aisle and gripped her husband’s hand in an anxious gesture.
I could tell by the GPS on the instrument panel, we were nearing our destination. The pilot nosed the plane down into a steady descent. The only thing visible outside was the blizzard reflecting off the flashing lights on the wing tips.
The sound of the flaps being extended and the increase in noise, told us we were getting close to the runway. Then the clunk of the wheels locking in the down position confirmed we were committed to the landing. We faintly saw the runway lights through the blizzard. The pilot pulled back on the throttles dropping the RPMs of the engines as we crossed over the hash marks. The wheels hit the runway with a thud, and we were safely on the ground in Wolf Point Montana. Everyone profusely thanked the pilot. He responded nonchalantly as though it was all in a day’s work.
( Editor’s note: Author, Pastor Bob Unterseher, flies from Billings on the weekends to serve the Wolf Point Assembly of God Church as interim pastor. He extends an invitation to attend the service this weekend and to enjoy a great time of fellowship with the congregation. The church is located at 616 4th Avenue N. Service time is 10:45 a.m.)