The Back Page
Forty-six years and one day ago, Eastern Flight 401 took off from JFK. By 11:30 p.m. the plane was
approaching Miami. Its First Officer lowered the landing gear. But the green light indicating that the gear
was down and locked did not illuminate. The Captain ordered the plane climb to 2,000 feet, and fly an
autopilot holding pattern while the crew tried to figure out what was wrong.
Unfortunately, the captain unwittingly nudged the yoke, initiating a gradual descent. When the plane
had dropped to 1,750 feet, an altitude warning chime sounded. But the flight engineer was not at his seat
to hear it—he was too busy fiddling with the indicator light problem. So Flight 401 continued circling the
Everglades, gradually dropping lower and lower.
Nothing wrong with the jet—it was only 4 months old. Nothing wrong with the crew—its first
officer had logged 5,800 hours of flight time; the captain 29,700. But in focusing all their attention on a
burned-out bulb they neglected Rule One—“Don’t Forget to Fly the Plane.” Finally the pilot noticed and
blurted, “Hey, what’s happening here?” But it was too late. Flight 401 crashed into the Everglades, killing
101 of the 176 on board.
It can happen in places other than planes. We get caught up in trivia and neglect the necessary. In
marriages. Men, with all our multi-faceted responsibilities, do we forget Rules One and Two—
“Husbands, love your wives” and “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”?
What did Jesus say were Rules One and Two for all of us? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.” What is our business here at Second Cape? “To
know the Lord and make him known.” Or, to look at it a little differently, “Our business is Jesus, and our
business is love.”
Yes, details are important and we mustn’t neglect them. Landing gear is essential. But crews can
check and lower that gear without crashing their planes in the process. May 2019 be for us as individuals,
and for Second Cape as a spiritual family, a year in which we Don’t Forget to Fly the Plane.