Instrument Flying

All pilots understand the difference between visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR). Any licensed pilot can fly when conditions are consistent with good visibility but only IFR certified pilots can fly without visibility by looking at the instrument panel (or the heads up display of a few fortunate airlines and military aircraft) to monitor vital information like the pitch, altitude, and air speed of the aircraft. VRF certified pilots are not even allowed to fly through cloud cover but the pilot qualified for instrument flying is cleared to fly in all sorts of weather conditions, but only if that pilot is qualified in that specific aircraft for low visibility flying or to fly by instruments.

This was precisely the case when the thirty year veteran captain of Flybe flight 1431 turned his plane around and headed back to Cardiff International Airport after announcing to his befuddled passengers that he was not qualified to land the plane in the fog by instruments in Paris. His employer stood behind the pilot’s decision saying, “He has relatively recently transferred his type-rating from a Bombardier Q300 to a Bombardier Q400. He has not yet completed the requisite low-visibility training to complete a landing in conditions such as the dense fog experienced in Paris Charles de Gaulle. The captain therefore quite correctly turned the aircraft around and returned to Cardiff, a decision which the company stands by 100 per cent.” While inconvenient for the passengers, the pilot saved himself certain prosecution and possibly the lives of the passengers by honoring the rules.

Sometimes life is the same way. It’s easy when we can see everything and fly by sight. But quite often, we do not have our bearings because fog or stormy weather has moved in to obscure our perception and our vision. It seems those clouds roll in at the worst possible time just like flight 1431. The Scripture also speaks of a skill to fly by instruments rather than visual observation. In fact, we are told that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The lifestyle of faith is the prescribed way to fly or live out our lives. Like pilots pursuing instrument flying certification, the believer too enters training to develop the ability to discern by faith what is not discernible to the natural senses.

Let me encourage you to pick up your flight manual, the Bible, today and spend some valuable time learning how to interpret your situation through the eyes of faith. The Word of God is our “heads up display” providing all the vital information we need to navigate us safely to the destiny the Lord has for our lives. Just like the Flybe pilot, the foggy, cloudy, stormy condition is not the time to find out you don’t have the rating (or faith) you need to get the job done.