The first time I flew with CaptainE he gave my very first flying lesson.
Lesson Number One: Take off is optional, landing is mandatory.
Today’s lesson: Stay calm, even when the pilot tells you we can’t land.
I should be writing this on my couch in Galmi . . . but we couldn’t land. So we turned around and are heading back to Niamey.
My mom is here visiting for a month. We spent a few days in Niamey (post coming soon) and were flying to Galmi on SIMAir, where everyone flies first class . . . all three of us.
I thought I had book the flight weeks ago . . . but . . . yeah . . . I didn’t. Thankfully, my friend A. offered to stay another night and take the bus so that my mom wouldn’t have to endure the long adventure of the bus.
So, this morning, along with Alheri the Great, we checked our luggage, cleared security, and boarded the plane . . . okay, so a pilot strapped our bags in the back, rolled the plane out of the hanger and we three climbed inside.
The view, as always, is spectacular. The landscape is still a minty green, leftover from rainy season. The whole way to Galmi my mom kept remarking on how amazing it is . . . and how she now understands the lack of a tourism industry in these parts.
It’s always incredible to see the villages from above . . . and the patterns left on the topography by the wind and rain. It really is remarkable.
But there’s nothing quite like that first glimpse of Galmi . . . watching that forest green quadrilateral that we call home grow as the plane approaches.
We circled the compound . . . then circled again . . . and again.
I figured our fearless CaptainE was lining up his landing and continued to point out landmarks to my mom.
I don’t remember exactly what he said first, but hearing ‘I’m not kidding, there’s a problem, we can’t land’ through my head phones had my attention.
We circled overhead as our pilot communicated with those on the ground.
The throttle was stuck. He could accelerate, but, in the word’s of CaptainE, ‘it’s like stepping on the gas and not being able to take your foot off.’
We continued circling as the decision was made to return to Niamey. The 2000 feet of our little dirt airstrip just isn’t long enough to be able to coast to a stop . . . we would have better chances back at the airport. Hey, I figured I’d give my mom the full experience.
You know, it’s moments like these that I’m thankful I grew up with parents that taught us to stay calm in the midst of life little hiccups . . . even if they happen at a cruising altitude of 12,000 feet.
And I’m taking it as a good sign that we’re all still making jokes.
The trip back felt like 10 minutes compared to the nearly hour and a half trip out. Maybe it was all the prayers we were saying.
Before I knew it, we were communicating with AirTrafficControl to begin landing. They asked us to circle for a bit . . . and just as they gave us clearance to land, CaptainE startled us all with ‘Hey, it works now!!’
We laughed a little bit, breathed sighs of relief and of course thanked God over and over.
It was a beautifully smooth landing.
We pulled off the runway (where this same plane had a flat tire the last time I flew!) and made our way down the dirt path to the SIMAir hangar. CaptainE parked the plane. Another pilot and the mechanic met us as we opened the doors. CaptainE began to show them what had gone wrong, when the throttle jammed again!
How’s that for a miracle!
And as I sit here, unexpectedly back in Niamey, I can’t help but rest in awe at the goodness of God. I had complete faith that we would land despite the malfunctions. But I confess, I never thought for a minute that our little tin can with wings would have a miraculous healing just long enough for us to touch down, taxi and park . . . safely.
We are all saying a big THANK YOU LORD! on this south side of the Sahara.