flying

'Dear Jesus, send some angels': More notes of faith and prayer inside Southwest Flight 1380

'Dear Jesus, send some angels': More notes of faith and prayer inside Southwest Flight 1380

Several years ago, I was flying home from a reporting trip when the pilot came on the loudspeaker and reported trouble with the controls that direct the plane.

He said we needed to make an emergency landing, and rescue vehicles would be waiting as a precaution. But he stressed that the flashing lights on the ground shouldn’t alarm anyone because he didn’t expect any problem landing the plane.

That statement would have provided more comfort if I hadn’t kept asking myself: If the plane were going to crash, would he be so candid as to say so?

“Attention, passengers, I fully expect that we are all about to die. Please buckle your seat belts and get your affairs in order.” 

For an anxious flyer such as myself, that experience was scary enough.

But I can't even imagine what the passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 endured this week. As you no doubt heard, one passenger was killed and seven others wounded Tuesday after an engine exploded. 

However, as I noted Wednesday, devout Christian pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being praised for her "nerves of steel" in calmly maneuvering the plane to the ground and avoiding a much worse catastrophe.

Since I wrote that post, I've come across more faith-filled news coverage that needs to be highlighted.

The New York Times' front-page narrative today on the "20 Minutes of Chaos and Terror" is especially compelling:

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Devout hero: Might Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults' 'nerves of steel' be related to her strong faith?

Devout hero: Might Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults' 'nerves of steel' be related to her strong faith?

If you follow the news, you know that a Southwest Airlines plane made an emergency landing Tuesday after an engine exploded.

Sadly, one passenger was killed and seven others wounded.

But pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being praised for her "nerves of steel" in calmly maneuvering the plane to the ground and avoiding a much worse catastrophe.

News reports also have noted that Shults is a pioneer who was among the U.S. Navy's first female pilots trained to fly fighter aircraft.

So, why does this story merit attention by GetReligion? I'm so glad you asked.

Enter reader David Yoder, who tipped us to be on the lookout for holy ghosts in the coverage of Shults.

"She's a committed Christian," Yoder told us.

That was news to me: I saw no mention of the faith angle in profiles of Shults by CNN, ABC News, the New York Times or The Associated Press.

But as I started Googling, I was pleased to see a number of news organizations did catch this angle.

The Washington Post offered these strong details:

Her mother-in-law also described her as a devout Christian, with a faith she thinks may have contributed to her calm state amid the emergency landing.
“I know God was with her, and I know she was talking to God,” Virginia Shults said.

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Washington Post on airplane sleep: These days, most folks (like me) don't have a prayer

Washington Post on airplane sleep: These days, most folks (like me) don't have a prayer

I have been looking at this Washington Post feature for several weeks now, trying to decide whether to write a post mentioning its tiny little religion angle.

The headline got my attention right from the get-go and then it stuck. Anyone else? I am talking about: "Can’t sleep on airplanes? These products and techniques can help."

Yes, dear readers, I have even stared at this piece on my iPad while on an airplane, during a two-stage, coast-to-coast flight during which I nodded and nodded, but did not sleep a wink. You might say that I am the target audience for this travel piece. I once failed to get a minute of sleep during an entire 15-hour flight from Delhi to Chicago that left the ground at 1 a.m. Believe me, I tried. I took enough Melatonin to stun a horse.

Now, the religion angle in this piece is hidden right there in the headline, in the word "techniques."

Hold that thought. First, here is the evocative overture:

The rumble of a jet engine is a comforting sound to some air travelers, making it easy to sleep on virtually any flight. For others, just the thought of being trapped in a pressurized aluminum tube is enough to send massive doses of adrenaline into their bloodstreams, ensuring alertness for days.
Pamela Wagner falls somewhere in the middle. Though not a white-knuckled flier, she says the noise makes rest impossible.
“I’m used to super silence when I’m sleeping,” she says. “Not exactly what you get on a flight.”
True. The interior of an aircraft is anything but silent, with noises ranging from chatty passengers to screaming children and, of course, the constant whine -- of the engines. It’s also uncomfortable, even if you’re in one of those lie-flat business-class seats, which don’t always lie all the way down. Try falling asleep in a sitting position, even when you’re not on an aircraft, and you’ll know why sleeping on a plane can be a pipe dream.

The bottom line, saith the writer: "Having a snooze on a plane is not getting any easier."

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