Church-Community Connection: The Flight Instructor and the Control Tower | Features

I learned to fly a private plane at 27. I loved flying, and flying worked well for the business I owned then, Central Bindery. I learned to fly in a small two-seater plane, a Cessna 150.

At first, learning to fly was daunting. Especially takeoffs and landings. I learned to fly at the old Glendale airport between Olive and Grand Avenues. It was like landing on an aircraft carrier. Flying above the power lines on Grand Avenue made it particularly exciting. However, after several months, flying the Cessna became easier. Why? Flying the plane has become a habit. It became automatic. What was unnatural for me became natural. It’s the power of habit.

In a few years, I became the owner for a third of a plane that was much more complex to fly. It was a six-passenger Piper Comanche 260. It had retractable landing gear, variable speed propeller, wing flaps, exhaust gas temperature controls, fuel injection mixture controls and high power for the 200 mph speed of the Comanche. This aircraft had the same high performance wing design as the World War II P-51 Mustang. The Comanche could be a handful when descending quickly for landing.

I still remember taking off with my right foot on the ground, trying to keep the plane straight. Why? Propeller torque wanted to turn the plane sideways. I have never experienced this phenomenon while flying in the Cessna. Then I had to listen to the tower telling me when to taxi, where to taxi, when to take off, which runway to use and what the altimeter pressure was. After takeoff, they even show you the direction to follow.

The first time I flew a Comanche was with my flight instructor. I already knew how to fly from my Cessna flying days, but flying a Comanche was a new world. I went from kindergarten to university.

At first I was intimidated flying the Comanche. So many new commands and things had consequences if I didn’t fly the plane properly. Flaps up, throttle back, slow prop speed, get ready, lay down the mix, keep your speed high, take my right foot off the pedal, keep my nose up but not too far, listen for the tower and try to not to ignore my instructor and the panicking air traffic control tower.

However, after flying the Comanche for a few weeks, everything got easier. I no longer had to think about all the settings. Taking off and landing from the plane has become second nature to me. Listening to the tower has become second nature. After a month, I could carry on a conversation with the passenger in the front seat as I took off and landed. Why? Because the skills needed to fly the plane safely had become habit. What was outside of me moved inside of me. If you get the right habits for the right things, you can become efficient and effective at flying comfortably.

Airliners are designed to fly in two ways: through the skills of the pilot and through the commands he receives from the control tower. So how does a pilot become skilled? Part of the answer is that expert pilots develop habits that allow them to do what is necessary to fly the plane automatically. Therefore, they have enough attention for unexpected events that might occur in flight. Additionally, they can better multi-task when and where needed.

Let’s review. Part of a pilot’s skill comes from the pilot building an arsenal of effective habits. The other factor in piloting passenger aircraft is to listen to instructions from the control tower and obey the instructions from the tower. The control tower is there to bring order to the chaos of each pilot doing what is right in their own eyes. Am I to say that without crucial direction and prompting from someone or something that sees the big picture, pilots and the passengers with them are going to underperform? It’s not going to be pretty.

Let me put it this way. We are like pilots, and God is the control tower. We must listen to God, otherwise we will, sooner or later, put ourselves in danger. So make a habit of receiving your instructions from God, the Bible, and God’s character to successfully navigate life. At first it may seem difficult. But after a while, you will be a beneficiary of communicating with God for His best and your personal best. God’s control tower directs us in the essentials. Sometimes by a small voice, sometimes by a creative thought, sometimes by the peace, faith and trust that arises in us when the solution is inspired by God.

God’s Control Tower has two-way communication. Pilot: “Tower, flight 777 with you.” “Which runway should I land on today?” “What do you want me to do today? “What solution do you have for my problem today?” “How can I fix this broken relationship?” “Should I change careers? God tells us: “Call on Me”. Listening to God’s control tower prepares and directs us, pilots, to fly the high-performance planes of life.

In conclusion, if you get into a good habit, the good habit will get you — especially when your instructor is both the flight instructor and the control tower.

Ed Delph is a renowned author of 10 books, as well as a pastor, teacher, former business owner, and speaker. He has traveled widely, having visited over 100 countries. He is president of NationStrategy, a non-profit organization involved in uplifting and transforming communities around the world. For more information, see He can be contacted at

About Michael C. Lovelace

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