Boom! As I sat staring out the window of our twin engine plane, I could hardly believe my eyes. The engine just feet from my window had exploded, with parts and fluids blowing through the cowling (cover) of the engine. The plane began to veer hard to the right and was losing altitude. I looked around at the other passengers, some of my closest friends and employees, and I saw a look of fear, concern and perhaps even panic by some. Could this really be happening to us?
But let me back up and start at the beginning. In the mid-1990’s my business partner and I had decided to purchase an airplane to get around to the properties we owned and managed in a more efficient manner. When we began discussing which plane to purchase we quickly determined it must be a twin engine plane, for the simple reason that if we were to ever lose one engine, we’d still have a second one with which to try to make a controlled landing.
We had purchased our plane, a Cessna 421B Golden Eagle, three years earlier from Burt Reynolds when he and his wife, Lonnie Anderson, were going through a divorce. There was no mistaking the plane due to its Florida State Seminoles colors, with the entire fuselage painted garnet and accentuated with gold arrows painted down the side.
On the day of our “incident” we had fully loaded our eight-passenger plane, including 2 pilots. Technically we only had seven people on board but we also had quite a bit of cargo. We took off from Chattanooga Lovell Field headed towards Birmingham and everyone was cutting up but looking forward to a productive day. We had just cleared Lookout Mountain when our right seat pilot turned around and blurted out, “Guys, we’ve got a problem and we’re going to have to cut off our right engine.”
No sooner had those words left his mouth than the engine exploded right next to me. Our two regular pilots, both close friends, began to deal with the repercussions of flying a maxed-out plane on one engine. As they turned the plane back towards Chattanooga they radioed our emergency situation to the Chattanooga tower. While the plane continued to fly on the one remaining engine, it was clear that we were not maintaining altitude. As I looked at the terrain below, it seemed to me that the obvious choice would be to simply land on any empty road below. But the pilots thought otherwise and as we returned to the airport we had just left 20 minutes earlier, we could see emergency vehicles lining the runway.
Thankfully, our two pilots did a masterful job of not only flying a wounded airplane back to base but they also touched the plane down as smoothly as if we had both engines functioning. Needless to say, the moment that our wheels touched the runway, all of us breathed a heavy sigh of relief and we openly thanked God for the safety He had offered to us that day.
The interesting part of this whole story though is that the engine that blew up had just been overhauled and had less than 33 hours on it. Over time, and following a lawsuit with the company that refurbished the engine, we were able to determine that the cause for the catastrophic engine failure was due to the re-installation of a questionable reconditioned cylinder. So, had things not turned out so well that day, seven lives might have been lost due to that flawed part.
Flaws. We see them in airplanes, automobiles, computers and pretty much anything that is man-made. It’s also not unusual to see public figures, whether religious, political or entertainment personalities, destroy their lives because of a “flaw” that was ignored.
But truthfully, when you and I look in the mirror, we also see a flawed person. Some flaws can be rather minor, not resulting in life-shattering consequences. Yet other flaws can cause catastrophic results in one’s life or the lives of those we love.
If we are honest with ourselves, we typically know our own flaws, from the “little” ones to the big, ugly ones. We don’t really need someone to enlighten us about them. In fact, oftentimes these flaws have been with us for years. It might be that we have simply accepted the flaw because we just don’t know how to overcome or conquer it.
But here’s the reality. Sooner or later, that big ugly flaw will take you and me down. Just as our airplane’s engine revealed its flaw, our lives will sooner or later reveal ours to us and then to others. So the first step in addressing the flaws in our lives is to simply recognize they are there.
Iron Sharpens Iron
There is a passage in Proverbs that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” There are several conclusions we can derive from this passage but one is that we must invite other people into our lives. As we engage with them many of our rough edges can be honed and even eliminated. Clearly, we were not meant to be alone so it is critical that we walk through life with other trusted individuals who can be there for us as we need them. Two are better than one, and if you or I have a flaw that is simply overwhelming us, it’s critical that we enlist a trusted person to help us in addressing that flaw before we see our life crumbling around us.
Confess your faults
In addition to the idea of iron sharpening iron, there’s also another parallel principle that suggests that we should “confess our faults one to another.” As we acknowledge the faults we have in our lives and share them with others we trust, we create a system of accountability. And through that accountability as well as the prayers of our others, we find the healing that enables us to overcome the faults with which we struggle.
While the concepts we’ve addressed here can be deeply personal, we should not forget that our personal lives also influence our businesses and work environment. So those flaws that seem to be simply “personal” in nature will ultimately surface in a way that they can do serious damage to our businesses.
So now is the time to deal with that nagging fault that you know is there. Ignoring it will ultimately allow it to surface at the most inopportune time, and can cause catastrophic damage to your business, your family and ultimately you.