HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Aviation Brief XXI: Dark Waters #1

An A-4 pilot flying out of Iwakuni, Japan had a night hop over the Sea of Japan. Next thing he knew he was being picked up out the freezing water by SAR--Search and Rescue. He remembered nothing of a crash or ejection, but his plane had disappeared. Pilots hate mysteries. What they don’t know can, and often has, killed them or others. With any accident, there is an Accident Investigation to figure out the cause of the mishap.

 In an unusual step, they had the pilot hypnotized. Under hypnosis, he remembered going to join up on lights below him, but instead of his wingman’s lights, they must have been reflections on the water. His plane flew into the sea before he realized he needed to eject. He came to, in absolute Stygian darkness, in a cockpit filling with icy water. He tried to manually open the canopy, but the pressure outside wouldn’t allow it. The ejection handle wouldn’t have helped; the water would have held the canopy on and he would have been rocketed into the plexiglass. So he waited in the black cold until the cockpit filled, then he opened the canopy and swam up to the surface, one hundred feet above the plane. He kept his cool to live to fly another day.

Some days I feel like I’ve crashed into a night ocean and I’d do anything to find my way to the surface--any surface. The glimmers of light I followed had fooled my heart to believe everything would be okay if I just continued on my present course and joined up with the others going my way. Or who I thought were going my way.

To carry the metaphor further--it’s dark down here. Dark and cold. And there is so much pressure from outside forces to stay where I am but if I do, I know I’ll die. Panic wants me to claw the canopy bloody, or pull an ejection handle that would rocket me into unforgiving plexiglass.

Sometimes we have to wait out the worst of circumstances until we can do something to change where we are in life. Whether it is with a spouse, a friend, a boss, or life’s circumstances, we can’t control everything but we can control how we react to the dark, cold waters. Then, once the cockpit fills up and we can slide the canopy off, we have to swim to the surface and inflate our personal survival raft.

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