A pilot shared his life-changing story of adversity and new beginnings during the 2nd Annual Rise Up Prayer Breakfast presented at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum on Friday, Aug. 24.
The breakfast benefitted the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Chaplaincy, a non-profit group that ministers to the passengers, military personnel and employees of DFW Airport. Reverend Greg McBrayer, chairman of the DFW Airport Chaplaincy board, and his team strive to be a source of comfort for all who travel to and from DFW Airport, regardless of the faith they belong to.
“The mission of the DFW International Airport Chaplaincy is to be a ministry of presence, along with spiritual counseling and personal support for the DFW Airport community at large, providing places of worship and reflection for people of all faiths and religions,” McBrayer said. “It is our joy and our privilege to be a part of that mission.”
This year’s guest speaker was Captain Dale Black, author of “Flight to Heaven.” In his book and at the breakfast, Black recounted his tale of growing up and wanting to be a pilot and live a life full of adventure.
“What I wanted the most can be summed up in one word, and I think many of you can identify with this, the word was ‘adventure,’” Black said. “I wanted a life full of adventure, world travel, flying. I dreamed of controlling and owning a huge jet someday that would take me all over the world, and I’d get paid for doing it. Adventure was what I wanted, and I was going to live my dream.”
However, early in his flight career, Captain Black was involved in a deadly airplane crash in which he was the only survivor. Black suffered numerous injuries, as well as amnesia which robbed him of all his years of flight training. But in his near-death experience, he witnessed a vision of Heaven, a vision that changed the rest of his life. In an extreme case of irony, Black said he had his adventure after all.
“One day, sitting in my familiar wheelchair, with stitches and casts and braces and a partial memory, it hit me: I’m right smack dab in the middle of adversity,” Black said. “Isn’t there the potential for a great adventure in the middle of adversity?”
Black went on to not only make a miraculous recovery from his injuries, but got back in the pilot’s seat and learned to fly again, resulting in a 40-year career as an airline pilot. Black said the crash should have ended his life, but instead, it gave him a brand new perspective, and a new start.
“The airplane crash was not the end of my story,” Black said. “In fact, it became the catalyst of new beginnings. It taught me to always have an eternal perspective. I learned to look for a way around, over, under or through a problem and to never give up. It helped me become a safer, more conscientious pilot and instructor, and I try to do my best to make aviation little safer for all our passengers. I’ve learned the true values of living, and my life has much greater purpose now.”
Reverend McBrayer said Black’s story is an inspiration to not only those in the aviation field, but to anyone who has struggled through harrowing adversity.
“[Captain Black]’s story is just an incredible story of encouragement,” McBrayer said. “We all deal with adversity in our lives and in others’ lives. We all, in a sense, give our lives to that, and to helping others. It is also at the forefront of what we do at the DFW Chaplaincy. We encounter thousands of people per week in our chaplaincy, whether it’s at our chapel services or through the thousands of hours of volunteer service that our chaplains do every day at DFW seven days a week and all five terminals. It has produced the largest airport chaplaincy in the world, and it is an honor to be a part of that.”
Written by Ariel Graham