Today’s Illustration: Literally — “A Wing & A Prayer”

The structure behind “Today’s Illustrations” is that they . . . .

  • are based on true events and people
  • provide additional links if one wants to learn more about it
  • layout the basic information of the event and/or person
  • include quotations and comments from other sources
  • provide possible “Key Illustrative Thoughts”


On This Day: 

Sunday, March 21, 1971 — A small aircraft in distress lands on a runway in Jackson, Mississippi.  The “Control Tower” had no idea that they were landing until the plane puts down — midst a bizarre series of “coincidences.”


The History:

The pilot was a fairly new pilot, flying a small rented plane from Florida to Texas.

He knew his parents were worried and they’d be fervently praying for him, so to put them at ease, he’d asked his instructor to go along with him.

The sun had set as they flew just south of Jackson, Mississippi.

Sydney Mc Call, who was the traffic controller on duty at Thompson Airport had made contact with the small airplane on his radar and by radio.

It was on its way to Texas and after giving them instruction, he “passed them off” to “Memphis Center” for any further directions, as they continued towards Vicksburg and the Louisianna state line.

Then, Sydney McCall began closing down the small airport’s control tower and he turned off the outside lights.

Mc Call had planned an “after-hours” tour with Gary & Pat Cornett of the small airport’s control tower.

Gary was the minister of music at Forest Hill Baptist Church.


However, that small airplane on its way to Texas had now experienced a serious electrical failure on board.

The plane’s generator had stopped working shortly after the plane pass over “Memphis Center.”

The pilot and instructor did not realize that they had been operating off of the plane’s battery for some period of time already.

Finally, all electrical power aboard was lost and suddenly, the cockpit went dark and all of the airplanes lights no longer functioned.

The plane’s radio lost power and was useless.  They could not contact Memphis Center or any other pilots in the air at the time.

The new pilot turned on a flashlight and held it in his teeth in order to be able to see the instruments.  They flew in an “emergency pattern” of a triangle for some time, but to no avail.

The new pilot and the instructor made the decision to turn around and see if they could make it back to that small airport in the Jackson area.

The pilot and instructor dropped below the clouds — from 11,000 feet to an altitude of 2000 feet —  seeking to let the lights of Jackson give them the needed help and direction.

They visually located “Hawkins Field” but had no way to obtain clearance for a possible landing.  Landing without permission could cause a terrible runway collision and fatalities.


Mr. & Mrs. Cornet had arrived and McCall was giving them the 10 cent tour of the tower and its operation.

Sydney . . . .

“demonstrated a light-gun which has tri-colored lights.

He turned on the red light and a white light while the gun remained inside the tower, but for an unexplained reason he held the gun out the window when he demonstrated the green light and said, “If I were going to give a pilot clearance to land, I would point this light directly at him and turn the green light on.”

A fellow worker asked Sydney if he would demonstrate the runway lights.  Sydney started to turn them on, and gradually they got brighter and brighter until they reached the state of high-intensity.  The latter degree of lighting is for emergency, and the lights are designed to pierce fog and clouds to give pilots in emergency situations a view of the runways.”

Then, after a minute or so, Sydney McCall returned the runway lights to darkness.

“Sydney had scarcely completed these demonstrations when his coworker said in excitement, ‘There is an unlighted plane coming in.’  Sydney responded, “There isn’t a plane within fifty miles of us in the air.”  Upon closer examination, it was quickly learned that an unlighted single-engine plane was coming in for a landing.”

The unlighted plane which was landing was that troubled aircraft which had turned around, hoping it could land at that small Jackson, Mississippi airport.


As they were looking for a place to land, they were squarely in line to see that green light and believed that the tower had seen them and began their approach.

They cranked their wheels down manually.

Then the runway lights had come on to full brightness and after they landed the lights went off.

“You’d think they could have left them on a bit longer,” sputtered the instructor, somewhat surprised.”

Even though they were confused as to why they were turned off they taxied towards the tower.

Upon going down to the runway, McCall was greeted by Franklin Graham.

Key Illustrative Thoughts:

God’s Providence
Planned events are part of life’s unplanned emergencies
Who Knew?
When you think you are doing one thing, God uses it for another.
Pray before you leave!
It started out as a normal day, but it might not end that way.
His eye is on the sparrow
When you lose power, there is still God’s power.




Other Info and Links:

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