Advanced Air Force student pilots fly the T-38 Talon for training in all phases of flight -aerobatics, formation, night, instrument, and cross-country navigation training. Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38s at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. NASA uses T-38 aircraft as trainers for astronauts and as observers and chase planes on programs such as the space shuttle.
The T-38 needs as little as 2,300 feet of runway to take off and can climb from sea level to nearly 30,000 feet, over 5 and a half miles, in one minute. It can operate at speeds over 800 mph at sea level. Before you can place the control stick fully to the side, the T-38 will make a complete roll. At those speeds, any emergency situation can easily prove fatal.
Because the T-38 operates in the most extreme and demanding conditions of flight, a failure in one of the flight systems must be immediately recognized and appropriately dealt with. At the same time, the pilot must continually keep his eyes directed outside the cockpit for other aircraft. How will he recognize a problem in the making before it is too late?
That is the purpose of the Master Caution Light. It is clearly visible at the very top of the instrument panel on the aircraft. Sometimes a pilot can be performing maneuvers that use more fuel than normal and the Master Caution Light comes on. He knows to check his fuel situation and return to his base or to another nearby landing field. (The T-38 drops like a rock without power to keep it flying.) Or perhaps there are fluctuations with the hydraulic pressure or a fuel pump, but those gauges are not placed where they are quickly seen. With the master caution light, the pilot is instantly aware of a developing emergency situation and can check another panel that indicates what the specific problem may be.
For instance, if an engine has begun to overheat the pilot may not immediately notice the slowly increasing temperature on the engine temperature gauge. But when the Master Caution Light comes on he gets an immediate surge of adrenaline and is put on alert to check for the specific problem. First, he will check the temperature gauge. It is always possible that the gauge is not operating properly, but if indeed there is a rising temperature indicating a possible fire, then he knows to initiate the proper emergency procedures. He will pull back the throttle to see if that causes the temperature to return within safe limits. If that doesn’t work then he can shut down the engine and land as soon as possible.
There is the option of just pressing the Master Caution Light to turn it off or just ignoring it, but any pilot who would do that is jeopardizing his own safety and inviting a disaster. The designer of the aircraft has built in this safety feature for the purpose of giving the best information on the performance of the aircraft at the earliest possible time. No pilot who is thinking clearly would choose to ignore the warning signals. He may not know the immediate cause of the problem, but he knows that responding to this warning is the first step in discovering what may be wrong and choosing to deal with the emergency.
Can you imagine yourself flying along at 30,000 feet at 450 miles an hour and suddenly seeing the Master Caution Light come on? Would you ignore it? Is it there to annoy or restrict you in what you can do, or to save your life?
What do you think the “master caution light” that God has installed in our lives is? What is the first thing that He uses to get our attention when there is a potential problem in the way we are thinking or living? It isn’t a light, but it is an inner voice called “our conscience.” It is the place for the Christian where the Holy Spirit nudges our spirit that we need to make a choice to do right and seek God’s help and not give in to sin. It is the warning sign that we are walking too closely to the edge of trouble or have pressed past that and are establishing harmful habits.
Most aircraft emergency situations don’t look like they are extremely dangerous to begin with. The aircraft systems and procedures are designed to minimize those kinds of things, but just one seemingly minor problem not appropriately dealt with can quickly become more complicated and lead to a crash. That is just the way it is in the rest of life. Most of the time sin doesn’t look like it is going to immediately destroy our life, but it opens the door to destruction.
Dad, what were some of the caution lights that lit up on your life dashboard when you were a teenager? What were the results when you failed to respond right away?
Can you relate to any of that, son? What temptations do you face that you think are greater than what Dad may have faced as a teen?
What can Dad pray for you this week?
Lessons for Flying Higher
“My son … fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck (crashed the plane) in regard to their faith.” I Tim. 1:18,19
Just like Paul’s instruction to Timothy, his spiritual son, in these verses, we need to be encouraging one another as fathers and sons to fight the good fight and keep our conscience pure.
“The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse(s) your conscience… to serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:14
Prayer: “Father, thank you for Jesus, that his blood is enough to free my conscience from anything that I have done to try and make my life work without God so that I can begin to follow Him with a fresh start. As I fly through life today, help me be alert to the Master Caution Light which is the voice of your Spirit.”