“ Change is difficult but often essential to survival.” Anon
Friends told us the story of a DC-3 that landed in a coffee field not far from them in the state of Paraná. This Douglas two-engine plane was “old faithful” itself; in the 50’s it was used in much of the interior of Brazil. Still an engine failure forced a landing among the coffee bushes. I’m told that mechanics with the proper parts got it running so it could leave the coffee bushes behind.
If you were used to travel in jet planes and were forced to take off in a DC-3 you’d wonder if it would ever get airborne. They require long runways for the prop engines don’t have the power of jets. As well, their engines are noisy and not nearly as dependable as jets. While we lived in the interior of the state of São Paulo, we seldom took a plane but when we did it was always the DC-3. This picture is of one of them sitting at the Rio Preto airport after we’d disembarked.
In the fifties, hijackings and terrorists were uncommon. Were they the good old days? In any case it was often possible then to visit the cockpit of a plane and chat a bit with the pilots. Air travel was more relaxed but passengers put up with planes being slow and often uncomfortable.
Monica, our baby, was just a few months old when we left for Brazil; so what were we to do about the formula for her during the long flight? We made arrangements so that on board the Super Constellation, the stewardess placed the formula in the plane’s frig. When I think of a plane’s frig, I recall taking off from an airport in Jamaica when the frig door banged open and the contents spilled down the alley. The stewardess was upset; she apparently forgot to lock the frig door shut. Other came to help her clean up the mess. Somehow they still served us a good meal.
The first time we flew on a more modern plane, a turbo-prop, was on a family holiday trip from São Paulo to the Iguassu falls. Even at that time, during the sixties, it was a dirt runway that we landed on at Iguassu. That flight was the first leg of our trip to Assuncion, Paraguay to visit missionary friends, the Hustons.
This nothing to do with plane travel but I must pass this on to you. The dirt highway from Iguassu to Assuncion was closed down if and when it rained. Would you believe it, a light rain had the police stop all traffic when we were halfway there. We had no idea if the rain might last for days, in which case we’d be sitting on a bus till the road dried. By God’s grace and good fortune, the rain let up after a few hours and we continued on our way.
Another plane trip comes to mind, the Vôo de Amizade that we were taking as we ended our time in Brazil. Better planes existed then, but the cheapest was this “Friendship Flight” to Portugal on a four engine plane—if I remember it was a DC-7b. Before any takeoff the pilots always revved up the motors to make sure they functioned. In this case a generator on one of the engines failed. We waited and waited till another generator was flown in and the mechanics installed it. O.K. I know what you are thinking—you get what you pay for.
And another amazing memory about that flight. We had our tickets for the previous week but on the morning of the flight I was nauseated and had abdominal cramps. We missed the plane for I was in a hospital recovering from appendix surgery. That delay is just one of the many times when I am sure God’s angels intervened in our lives. What if that attack had occurred on the train from Madrid to Hendayia that is little more than a wide spot on the border with France? Or what if it had happened on the train as we travelled to Marseille? Or on the train from Cairo to Assiut where we were to meet my sister Velma and family?
One of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen was looking out the window of a plane as we crossed the U.S. heading for Toronto. It was evening and as we travelled westward for a couple of hours the mist in the air all around the plane was coloured with reds, orange and yellows. Absolutely incredible!
And I wonder if it was a foretaste, a small foretaste of what heaven will be like. The old Gospel folk song says it so well: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through…” That thought sticks with me these days for on the 29th of December I’ll be 86. One of these days the special angels that have watched over our footsteps will be reassigned.