Pilot Shouldn't Have Lived to Tell...
By Rob Hull
The 700 Club
CBN.com-Pilot, Mark Harting has an impressive history. “Thirty-three years of flying single engine fighters all over the world, never having to shoot anybody and I'm alive and I'm doing well. I never had to eject out of an airplane. I’ve had parts and pieces fall off airplanes like things do, but they train us well enough. I mean to be able to land an airplane without an engine on a runway, you're ready. You're ready.”
Mark Harting and his wife Coleen attribute his years of safety while flying fighter jets in the Air Force to two things, his military training, and God's hand of protection. Coleen says, “I was honestly I can say never afraid. I just was in constant communication with God when he was up in the air, just saying, 'Alright, You're with him now. I don't have to think about that, I don't have to worry about that.'”
“You know you hear a lot of people that, 'God's my co-pilot.' That's absolutely wrong. God is my pilot,” says Mark, “He gives me the skills to fly. He was always present in my cockpit.”
Mark retired from the Air Force in 2011, but he had a hard time staying out of the cockpit. He trained to become an aerial firefighter, flying a modified crop duster. Coleen was pleased with Mark’s choice for a new career. “It was very exciting, I was very proud of him, very happy to become the wife of an airborne firefighter.”
God made it clear to Mark that he was not alone. “I think it was the second live drop that I did where I mis-dropped where the air attack wanted me to drop, I was a little bit late. About three days later I find out that it wasn't a late drop at all. It was basically God's drop where there was a fireman who was in a Bulldozer who was trapped, had lost his radio and things and because of all the smoke of the fire nobody knew it. He couldn't communicate with anybody and I (the water) hit him right on the head. And he saw what he needed to do and he backed it out and drove out. That’s I went, ‘Alright I'm right where God needs me to be. I'm doing what He needs at this time in my career.’”
In the summer of 2011 Mark's flight group was called to fight fires in Arkansas. After several long days of successful drops, Mark took off again but this time something went very wrong. “I'm climbing out, the trees are disappearing below the canopy. I'm looking for traffic left, right. I'm going to start my turn here in a little bit and that's when the world changed. All of a sudden the air plane drops, and I lost about 75 feet of altitude, and instead of having a clear cockpit now, it's full of trees.”
Mark dumped the water in hopes the lighter plane would respond and rise up. It didn't. “I know I'm over the town. Houses are going under me. There's no way that this airplane is going to out climb this.”
Mark looked for a place to crash the plane. He saw a small back yard, but knew it would take a miracle to avoid hitting houses and hurting people on the ground. “I knew I was going to have to crash. I was going to have to put the airplane nose in to stop my forward momentum and not take another house out. I'm doing 80 miles an hour. It’s not like this thing just stops. It's going to take 1000 feet to probably stop this on a normal runway let alone in someone's back yard.”
Mark's tail section glanced off a power line, helping him towards his target. Then he crashed hard, destroying the plane. “I hit the side of the airplane where the roll bars were and now I'm blacked out I can't see anything cause I've taken part of the back yard out. I've gone through a wood fence. I'm sliding. I don't know where, whatever. And all of a sudden it just stopped.”
He threw open the door and got out of the plane unhurt. The water and foam prevented any fire from starting. Rescuers arrived and transported him to the hospital. Meanwhile, Coleen got a call that Mark had crashed. “When I heard the words, 'There's been a crash. Mark has crashed.' I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think, ‘Well, he's dead.’ But I felt such a peace washing over me. In a moment your life changes but in that instant God has hold of you. He had hold of me.”
Mark recognizes God was at work. “I know the angels were around me and they did a fantastic job to get me to that last place. When I went back a couple days later, about three days later I looked at the site, I was standing in the street and I was just crying. I was going, 'How did You get that airplane with another tree off to the side in that back yard?’ God’s going to get the glory on this one, He really is because I did my part but I couldn’t put that airplane back in that hole. I couldn’t. I mean when I sat there and I looked at that spot there’s… ‘Mark you’re not that good.’ I’m good but I’m not that good. God was totally involved in what was going on. He was the pilot in the airplane to put it where He wanted me to put it. My job was to do all the things that I learned in the military. ‘Fly the airplane Mark. Trust God to help you do it.’”
The reason the plane suddenly lost altitude is still under investigation. Mark and Coleen say they are grateful for God's faithful love and protection through it all.
“We're forever in awe of how He has worked in our lives. And excited about what He has in the future because if you can survive a plane crash like Mark did then God's got something even greater for us and we're just hanging on.
Mark concludes,“To be able to continue to live on this earth to impact lives for God is a blessing. But to know that He is that merciful and gracious and loving that He would sacrifice his Son for somebody like me it blows me away. So while I'm on this earth, what can I do for God because what He has given me. Life is too beautiful and to short not to do that, but I don't know what life would be like without God. I'm so blessed that He is the focal point of my life.”
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