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CBN.com Jim Hunt had a lifelong passion for flying. But a short pleasure trip with some family members nearly cost them their lives.
On Easter Sunday 2006, Jim Hunt took his son-in-law and two grandsons up for a ride in his Piper PA22 airplane.
"When we got airborne and began climbing out, as we passed over the trees, things seemed to be alright for just a few seconds. It was a warm evening; it had been a hot day, and we had what’s called a high density altitude, which means the air was thin and didn’t produce a lot of lift," Jim recalls.
"And the headwind that I had just disappeared right after we took off. The windsock at the field just fell flat. And that startled me. I looked over briefly ... Iooked back at the trees, and I knew at that point, it was just .. keep on climbing and pray for the best."
"When we got into that descending air, it was a lot like being on a raft going over a waterfall, only not as violent. We just began to gradually descend toward the trees. That’s when I said, 'Lord, protect us on this flight.' I didn’t say protect the airplane. I just said protect us."
With only a few seconds to spare before the plane crashed, Jim had to act fast. All of a sudden, he knew exactly what to do.
"When I saw that there was no way we were going to clear that forest, a thought came to my mind that was that quick. It was, 'Don’t go nose-first, stall the airplane.' And I pulled the yoke back as hard as I could, held the throttle in, and I nosed the plane up, which stopped our forward speed. The largest, strongest tree in the area where we were at had two large branches that forked out, and the back of the plane caught those. And it just stopped us and turned the plane straight down, and then we dropped through the trees."
The trees were breaking their fall, but…
"Right about here on the windshield, I saw a big oak tree coming up quick, and my thought at that point was, 'I guess I’ll be in heaven in just a second.' It’s amazing how fast your mind works because this all happened within seconds. But I put my left hand out hoping that I would block that blow with my left hand as the tree came through the windshield. Amazingly, when that oak tree hit the windshield, it snapped the tree off about six inches above the ground, and the tree was about that big around [gestures at 8-10 inches in diameter]."
Jim continues, "When the FAA saw that they said, 'What broke this tree?' I showed them on the windshield it only made scratches. They said, 'That’s impossible that you could hit a tree that big, how did you hit it?' I said, 'I hit it straight on from the top.' And they said, 'You shouldn’t even be here. It should’ve come right through there and decapitated you.' A large tree did come through the back of the airplane, through the side and stopped about three inches behind my head.
We were able to just step out and on the ground and walk away."
"I was on the verge of just getting down on my knees and crying, saying, 'Look what I ’ve done, this one opportunity that I’ve had. I’ve taken a vintage aircraft and destroyed it. I’ve scared three passengers to death. They’ll probably never fly again. I’ve given a black eye to aviation.' Others will say, 'Well, what kind of God is that? He talks about God all the time, but He allowed him to crash.' "
"And my faith was just destroyed there at that point. I did get down on my knees. I looked at the ground, and I shook my head. And my son-in-law, who is also a Christian, came up and said, 'Hey, dad. God took care of us through all of this, and the airplane can be replaced. We have no problem with flying with you again.' And when I saw those two young boys and that young man, who hadn’t been a Christian very long, turn their eyes toward Heaven and say it’s just strengthened our faith, right at that moment, that began to strengthen my faith.
I, to this day, am convinced that it was the Lord that put it in my mind and heart at the last second to stall the airplane."
Today, Jim is back in the air. He's convinced that God hears his prayers.
"He listens to me because He loves me, and He answers prayers. And that day, He answered exactly what I prayed. I prayed, 'God, keep us safe,' and not one person received a scratch from that crash. When we cry out and ask, God always hears, and He answers. We just need to cry out from our heart, and God says, He’s faithful to answer, and He is, He does, and He always will."
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