Ok, here are some more times that I could have died, but the Lord provided what was needed. I guess He still had some work for me to do.

At the end of my senior year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston I had some free time, so I took a local SCUBA diving course. The opportunity arose to go to Freeport, Texas and dive on the V.A. Fogg, a tanker that had discharged its cargo of benzene and was never heard from again. (see 7 minute YouTube video, “VA Fogg, a ship lost at sea”)

Its radar mast was found 10 days later protruding above the surface, 40 miles off the coast. The ship had exploded in two, with 32 men blown off and only the captain remaining on board in his cabin. The ship rested 110 feet down.

As I descended toward it I found one of the largest fishes I’ve ever seen just off my left shoulder, fortunately a grouper, or large sea bass. The deeper you go, the more air you take in with each breath, because of the increasing pressures, so your tank empties much more quickly than near the surface.

There was some current down there, and the ship has creaking and groaning. All of a sudden I was starting to suck on my mouthpiece, as my tank was nearly empty! It is a good thing that I had my air reserve lever properly positioned, and when I pulled that I had about 10 more minutes of air, enough to slowly make my way back up to our boat.

My first airplane was a Grumman AA-1, a small low wing two-seater, and we belonged to the American Yankee Association, a national group of Grumman pilots. Valo and I had flown to national fly-ins in Bowling Green, Kentucky and Cody, Wyoming [described in a Nevada Herald article]. We had flown down to Gaston’s, a fly-in resort on White River for a regional AYA meet.

After a great trout dinner, we were departing on the grass strip and had a bit of tail wind (you had to go out that way that day). I had pulled the yoke (“steering wheel”) all the way back to take the weight off of the nose wheel, and should have eased it forward as we gained speed, but I didn’t. As we hopped off of the turf, the yoke “froze” and would not move, and we were headed for the trees on the left!

About 5 seconds passed before the yoke returned to normal function, and I decided that it was best to land, which I did. We didn’t quite get stopped at the end of the runway, and we took a trip down the sloped embankment at the end, and when we got to level ground the nose wheel collapsed and the propeller hit the turf and bent. There was firewall damage, and the plane was a total write-off. I later bought a similar sized plane, the Alarus CH-2000. ( If I’d had the presence of mind to take my foot off of one brake pedal, we could have swerved to a stop at the top of the hill, but I would have always had some mistrust for the plane – we never found out what the problem was.)

There’s another story about the Grumman. We were approaching TBO (time between overhaul) for the engine, and it was starting to use oil excessively, so I had it sent to Tulsa for overhaul. Jody, the airport operator had installed the “new” engine, and I was thrilled to be taking the plane up for the break-in flight. I would fly in wide circles around the airport in case of problems.

Well, about the second time around, the engine quit! I was west of the airport and declared an emergency on my radio [the local fire and rescue was standing by when I arrived]. I began to enter the standard approach pattern for NVD and quickly it became apparent that my loss of altitude would not allow for a “normal” landing! As I turned to the runway, the propeller stopped and there I was! I knew that unless I kept the nose pointed down, I would crash and die, so I made a rather steep turning descent to the runway and touched down with a bounce.

Jody towed the plane back to the hangar. Here’s where it gets crazy. Jody ALWAYS refilled my fuel tanks after my return to the airport, and I always checked the tanks for fuel before each flight. But after the engine installation he did NOT fill the left tank, and for some reason on the test flight I failed to check the tank, ASSUMING that he had filled it.

So, when the engine quit I was convinced that the overhauled engine had failed, and headed for the airport. I also at that time failed to run through a checklist for engine failure, which would have solved the problem with the first action – switching fuel tanks! The engine would have roared to life and I would have finished by test flight. This illustrates that one problem adds to another if you are not careful, and it can ruin your whole day!

Here I sit, grateful to the Lord for saving me once more. (My angel may be getting tired!) Never forget, though, that it is the initial salvation experience that is most important.
“You must be born again”!

Dr. Jones

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