Riveting and faith-promoting, Supersonic Saints is a collection of more than 15 true stories of LDS pilots who felt the hand of the Lord in their lives when they needed it most. Many of these pilots are still active in the United States Armed Forces. All of them are alive and active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About the Author
John Bytheway is a bestselling author, favorite speaker, and part-time instructor at Brigham Young University. His many titles include Heroes: Lessons from the Book of Mormon; Standards Night Live; Isaiah for Airheads; A Crash Course in Teenage Survival; Behind Every Good Man and his most recent book, Of Pigs, Pearls & Prodigals. He has also created numerous talks on CD, many of which are combined in The John Bytheway Collection, Vols. 1 and 2.
John served a mission to the Philippines and holds a master’s degree in Religious Education. He and his wife, Kimberly, have six children.
JANINE K. GARNER
Back in the winter of 2001, I was in Naval Primary Flight Training at Whiting Field in Pensacola, Florida. I had completed Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), ground school, the half-dozen mandatory Basic Instrument simulator trainers and flights, and the thirteen familiarization (FAM) flights required before you are allowed to sign for a plane and go fly by yourself—to fly “solo.” I had a meager forty hours under my belt at that time, and had never flown anything in my life up until I began flight school, but I was ready for anything up in the air while flying the Beechcraft T-34C Mentor.
The T-34C is a delightful little aircraft that thousands of marines, sailors, and even the occasional airman have learned to fly in naval flight school. It is reminiscent of a World War II plane, with a single, prop-driven engine; two seats, one in front for the student, and one in the rear for the instructor; and a
bubble glass canopy that was all that kept you from the sky.
Flying was both thrilling and humbling at the same time. Thrilling to put the plane through its paces and recover from a spin or a stall perfectly, or land so smoothly your instructor couldn’t even tell if you had touched down. Humbling when you botched up an emergency procedure in practice, or didn’t know the answer to the question on the fuel system that you were asked. Constant vigilance and study of the flight manuals and your emergency procedures were necessary in order to pass the syllabus and to survive in the event you did face a real emergency on your solo flight, not just a simulated one that the instructor placed before you.
So, on February 8, 2002, after I had passed my thirteenth FAM flight, my “Check Flight” (the flight where they throw every simulated emergency possible at you to ensure you truly are ready to fly solo), in the early afternoon my instructor signed me off and told the Flight Duty Officer (FDO) that I was ready for my solo flight. So, before I could even call my husband to let him know that I’d passed my Check Flight, I had signed for and walked out to my plane . . . completely and utterly alone. I was thrilled! I knew I would do great, and I knew I was ready for anything.
I completed my walk-around inspection of the plane, climbed inside, ran through my checklists, and started up the engine. Pausing to say a quick prayer on the runway before I took off, I asked Heavenly Father to help me remember all of my training and to bring me and the plane back safely since now I had no instructor in the backseat to bail me out of a tight spot. Then I was in the air all by myself, with no instructor to harp on me, ask me questions about the electrical system, correct my flying, tell me where to go, and so on. Nope, I was on my own. I was free. It was a glorious feeling to fly around Pensacola in that quiet cockpit with nothing but the static of the radio and the hum of the propeller to fill the void. Utilizing the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) that I had been taught, I made my way over to Saufley Airfield to execute my required three solo touch-and-go landings before I returned back to base. I hadn’t been taught Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) yet, other than my Basic Instrument (BI) flights, where I had gained a basic understanding of what to do when I couldn’t see the ground outside to get a visual reference of where I was. But I wasn’t worried—the sun was bright and the sky was clear. Besides, they wouldn’t have let a solo take off if the weather was going to be bad; we were allowed to fly only in VFR conditions.
Executing three perfect touch-and-go landings at Saufley (of course they were perfect, since I was the only judge), I turned back to base and started following the course rules to Whiting Field. Everything was going fine until I passed the Chicken Ranch (one of the visual checkpoints we used), when I realized that the ground was getting harder to see. Looking ahead I could see lots of smoke; it turned out that north of Whiting Field there was a controlled burn being done, and the smoke from it was starting to obscure the course rules. In short, I was having a hard time seeing where I was going. To someone trained to fly in IFR conditions, this is no big deal; you’ve learned to trust your instruments and the data they are giving you, and not to trust your eyes, or what you feel in the “seat of your pants.” In IFR conditions, your mind and eyes can play tricks on you, and because of certain G-forces, it can sometimes “feel” like you are climbing, descending, or turning, when in fact you are in straight and level flight. This can be very dangerous for the obvious reason that if you trust what you are “feeling” and the visual illusions before you, and not what your instruments are telling you, you could very easily fly yourself straight into the ground or into a mountainside.
I had been prepared for every eventuality but this one. I had been prepared to lose my engine and have to glide to the ground. I’d been prepared for my landing gear not to work, or for my plane to catch on fire, or to hit a bird. I’d been prepared to have to bail out of my plane and deploy my parachute, but I was not prepared to lose sight of my visual guides my “road” home to safety. In short, I was not prepared to be lost and unable to see where I was going. As I radioed the tower to let them know that I could no longer see the field, they told me to execute “lost sight” procedures and to execute a “TACAN arrival.” I had no idea what a TACAN was—only that it was something used to help pilots navigate safely in IFR conditions. Even if I had known, I didn’t have an “Approach Plate” (the “map” that tells you how to do a TACAN arrival) on the plane, and I certainly didn’t know how to read one. All I knew how to do was to stare at my instruments and maintain my altitude, heading, and airspeed. I quickly informed the tower that I was on my very first solo flight and certainly did not know how to execute a TACAN arrival. The radio was silent, and the longest moment in my life up until then passed while I waited for a response.
I was completely alone, and with no instructor in the backseat to help me, the thrill of freedom I had previously felt turned into fear and confusion. I knew safety was nearby, but I had lost sight of the road to it and didn’t know how to get there. I focused all my efforts on ignoring the visual illusions that the setting sun was giving me through the layer of smoke outside and concentrated on keeping my wings level according to my gyro, maintaining my airspeed, and flying my last assigned heading. Afraid to close my eyes for even a moment, I said a prayer to Heavenly Father to guide me safely home and to help me fight the urge to follow my “feelings” and what my mind was telling me was “straight and level flight,” but to trust my instruments instead. Before I could even finish my prayer, I was quickly filled with a sense of peace and the knowledge that even though my instructor was not in the plane with me, I was not alone.
Just then the tower radioed back to me a new heading and altitude to fly. They had all other aircraft holding while myself and two other solos who were in the same situation as I was were given vectors to the airfield, with hopes that we would break out of the smoke overhead of the airfield and be able to execute a Precautionary Emergency Landing (PEL) onto one of the runways. I was the first one vectored in, and, going against what my senses were telling me to do, I trusted in my instruments and the tower controller and plowed my way through that smoke. After what seemed like an eternity, my eyes beheld the most beautiful sight they’d seen that day: the runway at Whiting Field. I quickly lowered my landing gear and flaps, executed my before-landing checklist, and, intercepting the landing pattern from where I was, brought it in for a safe landing.
As I taxied off the runway, relief flooded into me, and I paused for another moment when safely clear to thank Heavenly Father for guiding me safely home.
I have often recalled in the years since, how easy it is to take for granted the straight and narrow path that leads to our Father in Heaven. So long as we are diligent we will never get lost, and we can always make it safely home to Him, but if we take our eyes off the goal for even a moment through neglect or unrighteousness, we may find the way obscured such that we can no longer see our way clear to safety. During these times we may feel completely alone, scared, and lost, but we must never forget that we are never truly on our own. The Holy Ghost is always in the “backseat of the plane” waiting for us to ask Him to help guide us back onto the path home to Heavenly Father. We may not like the way He wants us to go, and it may be hard, but we need to trust the instruments the Lord has given to guide us (the scriptures, prayer, Church leaders) and not fall prey to the visual illusions that Satan places before us.
Captain Janine K. Garner,
United States Marine Corps
Call sign: ATIS
Hometown: St. George, Utah
Family: married to Captain Ronald T. Garner, USMC, since 2001
Church experience: former Primary teacher, Young Women’s teacher, Young Women’s basketball coach; currently a Relief Society teacher
Current occupation: still flying for the USMC
Awards and recognitions: more than 1,000 flight hours in
the Marine Corps, over five Air Medals, numerous other military awards, medals, and honors
Great stories of faithful men
by Customer - reviewed on June 14, 2007
Maybe it's my own love of airplanes, but these stories are great.. Wonderful accounts of the faith of good men in difficult circumstances.. Highly recommended for anyone wanting a lift in trying times..
Engaging and inspiring
by Jill - reviewed on October 22, 2008
In a world that values violence, it is so nice for our young men to read these real life testimonies of harrowing experiences where the authors recognized the hand of the Father in saving them. My sons are developing a new sense of the dangers of violence and the necessity to stay near the Savior.
heart felt enjoyment
by donna - reviewed on December 15, 2007
I have only read an excerpt but just loved it. I have worked for the last 5 years in a major regional airport in Western Australia so of course I loved reading about planes but I also loved the inspiring faith filled aspect. I am encouraged to stay in tune with the spirit for that moment when you can make a differnece to someones life. I am off to buy the book
Fun to read
by Nikki - reviewed on October 30, 2008
This book was great for a busy mom. The stories are captivating, but short. You can read a chapter and then come back next week for another chapter. I loved the stories of the pilots- it made me realize how involved Heavenly Father can be in our day-to-day lives if we let him.
a successfull gift for my son!
by Brandee - reviewed on July 06, 2010
It is hard to guess when buying books for my 11 year old son whether he will like them enough to read more than 2 pages, especially when buying on-line, but he loved this one, devoured it all within a couple of days and then begged for the DVD. Now he wants part 2! Thank you John Bytheway!
Great book about planes.
by Ryan - reviewed on November 11, 2007
Just finished reading this. Great collection of aviation tales. From the seemingly mundane to the exhilarating, these tales are quite interesting.
This was amazing
by Kyle - reviewed on September 16, 2008
I started this book, and just couldn't put it down. The stories are so intense that it keeps you waiting and wondering until the very end, and on top of that you get to hear how the gospel played a role in each of these peoples lives!!!! It's a great present for anybody teenager or older!
My son loved it!
by Becky - reviewed on September 18, 2008
My son is not an avid reader, so I was worried that he might not dive into the book and like it. Not only did he love it, he is excited to get the 2nd one!