The Narcoleptic Aviator

It can be really interesting at times to live in this world of ours. Don’t you love it when something a little odd or amazing captures your attention?

“Like what?” you ask. Thought you’d never ask. Like when I was leaving the post office yesterday and noticed a well-written flyer by the door. It explained the help this certain group offers and listed how a person with this need can get in touch with them. Great–except that the well-written information was intended for illiterate people; it was a literacy group. …I knew you’d catch the irony.

And each day brings new promise of the unusual! Just this morning before the sun made its daily debut, I was reading about something from World War II. A unique group called the British Air Transport Auxiliary had the mission of ferrying aircraft to and from military installations around Britain and “the continent.” The Auxiliary members’ service freed up combat pilots for just that. It was a pretty remarkable group; for example, it was the first instance of women (many of them American) piloting military aircraft.

But that’s not what caught my eye and imagination this morning. Here’s the quote from the web site:

As the ferrying demands grew, the ATA actively recruited pilots to handle the workload, and limitations that might bar a pilot from service in peacetime were no barrier when every capable aviator was sorely needed. Most of the men who flew were in their thirties, forties and fifties. Many physically challenged pilots also found employment with the ATA. There were a few men who were color-blind, and one who suffered from narcolepsy, who but for the unfortunate tendency to nod off at the most inappropriate times was quite a good pilot. (On his ferrying trips he would take along an “assistant” to shake him awake if he happened to fall asleep at the controls.) There were several one-armed pilots, and a one-armed, one-eyed pilot, Stuart Keith-Jopp, who was one of the first 30 men to join the ATA at its inception. He was also over 50 years old, a veteran of World War I, and an extraordinarily skilled and capable pilot who flew with the ATA until the war’s end. Click here if you want to read more about the ATA.

Wow. I can’t help but chuckle and be amazed. What brave people! (Especially the “assistant.”) I’m so grateful for their service. In this case the British knew how to put people to good use. …And aren’t you glad that God’s the same way? He uses all of us, despite our flaws and foibles–seen or invisible. There are no excuses for laziness because He can use us all for extraordinary purposes, despite ourselves.

Now, on my next flight somewhere, if I hear on the intercom, “This is Captain Turner, and we’ll be depart– ZZzzzz…” then I just might volunteer to be the “assistant.”