Too late to recover

JP: In the news: Altimeter Cited in Netherlands Crash. See my comments after the quote.


A false reading from a faulty altimeter caused an autopilot to sharply slow a Turkish Airlines jet short of the runway last month, sending it plunging into a muddy field and killing nine people, Dutch investigators said Wednesday.

The flight carrying 135 passengers and crew crashed a kilometer (less than a mile) from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as it was landing on Feb. 25. The pilots were among the dead.

One of the plane’s altimeters, a device that measures altitude, had registered that the plane was flying below sea level and caused the autopilot to rapidly reduce power before the crash, officials said.


At 1950 feet (around 700 meters) the airplane’s left altimeter suddenly and mistakenly registered an altitude of 8 feet (about 2 meters) below sea level and passed the reading on to the automatic control system, Van Vollenhoven said.

According to conversation recorded between the plane’s captain, first officer and an extra first officer on the flight, the pilots noticed the faulty altimeter but didn’t consider it a problem and didn’t react, Van Vollenhoven said.

But the autopilot reduced gas to the engines and the plane lost speed, decelerating until, at a height of 450 feet (150 meters) it was about to stall. Warning systems alerted the pilots.

”It appears that then the pilots immediately gave gas, full gas, however it was too late to recover,” Van Vollenhoven told reporters. He said it would be for courts to apportion blame.

An altimeter measures the altitude of an airplane above the ground. In this tragedy, at 1950 feet the airplane’s altimeter mistakenly registered an altitude of 8 feet below sea level.

In life, I see these analogies of a false altimeter reading:

  • One’s heart cannot be trusted to accurately portray his own spiritual condition. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” The unregenerate (unsaved) one thinks himself to be “OK” with God. He does not see the true reading of the spiritual condition – that he is under the condemnation of a Holy God! (Romans 5:16, “the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation” (click here for broader context)). The Word of God tells us of our sin and of our need for a Savior! Without the Word of God, one has a faulty reading of spiritual reality!
  • Without the Word of God we cannot know the way of salvation. 2 Timothy 3:16, “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”. There is no way to have a safe landing spiritually without the Bible!
  • There is another spiritual analogy to the altimeter. The elevation of the Minneapolis airport is 841 feet. Correctly calibrated, the altimeter of an airplane with a destination of MSP will register 841 feet upon landing. The testimony of the Word of God affirms the spiritual condition of one who has trusted Christ as Savior and Lord: “this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:10-12)

As long as one breathes life, there is opportunity to repent and believe on Christ. At life’s end it will be “too late to recover“. Christ will declare to the lost one, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23). The call of the Savior is “Today, if you will hear [My] voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).

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