False Horizon

A Floating Black Suitcase. July 19, 1999, Martha's Vineyard. JFK Jr. and his wife were still missing when the wreckage of their airplane started to appear. "There is always hope," said Coast Guard Lt. Gary Jones, "But unfortunately, when you find certain pieces of evidence, you have to be prepared for anything." U.S. Coast Guard officials confirmed that debris from the aircraft was recovered in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 yards off the Vineyard, along with a black suitcase. Evidence of lost lives had come floating to the surface.

Ashes. Four days later, hope abandoned, three brass urns were all that remained. In a shipside ceremony, the Kennedys and Bessettes released three loved ones into the sea, one by one. Next of kin scattered the ashes of John F. Kennedy Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette; and her sister Lauren Bessette into the waves.

What happened? John Kennedy Jr. was an American icon. As the 'Prince of Camelot', the legendary son of a legendary president was regularly seen smiling on the covers of tabloids. His photos are a part of US history. Burned into our collective memory is the image of him in those red shoes, standing by his mom, saluting his father's passing casket. As his life-long audience, Americans wanted answers for John Jr.'s sudden crashing death.

Weeks after the fatal accident, the National Safety Transportation Board would investigate the accident and find no mechanical malfunction. The fatal error pointed to the pilot. According to the Washington Post, JFK Jr was what aviators call a "low-time" pilot; he had his license, but he had only logged around 300 hours in the air. He had broken his ankle playing sports the month prior. And he was at the controls of a high-performance Piper Saratoga after spending most of his two years of flying in a smaller Cessna -- a complicated plane beyond the pilot's ability or preparation. Experts said that "300 hours would have left Kennedy at an experience level when pilots often become overconfident and are not sufficiently seasoned to recognize dangerous situations."

With no mechanical or structural defects found, investigators determined that "Kennedy lost his bearings, and then control of the plane, while flying over a dark ocean in thick haze. Hundreds of pilots have died in similar conditions, without visual cues to up and down. "

False Horizon. There is a gauge on a pilot's panel designed specifically to indicate the true horizon. Certain cloud patterns or weather conditions can occur during flight and mix-up the line of horizon. The visual illusion causes internal disorientation. Sideways feels straight: upside down, right side up. Only the gauge on the pilot's panel says otherwise. This phenomenon is called a false horizon. In the midst of it, a pilot must trust the reliability of the gauge; not emotion.

The false horizon indicates a larger everyday-life reality. Whether legendary or ordinary, all people live under the same dark fickle sky. The world is full of misdirecting mirages that can cause us to lose our bearings. Sometimes sideways feels straight and the appearance of reasonability can't be trusted. Clouds converge in the form of temptation, deception, pride, intimate betrayal, unexpected death. Even the stalwart walls of Camelot can come crashing down; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
When there is no visual cue of up or down; when things feel and appear one way, but in reality are another ... what do you choose? Times like these, a truly objective measure, a wiser form of direction is necessary.
We all need a 'panel gauge' that speaks the true horizon.
This idea raises a lot of deeper spiritual questions. If it's true that some directional circumstances can't be trusted. When gut feelings, over-confidence, or intuition are 'logically' pointing toward a destructive or even fatal path, then ...
  • How do you recognize false horizons in your life?
  • Do you have a trustworthy compass?
  • What is it?

False Horizon definition and illustration: http://www.answers.com/
JFK Jr. Image: People Magazine.
News & Quotes:
Washington Post
"JFK Jr. Feared Dead in Plane Crash"
By Michael Grunwald Washington Post Staff Writer: Sunday, July 18, 1999; (Reuters).
"Kennedy, Bessettes Given Shipboard Rites"
By Barton Gellman and Pamela Ferdinand Washington Post Staff Writers: Friday, July 23, 1999.


Karen said...

Great post, Kelley. You are a gifted writer, my friend.

Kleigh (clAy) said...

I hope you're having a beautiful day in California. Thanks for checking in and making me smile!