It was a near perfect day of flying. I had a full load on board and the weather was nice. I was headed home. It happened at the most inopportune time. I was over nothing but jungle. Propellers are amazing bits of machinery. Until you lose a tip. A few inches of blade tip departing the prop can set up a fair amount of vibrations. Vibrations that just get worse until the engine kills itself, or departs the airplane. If the engine departs the airplane, the airplane ceases to be a fine instrument of flight and becomes a fine instrument of fall.
No, this didn’t actually happen to me. But it could.
A primary suspect in causing a prop to malfunction and thrown blades or tips is prop damage. Prop damage comes from gravel and general hard things hitting the prop while the airplane is sitting on the ground running. This is particularly bad in areas where runways and parking areas are not paved.
Usually, one little rock hitting the prop won’t actually cause enough damage to create any problems. In fact, props can take an awful lot of nicking and dinging before serious damage takes place. It is up to the pilot to be disciplined in checking his prop for unacceptable damage.
What did happen was the other day while I was in Ilu I picked up a significant nick on my prop blade from rocks on the parking area there. When I arrived at Mulia, the next stop, my instructor and I found the nick. We discussed the possibility of the nick causing real damage during flight, and even called home base for advice from our Chief of Maintenance. The decision was made to head on back to Sentani, but minus the passengers, just in case. We felt that even though the nick was significant enough to warrant not taking passengers, we also felt that it was safe enough to fly home.
Later on, thinking about that whole situation, I realized that this story carries a lot of parallels to the Christian life. Sins start small, but left unchecked, a seemingly little sin can destroy us. The obvious example is sexual sin. It starts as a little bit of porn first, then an emotional attachment with someone that you aren’t married to, and then it’s adultery and a destroyed ministry. But what about the less obvious examples? What about jealousy? Being jealous of your neighbors car can lead to trying to buy one of your own. But you can’t really afford it, so you stretch the loans out a bit. Then, a few years later, you are fighting with your spouse over money matters all the time, and your kids grow up in a discordant home. That lack of stability leads them to acting out in other ways like sex, drugs, and even cutting or suicide.
In an airplane, nicks happen to the prop. You can’t prevent them. In life, as sinful people, sin will happen in our lives. The question is not, can you prevent it perfectly. Only one person ever did that. The question is, what do you do about that sin? Do you fix it? Do you ignore it?
On my prop blade, I had to remove the damaged area. In our lives, we have to remove the sin. It may be a pain today, but in the long run, it will save us lots of trouble. Thankfully, God is there, ready to help us see the sin, and to get rid of it, if we will just take the time to listen to Him and check our prop for nicks.