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Aeronautical engineering is a tremendously precise discipline. Aircraft have to be made to exacting specifications. Mostly, they are not terribly complex. Instead, they are a giant conglomeration of lots and lots of simple, small machines or systems. Today, many planes “fly-by-wire,” using computers to position the flight surfaces on the wings and tail, but plenty of planes still have a system of cables and pulleys that turn the pilot’s inputs to the control yoke (or stick) into ups and downs of the ailerons and elevators. Foot pedals do the same thing for the rudder on the tail.


The tolerances of construction are very fine, however, regardless of how simple the system is on the plane. The reason is that it takes a lot of energy to lift the plane, and you don’t want to waste any unnecessarily. Systems must be robust enough to be reliable but not so over-engineered that they waste fuel and require oversized engines to make the bird fly.


Although there is a safety margin built in, in engineering terms, there is an absolute limit at which things will fail. Because there is always a whole range of factors at play, if a part needs to be strength “x” in order to work, then they will make it “x+2” or “x+3” so it will continue to work even when there are stressors in play, such as turbulence.


Usually, there are tradeoffs. For example, there is less stress on an aircraft when it is taking off than when it is landing. The “wing loading” is the same, but climbing into the air is not as violent on the airframe as is slamming onto a concrete runway at 150 mph or so. As a result, most aircraft can actually take off at a weight higher than that with which it can land. The reason is that it is going to burn off fuel as it flies and will be considerably lighter after crossing an ocean, for example. It is possible to make an aircraft so robust that it can land at its maximum take-off weight, but because it is very wasteful, it is not often done.


If an aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of say 325,000 pounds, it might have a maximum landing weight of 275,000 to 290,000 pounds. In flying across an ocean, an aircraft could use 100,000 pounds of fuel. Using pounds gives more exacting calculations than gallons. (100,000 pounds is about 14,700 gallons of fuel.) Let’s suppose the rest of the aircraft is fully loaded with people and cargo, so it is taking off at its maximum weight. If there is a problem and the aircraft has to return to its departure point immediately, it would have 25,000 to 50,000 pounds too much weight on board to land. Some weight can be jettisoned by throwing cargo and passengers overboard, but that is frowned upon for obvious reasons. Sometimes, a stricken plane will just fly in circles for hours until it burns enough off to land. That is problematic as well. If there is already a problem on board, putting off a landing for five or six hours has its own risks.



The solution to too much gas on board is to dump fuel. For those thinking that dumping thousands of gallons of fuel is an ecological disaster, it is not as bad as one might think at first. The fuel actually evaporates before it hits the ground. Of course, there are serious problems with the evaporated fumes polluting the air, but it’s not as bad as the liquid spill.


Some of the impact of the evaporated fuel is lessened as more air blows through and the pollutants are diffused, but not completely. Additional fuel dumps only add to the problem, and the environment gets more and more polluted. People may not notice the change, but the impact on the environment from fuel spills is cumulative and significant – far more significant than burning it for flight.  A fuel dump is much worse than when the fuel burns. It is really important to take care with the impact from what is being done.


Now…press hold for a second.


We’ll get back to impacting the atmosphere shortly.


When I met “A” in Iran, he shared how he had come to know Jesus. He had heard some things about Jesus, but not much. When he was 19, he had a dream in whcih Jesus came to him revealing Himself as God and man. He told his parents about his dream one night just before going to bed. He woke up a few hours later to his mother screaming, and his father standing over him with a knife getting ready to stab him. Just before the knife came down on him, he was able to roll over and jump through the window beside his bed. Since then, he has no more contact with his family, but he has continued in his relationship with the Lord. He said that as costly as it was to follow Christ, it was worth it.


In East Africa, “L” was leading Friday afternoon prayers in a mosque. As he prayed, he had a vision of Jesus. It was powerful and consuming. He turned to the others there who were gathered for prayer and said, “I have just had a vision of Isa [the Arabic name for Jesus]. He is the Lord!” The others in the mosque jumped up and came for him in anger. He fled from the building and basically was never able to go back. He embodied giving up everything for Christ, but he would never consider it a sacrifice. He speaks of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.


On the border between Uganda and Congo was a small town where “M” lived. He had never considered anything other than Isl*m because that was all he had known, but he also knew that his heart was longing for something more. Something was missing, but he didn’t know what it was. In the night, he had a vivid dream of Jesus coming to him telling him of the love of the Father. He had never heard anything like what he was hearing from Jesus in the dream. He awakened knowing that there was a different way to relate with God, and it was through Jesus Christ. He also knew that it would cost him everything to embrace Christ, but his experience was so compelling, he chose to do it. The hostility of his neighbors and family meant that he had to flee and resettle elsewhere.


These three examples of M**lims coming to Christ are only three of tens of thousands. As many as two thirds of those who come to faith in Christ do so as a result of a supernatural dream or vision.


How on earth does that relate to fuel dumps from aircraft impacting the atmosphere, you ask? Just as those who dump fuel into the atmosphere impact it dramatically, there is a way that we can impact the spiritual atmosphere.


Jesus told us to extend the Kingdom of God. We do so by preaching and teaching and reaching out in mission. We also do it through prayer. In fact, prayer is one of the great factors in many of the dynamic conversions that are coming about through dreams and visions. In Revelation 5 we read:


Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying:


“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.”


Imagine that the bowls of heaven, which are filled with the prayers of the saints (us!), are what God pours out in order to reach those of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” As we pray to extend His Kingdom, I imagine those bowls filling up. When they overflow, it is not hard to imagine the grace of the Kingdom pouring out of the bowls and into the dreams of those whose hearts are ripe. Of course we still do all we can to carry out mission, but in this season, more fruit with M**lims is coming from supernatural means.


Dumped fuel has a tremendous impact on the atmosphere. It is profound and negative. It should only be done when there is no other way to save lives. Joining in prayer for the extension of the Kingdom and the conversion of hearts and souls to Jesus Christ through all manner of means both natural and supernatural has a tremendous impact on the spiritual atmosphere. It is profound and life-giving. It does not cost anything but time, and it pays tremendous dividends.



By the way…you might wonder why I chose to spell M**lim or Isl*m with “*” instead of just spelling it out. It’s because of search engines. Radical M**lims can Google for articles that mention both Christ and Isl*m looking for ways to identify those whom they view are committing apostasy. A simple thing like an * in the spelling is just a safety net for our brothers and sisters in Christ who came from  M**lim backgrounds.