Table of Contents
Flight to Heaven
Copyright © 2010
Written in collaboration with Ken Gire
Some names of persons in this account have been changed to protect their privacy. Some aircraft numbers have also been changed.
Cover design by Studio Gearbox
Cover photograph: Jorg Grevel/Getty Images
All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Ave South
Bloomington, MN 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Flight to heaven : a plane crash, a lone survivor, a journey to heaven—and back / Dale Black with Ken Gire. p. cm.
Summary: “Dale Black tells how he survived a plane crash at age nineteen, his near-death experience of heaven, and how his life dramatically changed as a result of this event forty years ago”—Provided by publisher.
(pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Black, Dale.. 2. Near-death experiences—United States. 3. Aircraft accident victims—United States—Biography. 4. Aircraft accidents—California—Burbank Region—History—20th century. 5. Air pilots—United States—Biography. 6. Spiritual biography—United States. I. Gire, Ken. II. Title
This book is dedicated to my wife, Paula,
whom I love and adore, cherish, and respect.
Without her gentle and loving prodding,
you would not be reading about my journey to heaven
or be holding this book in your hands.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
my grandfather Russell L. Price,
a man who learned to walk by faith and not by sight.
After spending four years writing
this book and another two years getting the help needed to bring it to fruition, the credit for the final product is broad based.
The largest thanks goes to the most important person in making this book become reality, my best friend and wife of almost forty years, Paula Black. My love and appreciation also go to my children, Eric and Kara, for enriching my life in so many ways.
I wish to thank author Beverly Swerling Martin, my writing coach, for her invaluable guidance and editing of this project. Much thanks to Lela Gilbert for helping write an earlier manuscript and to Greg Johnson, my literary agent, who believed in this project from the outset and quickly arranged the details for publication. Thank you to Kyle Duncan for being such an instrumental and effective liaison for this project with Bethany House Publishers and embracing it with his heart. Thanks go to Jeff Braun for his strategic suggestions, editing, and invaluable help in bringing this book to completion. A huge thank-you mixed with awe goes to Ken Gire, a writer with amazing skill and talent, who contributed his abilities to enhance the story in major ways.
A big thank-you for her tireless and encouraging work as my personal editor goes to Sandi Gregston. Also thanks to Ray Gregston, Dana McCue, and Nicole Elliott for their suggestions and editing of the earlier manuscript.
Thanks also to Harold Morby, a veteran of sixty years of pro fessional photography, for taking and providing the aerial photos of the crash site.
Thanks to my sweet mother, Joyce Black, for her contagious upbeat attitude, her unending love, and for blessing her family with songs of praise throughout a lifetime.
Lastly, I wish to thank and recognize a loyal and loving friend, Kara Joy Black, the best daughter any father ever had. Kara has developed wisdom well beyond her years and I found myself seeking her counsel regularly in preparing this book.
My life was forever changed
after a plane crash.
I was the only survivor.
For days I remained in an intensive care unit, but not before taking an uncharted trip . . . to heaven. What I experienced there, words cannot do justice. Even the best words pale before the indescribable. For many months following the crash, due to serious amnesia, I remembered nothing. Nothing of the crash, the first three days in the hospital, or my visit to heaven. At least, my
did not remember. My heart? Well, that’s a different story.
I was assigned to Dr. Homer Graham, best known as Evel Knievel’s surgeon. My injuries were massive, but when I awoke in the ICU, I was a changed man. Yet I had no memory as to why. It seemed as if I had been given new eyes. I felt as though I were looking into another dimension. That was forty years ago.
What you’re about to read is how my life was turned upside down by an airplane crash and why every major decision I’ve made since then has been a direct result of my journey to heaven. Those who know me may now understand why I’ve seemed like a bit of a misfit and why my life has often followed an offbeat path.
You’ll learn why I’ve been emboldened and compelled to share the love of God with others. Why I volunteered on almost a thousand flights to more than fifty countries, building churches, orphanages, and medical clinics. And why I’ve trained lay ministers and medical personnel to help the needy worldwide, usually at my own expense.
Since that fateful day, I have shared my story about the crash and the amazing recovery many times. But I have never shared publicly about my journey to heaven, until now.
How could I keep this life-changing event a secret? There are several reasons.
Right after the crash my memory was like a jigsaw puzzle with only a few recognizable pieces. It would take eight months to start getting my memory back. And even longer for my injured mind and my transformed heart to get in sync.
As soon as my memory returned, I told my grandfather everything that had happened, but he cautioned me about telling others. “Dale,” he said, “you can speak about your experience, or you can treat it as sacred and let your life be a reflection of your experience. By that I mean, if you really did see the other side, then live out whatever you believe you saw. Live what you believe you heard. Just live what you learned. Your life’s actions will speak louder than your voice.”
So I made a solemn promise to myself and to God not to share my experience with anyone until He made it clear to do so. At the time I figured God might want me to keep the secret for only a year or two.
Soon after the crash I attended a church service where a man claimed to have died, visited heaven, and come back to life. To me, the service was more self-serving than sacred. The very essence of heaven is God, yet the people were more interested in the sensation rather than the One who created it all and Whom heaven is all about. I was grieved by the event and my decision not to discuss my journey with anyone was further solidified.
It also wasn’t hard to keep my secret because at times in my life, I have been truly disappointed in myself. Why couldn’t I have lived an even better life? Since I had clearly seen heaven and was so changed by the experience, why did I fail again and again to be the man I truly wanted to be? Why did I fail often to be a reflection of what I had seen and heard and learned? I guess seeing heaven didn’t change the fact that I’m human. Not only human—but also very flawed.
So why share my experience now? Personally, I was perfectly content to keep my silence longer still. But the Lord orchestrated a series of events that convinced me it is now His time to share about my journey to heaven and back. For four decades I
my experience. Now I am compelled to tell how.
In some ways this story is about me. But it is not about me ultimately, nor should it be. It is about God. And it is about you. The two of you together, entwined in a story that, to me, is still breathtakingly sacred. My hope is that you will read not just with your mind but with an open heart. If you do, you may receive more than you bargained for.
My story begins as I pilot a jet on a volunteer missionary flight in the dark of night over Zambia, Africa . . . at 41,000 feet. So please, fasten your seat belt, put your tray table in its upright and locked position, and hold on. It’s quite a ride.