Q: What caused the plane Billy Graham was on to make an emergency landing in a dark field?
A: A snowstorm and a shortage of fuel.
After Billy Graham became Youth for Christ’s first full-time evangelist, he spent much of the 1940s traveling the globe to preach. That meant many hours on trains and airplanes.
During a flight from Vancouver to Minneapolis, Mr. Graham was one of 14 passengers on a Lockheed Lodestar, which took off during a heavy rainstorm.
A few hours into the flight, when everyone else was asleep, the flight attendant told Mr. Graham there was a problem: The plane was low on fuel, and all the airports within reach were closed because of a snowstorm.
“I was, to say the least, nervous,” Mr. Graham wrote in his autobiography Just As I Am.
The pilot woke everyone up as he announced that he needed to land the plane as soon as possible—the snowstorm was getting worse.
There was a field somewhere below, according to the radio tower. The pilot would have to try to find it in the dark.
Given that Billy Graham spent his childhood on a farm, he would have understood one of the pilots’ concerns. The field was plowed, but because it was covered with snow, there would be no way to see which way the furrows—or deep ruts—were running. The pilot decided to leave the wheels up and slide in for the landing.
He warned the passengers that the landing would be bumpy, but he attempted to reassure them that a fire was unlikely since they were so low on fuel. Mr. Graham and the other passengers were instructed to put their heads between their knees and brace for the landing. You can imagine the prayers that were uttered in that moment.
“When we landed, we bumped hard,” Mr. Graham wrote. “People screamed and hollered as we came to an abrupt stop. Several of the passengers suffered severe bruises from the seatbelts, but no one was killed or seriously injured. I too had some bruises but was otherwise alright.”
Everyone had to stay on the plane until morning, when some local helpers came to get them out of the field with a horse-drawn wagon.
As Mr. Graham spent the next six decades traveling the globe to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, that bumpy landing was the first of several close calls he experienced. But God always protected him and made sure he reached his destination.