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Book Review: Flight to Heaven: A Pilot’s True Story by Captain Dale Black with Ken Gire

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The book’s title (Flight to Heaven) and the blurb attracted me to this true story by Captain Dale Black. I wasn’t disappointed.

In it Black tells of the airplane accident that almost took his life at age 19. At first his memory of the accident and its aftermath were almost nonexistent. But as his battered body healed, so did his head and brain. With that healing, recall of the terrifying moments just before impact were soon joined by the memory of an out-of-body experience that followed the crash.

In it he visited an indescribably beautiful place with vibrant colors, experienced the sensation of being completely understood and loved, and saw light so vibrant that it seemed alive. Then, just before he was to get a wonderful surprise — the climax of his welcome to that place — he was pulled back to earth.

Though he had no actual recall of that experience until much later, when he woke from a three-day coma, he did know he was changed in a deep way. This is how he tells it:

“The nurse looked at me, studying the reactions in my good eye. “Hello, Dale,” she said. “How do you feel? Can you hear me?”

This is hard to explain, but I felt an immediate and overwhelming love for this woman. It wasn’t romantic. Nothing like that. It was deeper than that, purer. I wanted to talk with her, to thank her for helping me, but I couldn’t. Most of all, I wanted to encourage her by telling her just how much God loved her…

That’s how I was seeing this nurse. I had never met her, didn’t even know her name. It was not a human love, I was sure of that. It was God’s love. I felt as if I were a vessel through which His love was flowing. Does she know Jesus?...” p. 38

What sets Black’s heavenly encounter story apart from others is the fact that he decided (after telling his grandfather and on his grandfather’s advice) to never speak of it until he felt sure God wanted him to. Thus he lived for years telling no one, not even his wife, what he had seen.

However, when he did finally know that the time was right to go public, his wife of almost 40 years was not that shocked. In many ways it explained why he was the way he was. She says in a chapter near the end of the book:

“Dale’s values and priorities completely changed after the airplane crash… He is sensitive toward and strongly drawn to relationships where there is unity and love at the core…. He studies the Bible from his heart rather than his head and knows it intimately…. He has a quest to understand order in science, but only to understand more about God. He is fascinated with light and the properties of light as well as space and astronomy….Without question Dale has been profoundly and permanently affected by his visit to heaven.” p. 184.

The book is a quick and compelling read. Black says in the introduction that it took years to write and went through many drafts and edits. Perhaps that’s why it slips down so effortlessly — because it’s been combed and re-combed until every tangle and snag has been smoothed out.

Black opens with a tense incident from his adult life but then goes back in time and tells the story chronologically. I was struck by this young man’s determination to achieve his dream, and his faith that he would recover physically in all the necessary ways for him to become a pilot. A few black-and-white photos anchor the narrative in time and give faces to the story’s characters.

Black’s account of heaven is uncannily similar to biblical accounts. The way his encounter with the divine impacted his life even before he could recall it and influenced it along the way, testifies to its reality.

Flight to Heaven made me aware of how superficial my life is and wonder how I would change if I experienced the realities Black saw. I took from the book not only the sense that Dale Black is an incredible man but also that God is good, faithful, loving, and about His business. In Black’s case that involved the amazing experience of a preview of eternity. I’m so glad he felt at liberty to tell us about it.

Visit the writer’s web page.

Read an excerpt of the book.

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About Violet Nesdoly

  • Rev. Smith

    I just finished this book this morning. It has changed my life! I enjoyed reading about the journey to Heaven but my human mind can’t quite grasp that. My excitement was reading how God changed this man through understanding a true relationship with Christ. I cried and cried because I had to look at my own life and ask a lot of questions. I minister in a prison and think I will get this book for them. Thank you for sharing not just your journey to Heaven but your journey to get to know the true and living Christ.