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Teachable Moment from Airliner Debris

By now you’ve probably heard about the Alaska Airlines flight in early January that experienced a sudden loss of pressure when a mechanical failing in the Boeing Max 9 caused a door plug to pop out midflight. Many consider it a miracle that the flight was able to safely land without any fatalities or even major injuries.

For the FAA and the NTSB, the crisis did not end when the flight landed safely back at Portland International Airport. Both agencies needed to get to the bottom of how and why the door plug flew off in the first place. This required locating any of the debris that flew off midflight, including the door plug, which is the size of a normal airplane exit door.

Enter Bob Sauer. Sauer works as a science teacher in the area of Portland in the plane’s flight path. Sauer heard that NTSB authorities were searching for debris in his area. So, on a rainy Sunday night, he took a flashlight into his dark backyard to see if he could spot anything that seemed out of place. Sure enough, dangling midair among a small grove of cedar trees, was something that didn’t belong.

Sauer told a reporter, “It was definitely an airplane part. It had the same curvature that the fuselage has, and had a window in it.” Sauer called an NTSB hotline, and sent a few photos of his discovery. Within a day or so, investigators descended on his property, excited to confirm that it was indeed the door plug.

It turns out the plane was not directly overhead when the door plug failed, but landed in Sauer’s yard because of the several scientific factors. In light of this, Sauer used the incident as a teaching moment, and spent the first fifteen minutes of his astronomy class Monday morning explaining the discovery and relating it to the principles of terminal velocity, such as the plane’s airspeed, and wind speed, and air resistance during its descent.

Sauer was glad it hadn’t landed on his house; something that size moving at that velocity would’ve punched a hole in his roof.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Christian parents can follow this example and find teachable moments in life and use them to instruct their children. Teachable moments involve using everyday situations to illustrate biblical principles and teach children about God and faith. These moments can be tailored to the child's age and comprehension level, showing them the biblical relevance to their lives.

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