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Seat of His Pants
Photo: Kathy Lewis
To locate and ascend to the Vultee Arch near Sedona, Ariz., is no mean feat. Of the two ways in, one will beat up your body; the other will thrash your car.

Meandering seven miles north from town on Highway 89-A through scenic Oak Creek Canyon, you will find the Sterling Pass Trailhead on your left. This rough and tumble foot path is beautiful, steep and strenuous, climbing more than 1,100 feet over the pass and down into Sterling Canyon—a five mile round trip adventure.

If you choose instead to go booney crashing, a 10 mile round trip excursion on a hobbled out rocky, forest road, will propel your vehicle toward the arch trailhead at speeds lurching from five to seven miles per hour. Once at the parking area, an easy three mile round trip hike awaits you. But stay alert for large brown bears on the trail!

Either of these two routes will lead to a spur trail from which you will be able to view the Vultee Arch, as well as, make a rocky, steep and shrubby passage to the top. Then, easing your way onto the natural sandstone bridge measuring 40 feet long and about seven feet across, you may walk across it if you dare. The ground is some 35 feet below! Amazingly, this geological structure was not even discovered until 1938.

The Arch Namesake

As a boy, Jerry Vultee showed a keen interest in aviation, building and flying model airplanes. He went on to study aviation science in the early 1920’s, building a full sized aircraft as a student project.

After graduation from Cal-Tech, Gerald was immediately hired by Douglas Aircraft. By the age of 28, he was promoted to chief aeronautical engineer at Lockheed, where he designed the Sirius plane for Charles Lindberg. Amelia Earhart was among other famous aviators who flew and loved his planes.

Retractable landing gear, the V-type windshield and large wing flaps designed to reduce landing speeds, were some of Vultee’s innovations.

Another popular aircraft he pioneered was the V-1 A, the fastest plane of its kind, accelerating to 235 mph.

In January 1938, 37-year-old Jerry and his young wife Sylvia were heading back to California from Washington, D.C. in a new V-1 A. Sixty miles after refueling in Winslow, Ariz., a snowstorm overtook them on the Mogollon Rim near Sedona. For all his aeronautical expertise, Gerald Vultee flew by the seat of his pants. He had no training in blind, or instrument flying. Vultee became fatally disoriented in the blinding whiteout and flew his plane into the snowy canyon below.

When rescuers found the smoldering wreckage and charred bodies a day later, they also discovered a natural, vermillion, sandstone bridge about a mile south of the crash site. Subsequently, the arch was name in memory of Vultee.

Navigating through life without a compass is very much like being airborne without instruments. Flying by the seat of your pants may work for a time during fair weather but during the storms of life, one begins to realize how desperately direction is needed.
The Bible is meant to be that guide for our lives. God’s word shows us how to live, love and be like our Creator. It charts our course; it gives direction: it anchors our lives. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

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By Kathy A. Lewis. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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