In the early days of his flying career, Dale Black had just received his pilot’s license and was assisting the pilots Captain Chuck and Captain Jeanne when the aircraft crashed into a major monument known as the Portal of the Folded Wings.
Everything seemed normal, the weather was beautiful, and the plane was rolling down the runway without a hitch.
But then they rotated the aircraft that day much earlier than normal. Black remembers thinking the speed was off, but he was not in charge.
Black had noticed that one of the pilots, Jeanne, was a bit abrupt that day—the other captain noticed it too. Black had never mentioned this until decades after the crash, however.
Before he knew it, the little plane was approaching what Black realized was a cemetery, and he could see the green grass of the lawn up too close. He remembered thinking “We’re going to be in the newspapers tomorrow,” and that was almost his last thought.
Just a bit too late, Captain Chuck grabbed the controls so hard his knuckles turned white. Then they went down.
“My God, we’re going to crash,” Black thought. That was his last thought.
He was only 19 years old when the unfortunate incident took place. Black and the other pilots lay motionless at the bottom of the aircraft, drenched in fuel, and were considered dead by the crowd.
Then, several minutes later, Black stumbled out of the ruined cockpit.
Captain Dale Black was the only survivor of the horrific accident that occurred at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Southern California.
His shoulder had exploded, one of his ankles was destroyed, several limbs were broken, he suffered huge trauma to the skull—while Black was severely injured, he luckily did not sustain the same sort of brain trauma that caused the death of the other two pilots.
Black remembers being taken to the emergency room—he remembers seeing himself being taken to the emergency room. He was watching as his body was loaded into the ambulance and driven to the hospital. He was presumed dead. He remembers being up near the ceiling, looking down on his own body as three nurses and a doctor dressed his bloody wounds. He could not feel any pain or discomfort.
“I departed and I moved out of the hospital and into deep outer space,” Black said.
“I saw this city of gold, this golden, brilliant, white light in the center.”
“As I got closer and closer, I knew that this was a holy city. I knew I was in heaven,” Black said. He saw a group of what must have been angels, moving together with the music. He felt an incredible sense of unity and love. “The light was full of life and love. It’s life that’s palpable and thick. And all the colors of the rainbow are in it. I knew it was coming from God.”
He had survived, but his life was changed forever.
Dale was hospitalized for a year as he suffered a brain hemorrhage and multiple fractures in his legs, ankles, and shoulder. He also underwent five plastic surgeries. The aircraft slammed into the monument at a speed of 135 miles per hour. His right eye was cut terribly and was stitched up by the doctor. When he woke up, he didn’t realize what had happened to his eyes. He was under the illusion that both his eyes were healthy and fit. It was only at the doctor’s revelation that he realized the truth and of the situation—he was looking out of one eye, but he was seeing multiple dimensions.
He also could not remember a thing.
The accident was completely wiped from his mind, as was all of his aviation training. Entire years were missing from his memory.
Black struggled to regain his memory. Once a firm believer in God, he said he decided to pray for help. He kept going back to the monument, hoping it would trigger his memories. He would wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, and would remember a little piece of what had gone missing. This went on for eight straight months—of praying, and waking up with a sudden, but small, epiphany.
“All of this was like a jigsaw puzzle and it was like God was giving me a piece at a time,” Black said. He described a breathtaking struggle of a journey, but one it was also a path of redemption.
But Black kept most of this to himself.
“I told my grandfather about my heavenly journey immediately after my memory returned but he cautioned me about telling others,” Black wrote.
“He said, ‘Dale, if your experience is sacred, why not keep it to yourself? Instead of telling others about it, why not live your life in a way that reflects your journey to heaven. Live what you believe you saw. Live what you believe you heard and learned. Dale, your life’s actions will speak louder than your words.'”
So that’s what he did—for 38 years, Black told no one that when he had died in the ambulance, he went to heaven before he was brought back to life. He tried to live a life of faith and of giving back. But he told no one else about how those next several months unraveled and how miraculously his memory returned like a gift.
Then one day, Black attended a church service, and heard another man describe his own near-death experience. He claimed to have died and gone to heaven, and then come back. “The service was more sensational than sacred,” he remembered. At first, it only solidified his decision not to share his own experience.
But as Black continued to think about it, he realized the reason he wanted to keep his story to himself because he felt he lived such a flawed life. He felt so very human, and so very flawed, that maybe he did not live up to his experience of having “clearly seen heaven.”
So he made the decision that he would speak about his experience, far and wide, and “try to reveal some of the journey from a life that was imperfect, but was miraculously changed.”
He started with his immediate family.
Black’s wife felt that he had been turned completely upside down by the story. It affected her too, as she listened to him talk about the angelic lights and the music that was hard to describe.
Black decided to write a book about it: “Flight to Heaven–a Pilot’s True Story,” which traces his journey from life to death and then back to life again.
It is the revelation of a man who sustained injuries that were almost impossible to heal and were expected to disable him for life. It is the story of a man who fell and was determined to rise again. His unshakable faith in God gave him a new life.
For Black, it was both a healing experience, and an uplifting of the spirit.