In light of the US Airways flight that safely crash landed into the Hudson River yesterday, my mind raced through what I might do in such a situation, both as a passenger, and as the pilot.
As a passenger, I would probably break the “no cell phones during flight” rule and call my children, if there was even time for that. I would assume that death was at hand and prepare to meet my maker. Maybe my mind would flash back to scenes from the movie Castaway and how Tom Hanks’ character actually did survive a water landing. The nearby island might be a little bit more inhabitable than his, but I digress.
More than likely, I would assume the worst, until the plane stopped its free fall and I found myself still breathing and able to move. Really, what can you do when you are trapped and strapped inside of something that heavy going against the force of gravity?
Now, as the pilot, my brain starts spinning things in a more heroic direction. Even though the plane is fighting a losing battle with gravity, I still feel some sense of power, since I can control the wings. Perhaps I can see the terrain below and choose an ideal crash site, like a river. Not only do I want to save my own life for myself and my family, but I have so many others who will benefit from my opportunity to steer us closer to safety and away from a more clear danger. The goal would be to save lives and just plain (no pun intended) do my job. But, as was the case with the pilot, C.B. Sullenberger, I might become a hero overnight. Just responding the way that I knew I needed to respond would bring great appreciation and accolade.
One thing that C.B. Sullenberger had going for him (and everyone else on the plane, for that matter), was that he was passionate for safety procedures. Even though this was his first jet-airliner crash, it didn’t seem “new” to him, because he had rehearsed it in his mind so many times before. He was aware of the risks of flight, and didn’t fly airplanes hoping that such a situation would never happen. He was prepared for any possible situation and took the “responsibility” aspect of being a pilot as fully as the “fun” side. Because he had practiced the crash landing mentally, his body knew how to respond, even though the stakes were much higher. You can probably see where I am going with this, but it is absolutely true that practice and repetition will serve you better than just “showing up” for game time, whatever your game might be.
The biggest difference between my response as a passenger and my response as a pilot is control, or at least, and understanding of control. Is control an illusion? Maybe. But it is absolutely true that we can alter the course of our lives, every day. Even in situations where we feel like we have no control, most often WE put ourselves in that situation. WE chose to get on that airplane. Yes, the odds are small that it could crash, but the odds are still there. That was our choice. We controlled that choice. Just like we control where we work. What town we live in. What type of society we live in. The value of money. When we have freedom, we have control. With freedom, there should be less fear.
Finally, our attitude strongly impacts our outcomes in life. We all know what the word “altitude” means. It is the relation between the airplane and sea level. In the flight world, a plane’s “attitude” refers to whether it is leaning left or right. With our choices in life, we can either lean in a positive direction, or a negative direction. Think about magnets, and how a negatively charged magnet repels objects, while a positively charged magnet attracts things. When you are charged negatively, you are pushing things and people away, saying “I don’t want to be a part of this. I can’t help myself, so how can I help you. Woe is me!” When you are charged positively, you are drawing people and things to you, saying “I am in control. Trust me. We can do it!”
I think that it is clear how we all want to lean in terms of our attitude. There is something very attractive about a positive attitude. Magnetic even. Maybe that’s why I relate so much to this guy.
This is a guest post by Zac Parsons.