Well, the Great Recession is now over, there is a plague of locusts in Australia and a Piper Saratoga made an emergency landing on the freeway just down the road from me in Atlanta after an engine failure. What a day! Whether the world is moving at an accelerating pace or the increased flow of information is making how fast life moves all the more obvious, I’m tuckered out!
I did take a few minutes to learn about the pilot who landed the single engine plane similar to the one I fly on one of the busiest freeways in town today, as much out of self-interest as for its general newsworthiness. You see, pilots learn from other pilots and I’m no exception. The more I hear about the successful escapes from the clutches of dire situations, the better the pilot I feel I can become.
One of the greatest qualities I know of is the ability to learn from mistakes, whether or not your were the original doer of the misdeed. In this case, the pilot was likely not at fault. In fact, his engine failed as he was approaching Peachtree Dekalb Airport, known by its FAA designation, KPDK.
With little altitude to spare and very few landing options in that part of town, he likely ran a quick check to see if the engine would restart while pitching up for best glide speed and then scanned quickly for the best landing sport given the known winds, the visible obstacles and the quickly approaching terra firma.
The first thing a pilot is trained to do in an emergency is to FLY THE AIRPLANE. Many pilots have unnecessarily panicked and flown a perfectly good airplane into the ground. Some people mistakenly think that a single engine plane cannot fly without its engine running, but in fact virtually every airplane can glide safely, sans engines. New pilots are trained to first fly the airplane and then troubleshoot. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you forget to fly the airplane and spend your time troubleshooting, you will eventually find trouble.
The pilot of this particular airplane kept his wits about him, landed the plane safely, injured no one on the ground and incurred relatively minor damage to the plane. The best you could hope for in a challenging situation!
The same advice fits perfectly in everyday life. When you meet unexpected turbulence, an unforeseen obstacle or if you encounter an emergency of any type, continue to FLY THE AIRPLANE! Don’t give up the controls or go running around screaming and yelling about how out of control your life is, how unfortunate you are or why it had to be you of all people, FLY THE AIRPLANE!
I went flying in a glider recently (which I must say is an incredible experience if you haven’t tried it) and one of the pilots came back moments after being towed up to altitude. He made a precautionary landing after hearing a loud THUD! just behind the canopy under which he was perched. Fortunately the noise was nothing more than a hatch that had opened and smacked against the fuselage, causing no damage to the glider, but perhaps more importantly, the pilot (and me for the reason outlined above) was reminded of the value of focusing on flying the plane, first and foremost.
Panic is rarely of value. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but you can remain in control no matter how urgent, dire, nasty, boring or frightening the situation might be. You can remain in control. When you are in control you can think. When you can think you can see options. When you can see options you can plot your way out of the mess you’re in. Follow the logic?
I hope that this incident does not stop you from enjoying flight, especially in small aircraft. Flown by competent pilots they are as safe as a trip to the supermarket in your car and the views…oh my, the views are priceless.
By the way, please spread the word. The recession is officially over, but look out for the locusts!