Hutchinson’s Law: If a situation requires undivided attention, it will occur simultaneously with a compelling distraction.
Pilots face the interesting challenge if navigating in a third dimension, often at double, triple or more the speed of any other mode of transportation. As with driving a car, catching a ball or starting a new business, distractions pop up regularly in the flight environment. A passing bird, a strange noise, a passenger issue and any of a thousand other events can come up, usually at the most inopportune time, say on take-off, landing or during any one of a number of critical phases of flight.
The way you handle the distraction has a significant influence on the remainder of the flight. A friend of mine was flying a twin engine Beechcraft Baron that he was recently rated to fly and was cut off by another pilot at an uncontrolled field (an airport with no control tower) while turning onto final approach. The fellow who cut him off was well-known for his blatant disregard of standard protocol for entering the landing pattern and in this instance he made no radio calls as he barged his way into the airport.
Knowing this and in hindsight, my friend admits that he shouldn’t have let it bother him, but unfortunately he did. His fixation on the disrespectful pilot now ahead of him interrupted his normal landing checklist and flow and as a result, he forgot to extend the landing gear. Fortunately for him, another pilot taxiing to take off announced “Gear up! Gear up! Go around!” as my friend was in his landing flare, no more that 15 feet above the tarmac.
Such distractions come up all the time in life, especially in situations that require your undivided attention. You might have noticed that they tend to come up during critical phases in your life, such as when you are moving through a significant transition.
Times of change bring with them an uncomfortable pressure and distractions provide a useful body to the phantom pressure. After all, nobody likes a ghost! Beware of distractions during times of intense change, especially in the final moments before the newness sets in. Just like a pilot on final approach, it behooves you to to be ready for anything.
Distractions will come up, but don’t bite. Don’t let the surprises consume your attention. Take note, but get back to business as soon as possible.
As any pilot will tell you, the best thing to do when something unexpected happens is to “fly the airplane.”