You’ve been there. The flight has been planned meticulously. You’ve reviewed the weather information, you’ve got your charts in hand, the iPad is fully charged, there are no TFRs, no adverse weather conditions, and no NOTAMs to give you pause.
You launch off with confidence. Then everything goes wacky.
Maybe the weather suddenly and unexpectedly changes for the worse. Perhaps you experience a systems failure. It’s even possible that while on final approach to the one runway at your destination, the airplane in front of you wheelbarrows into the runway, collapsing its nose gear, becoming a fixture on the pavement for the foreseeable future.
Yep, I’ve come across all those issues and more over the course of my flying career. You probably have, too.
And the reason we’re still here to tell those stories is because we learned to adapt to a constantly changing environment and find viable alternatives when issues vex us.
Welcome to the real 1%. You’re one of the few, one of the intellectually nimble and creatively persistent humans who can solve problems without becoming overly distracted by the fact that a problem exists.
Arguing over why you’re facing an issue isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind. Rather, your focus shifts to the available options for dealing with the aberration, selecting one as most appropriate, and implementing it.
This is an area where pilots excel. Out of necessity, frankly. We who are suspended in space by a dance of physical law that features the power of air pressure acting in direct contradiction to the weight of our aircraft and its contents don’t have the luxury of arguing about why our situation has changed.
We simply accept that the change is real and we adapt to it.
Our reward for being so accepting of the obvious is that we get to live to fly another day.
Congratulate yourself for being so pragmatic. Seriously, give yourself a well-earned pat on the back, and do the same for your aeronautically minded friends. We are very much in the minority among our species.
We are often subjected to a barrage of urgent warnings about an imminent rise in sea levels due to global climate change, previously known as global warming.
There is a hole in the ozone layer, pollutants in our water supply, famine rages in parts of the world, while obesity driven health problems occur just down the road. Floods plague one corner of the planet, while drought torments another.
It will come as no surprise to the flying community that our lives and our environment are not fixed in a persistent state of “Everything is A-Okay.”
It might be more accurate to say that our lives and our environment tend to lean more toward a state of “Oh boy, not this again.”
I am very aware that of all the challenges I’ve faced in the air, another pilot has experienced the exact same issues, or worse. Hundreds or thousands of pilots, in fact.
My experiences are not unique in their nature or their severity. They are only unique in the sense that I am experiencing them for myself, possibly for the first time. Yet, each curious glitch that comes my way has been pre-tested by others who, by and large, solved the problem and came out the other side a bit wiser, a bit more confident of their abilities, and perhaps with a willingness to tell their story for the benefit of others.
We are humans. We learn from our experiences. We learn from the experiences of others. And we use that hard-won information to adapt to whatever comes our way.
There is a segment of our culture today that wishes us to be informed of the risks we face as individuals and as a society, and to fear those risks as being both unavoidable and irreversible. I suspect they are correct about many of the dangers facing our planet and our species, but I see no reason to fear those possibilities, even as they transition into probabilities.
I have not yet faced a situation where embracing my fear was helpful to me or anyone else, so I resist that temptation.
Like you, I have experienced a wide spectrum of emotions that could be classified as fear. But I resist the urge to give in to it. I choose instead to think, to reason, to find a solution and implement it. I fight back the fear in order to more effectively work toward a viable resolution. To me, that seems the only reasonable course of action.
I can no more prevent a disadvantageous outcome to global climate change than my ancestors could prevent the Black Death from wiping out a sizable portion of the European population. Neither can you, or anyone else for that matter. It was not in our power to preclude the Irish potato famine any more than we could stop the tsunami that pulverized the town of Aceh, Indonesia, in 2004.
The macro view certainly suggests we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. However, the micro view tells us the individual, the family, the tribe that commits itself to flexibility allows for adaptability and ultimate success.
You and I will both fly again. When we do we will encounter challenges large and small. But even knowing that, we will fly again, we will accept the risks, because we know we have the ability to successfully adapt to the changing world around us. We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.
Fear not – for you have the power of a brilliantly evolved human brain working for you.
And if history has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that humans can do anything. We can even do the impossible. As just one example, our land-bound species innovated, created, and persisted until we actually taught ourselves to fly.
Amazing but true.