The Perfect Way to a Flight Plan for Life

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Thom Bush and Cessna 172

Having overcome my terrifying fear of flying, a consequence of 6 school friends dying in a plane crash, a good friend bought me a flying lesson for my 50th birthday. My first flight, in a Piper Warrior (callsign) G-BRRM, took place on the 17 May 2000 and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to go for My PPL (private pilots licence)  this was around the time I qualified as a hypnotherapist. However, what I did not realise, at that time, was how profound and significant my flying experience would be to the way I approach my therapy, now, and how I manage my life!

Despite all the statistics saying the opposite, flying is perceived as being dangerous and far more people have an issue with flying than with driving, or driving in a car or motorcycle. Despite the fact that most people are aware that the real order of danger, is a motorcycle, the car then aeroplane?

As a pilot, prior to every flight, I performed an A check, this was to ensure that things like control surfaces - ailerons, elevator, rudder and trim – were working free and easy. I would also check the brakes, lights, oil, fuel, pitot heat and stall warning horn.  As well as an overall inspection of the airframe. So, once all the checks were completed I would be reasonably sure that the flight would go ahead without a hitch! And for me, it always did, thankfully! That said, I routinely practised emergency procedures, e.g. a simulated engine failure and since the planes I flew only had one engine, that was just common sense. Quite of s few of the pilots I knew of did not do this, at least not regularly (proof that common sense, is, not that common)!

In addition to the pre-flight checks, I would also do a flight plan, this involved drawing the route on the chart, and marking off waypoints on the chart (ground reference points)  and the expected time to reach them. The final preparation for the flight plan, however, could not be made until just prior to the flight itself because I needed to know the direction and strength (velocity/speed) of the wind. Once everything is in place, I can now take off on my journey, and although the outcome of the journey is not known (alternative landing sites are part of the plan because you never where and when you might need to land the plane), the flight plan and checks give you the confidence to believe it will end as planned.

Throughout the flight, you are constantly monitoring the fight's progress against the plan, e.g. checking the instruments, fuel, DI (gyrocompass), engine systems and pressures etc. and check the chart against the ground. One of the difficulties of navigation, however, is that everything that is on the chart is on the ground, but not everything on the ground is on the chart! As you reach your expected waypoint you ask the question “does this look right”? And it is in this aspect of flying that the significance of piloting parallels life. You see in life we need a plan. We need to know that the plane (our mind and body) is in good working order. We need to know that it has enough fuel to last the journey. We need to know that the journey has an endpoint and we need a plan (B) in case we get lost or have an emergency! In flying, we always know that the wind can change and any change in wind changes the direction of the plane. If you have planned well you will notice this change, because any change of direction in the air has an equivalent change in the direction of the plane over the ground. For example, if the wind increases from your left you will be blown to the right of the track and visa versa. However, there is a simple procedure to correct that error and thus get back on track.

Very often in life, I see people embark on the journey of life without a plan. They somehow have no knowledge of where they are, and often very little of where they came from; but somehow, magically, claim they know where they are going. The sad reality is that they can – and very often do - get blown off course. They do not have waypoints and so very often don’t even know they are lost! Even those that do have a plan often don’t find out until much later that the plan has gone woefully wrong and that they are way off track. Life didn’t quite work out how they thought it would! Essentially, we can all benefit from a plan to help guide us through the journey called life. We need to know where we are (the start point), and how we got there may be of immense help too! We also need to know where we are going (the endpoint, or a series of them for each stage/goal of life) and what we are going to encounter on the way (markers, interim destinations, changes in the wind, which can be good or bad). From this information, we know how we are progressing, whether we are on track, on time, early or late etc.

As the flight progresses, we also know if it is safe to proceed, or if we should divert to an alternative landing site. Contingencies are prepared for e.g. emergencies and if necessary we can make an emergency landing stop, which may include a field (or road if it is safe). As well as monitoring the engine systems and moving parts of the plane throughout the duration of the flight. When we land we do another round of checks prior to shutting down the plane; safety, safety, safety, all the way, all of the time!

So, all in all, I see a lot of advantages to preparing for life as if we were the plane and life was the flight. And ironically, even those people who are perpetually late for everything; somehow seem to catch their flight?

So, make your plan and when you get blown off course by the wind of life, and you will, you will know about it sooner rather than later, but more importantly, YOU will have the knowledge and know-how to get back on track!

Happy Flying