Staying On Course – Do What Airplanes Do.

Staying On Course – Do What Airplanes Do.

by J.S. Gilbert
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 I don’t think most people understand how modern aviation tends to work. Airplanes are quite susceptible to winds, but many other forms of weather, both good and bad can have quite an effect on an airplane in flight, as does air traffic itself.

The ability for an airplane to go from one place to another though has almost nothing to do with its ability to stay on course. The plane does have a course heading that it follows, but on average, any airplane will actually be off course for 95% of its flight.  The computers on board will tell the airplane that it has veered 5 degrees off course due south, for example. Sophisticated systems then allow the plane to make a correction. As the plane corrects, other factors now may place the plane off course by a few degrees south west, and once again the plane makes a correction.  And so on and so on.

Thus, we see that, for an airplane to get from New York to Los Angeles, it requires an ability to constantly evaluate its position (relative to where it might want to be) and be able to make necessary corrections.  Instruments work well, but the airplane requires a good pilot.  The pilot is able to listen for instructions from various sources, as well as scan the skies for additional information that then helps the plane further in its never-ending quest to correct itself.

Additional factors, related to weather, national security or migrating birds, may pose challenges to the plane, and it will be required to take this additional input into account to allow it to make best choices for correcting. In many cases, the plane must abandon its flight path altogether, occasionally causing it to venture out into unknown territories, often due to unforeseen circumstances.

The plane may change course to avoid potential problems, or it may accept a different course because it is taking advantage of a jet stream or some other opportunity. Ocassionally, the plane is forced to abandon its flight and at that point, a safe landing becomes a priority.

Those involved in aviation accept this as simple fact.

It might be a good idea for us human beings to take a page from the airlines with regards to our own lives and chosen paths. Is it so hard to admit that perhaps we might be in need of some sort of correction? Why do we cling so tightly to our way of being?  Why won’t we change our path, even when we see a tornado smack dab in the way? Are we scanning the skies, so to speak? Are we responding to the information that might be best for us or do we wait and respnd to what we want to hear?

Be aware that there is a good chance you are not on course and very well might need to make a correction.  An airplane relies on computers, instrumentation, the pilot and incoming information to help make decisions. You need to draw upon information and opinion from the best sources to help you determine your next steps. Family and friends can be wonderful and supportive, but may not always be the best sources for the data you need to move forward. In many cases, you may need to dig deep to come up with the facts that apply to your unique situation.

Make sure you have professional advice that you can trust, including accounting, legal, marketing and so forth. Develop a plan and indicate realistic goals and milestones. Find a mentor if you can. Identify trusted sources of opinions. Don’t take advice at face value. Ask people to rationalize why they are offering an opinion, and always consider the source. Think about how many people email warnings and information that turn out to be hoaxes.

10 year olds can build websites that can look as good as the ones owned by major corporations.

Don’t make that mistake of putting quarter after quarter into a stubborn slot machine. You may need to move on to something with better odds and something that you may have more control over.  With so many possible paths, it could just be time to look for a new one.  And just because something worked once, doesn’t mean it will work again. The world is nothing but constantly changing.

Correction can show up in many ways, sometimes one simply has to say “The nicest thing about banging my head against the wall is stopping.”

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LoveThatRebecca Rebecca Michaels November 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Hey JS – Great article. Timeless and always appropriate. I can understand why you are a copy writer!

Best,
Rebecca

2 J.S. Gilbert November 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Rebecca,

I’ve recently had several people contact me after reading blog posts that I had made 2 or 3 years ago. Some pieces that I wrote that I actually thought were timely, seem to still be holding up. Wearing many hats is fun, but I suppose my overriding passion is writing. (not spelling though). Thanks for the read and the kind words.

3 Talmadge Ragan November 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hey J.S.,
Loved the analogy and sage advice! Thanks for sharing. Very perceptive.

Talmadge

4 J.S. Gilbert November 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

Thank you Talmadge

5 Meir July 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Hi Gilbert,

Great article.

Do you have the source of where this statistic comes from: “on average, any airplane will actually be off course for 95% of its flight?”

blessings,

Meir

6 J.S. Gilbert July 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Meir,

If you use Google, you’ll see a number of references to a plane being on course only 5%, although I can’t see any formal links to aviation text or the actual principles or formulas employed. I first heard this many, many years ago when I actually thought I might want to be a pilot. The instructor rattled it off. A few years later, I read Stewart Emery’s book, “Actualizations”, which also had this 5% on course thing as part of a corollary with sociology. I have also asked a handful of pilot’s and all but one was quite familiar with this number and suggested that some special aviation publication or manual would probably explain it further. As it applies to the flight of an airplane though, 5% would have to be a best estimate. The variables of presure, wind speed, flight load, flight path, etc. would no doubt have much to do wit this figure. I was told though that in no instance could this number be expected to be more than 10%. I also discovered that the precision flying done by teams such as the UNited States Blue Angels is done by manual precision flight. Sorry I couldn’t be more precise.

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