Every Takeoff Deserves a Safe Landing

Unique Leadership Axiom: A winning mission depends upon a thorough pre-flight check.

A goal has no value unless it can be measured.  The measure of a winning career in flying is: that for each takeoff there is a safe landing.  Success and planning is a matched pair.

As a young flight test engineer, I was really eager to impress my boss.  My boss was a hero fighter pilot from World War II.  When I was given the chance to make my first flight test plan, I wanted to know, “How are we going to measure whether or not the flight was a success?”  The boss’s answer was, “If the pilot walks away from the landing, the flight was a success.”

Of course that was a gut level answer.  The pilot is more valuable than the mission.  The mission is more valuable than the airplane.  But what about the mission: the flight test; the data?

It took me quite a while to know that basic issues are the measure of success.  In engineering it is a product made on time, within budget and specs.  In problem solving it is what was assumed.  In flying it is pre-flight check.

In a previous post I said that the first priority in being a team leader is the health of individuals and even more, the health of the team.  I also said that care of equipment before action is a must.  The focus of my other posts is that preparedness is the basis for winning action.

But in those posts, I did not say how we measure preparedness.  We measure preparedness by checking every part of the plan, human and material, before we start a mission.

In aircraft, you pre-flight check vital indicators in every system. Before any other kind of mission you do the same thing.  You check every system and every critical components of the system.  You do not stop with just the most obvious components.

When flying, members of military aircrews wear boots.  Why?  Because they may have to bailout of the aircraft.  If they are wearing oxfords or loafers, the shock of parachute opening will leave them barefoot, as I well know!  If you thought before you took off, “I don’t need boots sitting in the cockpit of a jet plane,” and then the failure to preflight check your footwear may leave you in grave danger.

Whether you are in combat or launching the sale of a new product, there will be little time to check the fine details in the middle of the action.  Do it first!

Leadership Focus. Set an example for your people by being mindful of the fine details before you start anything.

My Take. When you are an expert or the boss is easy to pass over the details.  It is not that you neglect them; it is just that they are not at the front of your mind.  As a Tai Chi Master once told me “that is the fiery path to the Devil’s tent!”

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