This thing was going to crash, taking me along with it!
A few weeks ago I needed to fly in and out of a small Australian city for a client. The airport was tiny, and could only handle small planes (like the one above).
So there I was, boarded onto a plane that proudly sported the number of completed trips under its name. I can’t recall the exact number, but it was high. Very high. I was directed to my seat immediately behind the co-pilot and found I had a clear view into the cockpit. I was close to the action, and was excited to watch the pilot weave his magic. Turns out, I was perhaps a little too close…
We’re all seated in, and the pilots start working through their pre-flight checks.
“Ok, let’s start her up.”
The pilot presses the button to start up the engines and… nothing. Well, not quite nothing. Rather than the expected sounds of ignition and rotation – all that the pilots (and I) hear is a faint, high pitched noise. They go back through everything again, and again. Checking all the switches and buttons.
Still nothing. No engine response. Just a high pitched hum.
So the pilot jumps on his iPhone and calls who I presume is a form of plane tech support, all the while continuing to try to get the engines to kick over. After a few minutes of back and forth, here’s a snippet of the conversation I overheard:
“Yeah, it’s just not starting up. Yes, tried that. Yep, that one too. I think it may be the fuel pump…” The conversation continued for close to 5 minutes with various forms of waiting and checking. Then, out of nowhere, on probably on the 10th attempt, the ignition started. The pilot promptly tells his mate at support “oh, hang on it’s kicked on. We’re good to go.” – and he hangs up!
My mind is scrambling at this point. ‘We’re good to go? What if this thing just decides to stop playing ball again mid-flight?’. Now I’m a long way from being an airplane technician, but I’ve had enough car troubles in the past to know that older engines and moody fuel pumps can be temperamental things. …Or at least that’s what my mind is screaming at me.
So very stoically, I resolved that if this was how I would go – then so be it. Texted my loved ones declarations of love, and held my composure for the flight. …Which turned out to be smooth and lovely, and I arrived home safe and sound a few hours later.
He was right – everything was fine.
I was just too close to the action, with too little information, and felt too vulnerable.
Are there people around your change that are ‘close enough’ to see the imperfection, but who feel completely vulnerable & powerless to the ebbs and flows? – what are you doing to alleviate them or protect them from this fear?
And A Quick Note: On Cockpit Doors
…There’s a reason why planes have cockpit doors and service curtains. When you’re handing over control – you need to feel like you’re in safe hands.