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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Don't give yourself far to fall

In the near future, I'm going to be negotiating a part of our union's contract with our airline. To prepare, I've been studying negotiations. I began with a book that comes highly recommended from someone else: Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz.

Even if you're not going to be negotiating something, this is still an outstanding read. It is one of the best how-to books I've ever seen on anything, and even if you're not interested in negotiation, reading the stories in each chapter alone is worth it. Voss was the FBI's leading expert in international kidnapping negotiations, so lives quite literally depended on his negotiation skills, and he tells several of his war stories along the way.

One of the things he says in the book has application in almost everything in life: "When the pressure is on, you don't rise to the occasion—you fall to your highest level of preparation."

As it happens, I am also on my way to my upgrade simulator training, the last step in becoming a captain. This "falling to the level of your preparation" philosophy is the core of why we do so much sim training (both initial and recurrent training). When the ship hits the sand, you can't just try to make it up as you go and rise to the occasion with some miraculous piloting skills. You develop those skills ahead of time in preparation, in the hopes you'll never need them.

We do all sorts of preparation, from normal approaches to missed approaches to fires and engine failures at V1, the worst possible time for an engine to fail. By the time we're done, we do so many of them that the horrible is the routine, and in the event that something bad does happen in real life, the reaction to it will be automatic. In other words, "falling to the highest level of preparation" means there's not much of a fall after all.

You can do the same thing in your own flying. When was the last time you tried to recite the bold items in your POH from memory? When was the last time you flew a go-around? If the big fan in front stops cooling you off, you need to automatically think, "Fuel, air, and spark" and be automatically setting yourself up for best glide speed (which you do have memorized, right?). You don't want to fall to a level of preparation that has you fall out of the sky just because somebody started taxiing onto the runway when you were about to land and you botched a go-around.

As the old saying goes, the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. Spend a few minutes reviewing your emergency or abnormal procedures, mentally fly a go-around (visualize the "power up, pitch up, clean up, and speak up" sequence), or refresh yourself on your aircraft's important speeds and numbers today.

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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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