Young Starfleet Cadet James T. Kirk nonchalantly gives orders during a Kobayashi Maru exercise, as depicted in Star Trek (2009)
Recently, a Star Trek movie marathon was on. I was excited to be reintroduced to the storylines of these classics — some almost thirty years old now! As I watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I found myself drawn in by something called Kobayashi Maru, which any Trekkie will tell you was the infamous test that Capt. James T. Kirk notoriously passed. Actually, it was characterized in the series that he didn’t just pass the test, but that he beat it.
It occurred to me that the Kobayashi Maru scenario is actually the ultimate test of TEM — Threat and Error Management. And while some may argue that the evaluation has much more to do with command leadership (and I wouldn’t disagree), the actions of any leader in a “no-win” scenario are judged by how the threat of a no-win is managed, and if errors occur, how the leader traps and mitigates them.
Current events, driven by social media frenzy hype, seem to be making more headlines as of late when it comes to airline passengers in unfortunate circumstances. Myself and many colleagues have been peppered with requests for comment and reaction to many of the scenes we have witnessed of passengers being declined service, being unseated/deplaned, or just plain old being distressed because of rolling delays, cancellations, or other mishaps that disrupt travel.
A passenger is removed from a Delta flight by airport police in 2016.
Flight crews, pilots and flight attendants alike, are on the very front lines of these events. Despite the fact that we get caught up in them operationally, we oftentimes have little control over the development and outcome of many passenger situations that have to do with what are commonly (and sometimes mistakenly) being referred to as “Passenger Rights”. Hopefully, I can shed some light on these “rights” and share some advice on how to work with potentially difficult passenger situations.
On January 7th, 2017, there was an amazing incident that occurred over the Arabian Sea. An Emirates A380 “Super” passed 1000 feet overhead of a Challenger 604. A short time later (1-2 minutes) the aircraft encountered wake turbulence sending the aircraft in uncontrolled roll turning the aircraft around at least 3 times (possibly even 5 times), both engines flamed out, the Ram Air Turbine could not deploy possibly as result of G-forces and structural stress, the aircraft lost about 10,000 feet until the crew was able to recover the aircraft exercising raw muscle force, restart the engines and divert to Muscat.
Lufthansa A380 westbound over Newfoundland after passing within 1 mile and 1000 feet of the author’s flight path.
Back in 2014, my book Pilots In Command: Your Best Trip, Every Trip hit the bookshelves. Since then, Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA) has sold out of most of the first printing! When ASA contacted me last spring to let me know that a second printing was in the works, they asked if I had any changes or additions I wanted to make. Naturally, I did!
Amazingly enough, the workforce of the world gets on about its business with very little in the way of required continuing education. There are plenty of jobs out there where you get hired, learn your role and tasks, and basically qualify through experience how to best do your job. Sure, there may be an initial training period, but once you are out from under the tutelage of a trainer or supervisor, you are pretty much on your own.
Airline pilots, however, are required not just to attend rigorous new-hire and initial equipment training, but also to participate in recurring training events. The airline industry term in the U.S. is “Continuing Qualification” — aviation terminology for the more common “continuing education”. CQ is an important anchor in the safety and integrity of our industry. Let me tell you why it matters.
I have upgraded my website to use one of the most functional and user-friendly themes on the market! The Get Noticed! theme by Michael Hyatt and Co. has an outstanding look and feel, and allows for a wide range of customizations. I plan on continually refining the design of the site alongside new content as it rolls out. Let me know what you think!
Early on in primary flight training, pilots are acquainted with the guidance on how to determine whether or not they are “fit to fly”. The Airman’s Information Manual spells out the acronym “IMSAFE”, which stands for Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotions. Out of these five criteria, one continues to elude aviators, causing crew cohesiveness to fail, and threats to safety of flight to increase. The elusive characteristic is stress.
The elusiveness of stress is due to the programming of society, in my opinion, to simply “deal” with life. Pilots, naturally Type A personalities, and mission-oriented, have dangerous tendencies to internalize problems and push on without confronting the realities of their life conflicts.
Every month I hear this:
“I am so sick and tired of not getting a darn thing I ask for in PBS. What’s the use? I may as well not bid!”
That statement (or something similar to it) is uttered many pilots every month as schedules turned out of their Preferential Bidding System (PBS) are posted. It is a statement filled with misconception and irony. In fact, most bidders don’t really know or understand how PBS works, and they really only have themselves to blame. PBS is not a cruel management trick or a union conspiracy. It is, in all actuality, one of the most sophisticated pieces of computer programming an air carrier runs. It takes a huge investment of time and money every month to ensure the PBS runs in accordance with contract rules and air carrier requirements.
And all the power to get a reasonable schedule that meets some or even all of your most important requests is completely in your hands….with a few caveats.
One of my goals for 2017 is to read 2 books a month. Some people challenge themselves to read a ton more than that…my biggest challenge is not allowing myself to fall asleep while I read! In all seriousness, I have some key motivations for meeting this goal. I want to increase my ability to read and absorb knowledge this year, develop critical reading and thinking skills, and become more knowledgeable in several areas.
So, there you are sitting in the back of the plane, let’s say in an emergency exit row, aisle seat, all kicked back and relaxed. You are in uniform on a scheduled deadhead, and actually happy that it will be a quick flight and then straight to the layover hotel. You had a couple of relatively easy legs before this one, so it hasn’t been a bad day. You kindly handle the silly, sometimes nervous, questions and looks from passengers (“Hey, who’s driving the plane if you’re back here!?”) with simple explanations and a smile. The boarding door closes and pushback commences. The FA’s are doing a stellar job at the safety briefing during the taxi out, and you are just about to pop in your noise canceling earbuds when the plane stops and the engines shut down.