Flight Training - August 2014 - 42

And so it is in the cockpit. When things
go wrong, the last thing anyone needs is one
pilot's panic infecting the rest of the crew
and passengers with a sense of uncertainty
over the safe outcome of the flight. Instead,
focus on the positive resources at your
disposal and make a logical plan to get the
airplane safely on the ground.
How do you avoid fearful reactions and
panic when stress naturally causes your
heart rate to rise and palms to perspire? You
could try to emulate the behavior of someone who handles stressful situations well.
Consider Chesley B. Sullenberger,
affectionately known as Captain Sully. On
January 15, 2009, Sullenberger and his crew
managed to successfully land an Airbus
A320 on the Hudson River off midtown
Manhattan after bird strikes disabled
the aircraft's engines
minutes after departing
New York's La Guardia
Airport.
When it became obvious
that the airplane would
have to make an emergency
landing, Sullenberger is
heard on the radio calmly
working through his landing options with air traffic
control. He first mentioned a
return to La Guardia, then a
possible landing at New Jersey's
Teterboro Airport, before finally
deciding on the only possible area suitable
for landing: the Hudson River.
We know how this story ends. Sullenberger took control of the aircraft and
methodically worked through the checklists
with his crew before making a perfect landing and safely evacuating all 155 passengers
and crew before exiting the airplane himself.
Television news anchor Katie Couric
asked Sullenberger how he managed to
keep his cool when he realized he was in
command of an airplane with no power,
descending rapidly on one of the most
densely populated areas on the planet. Sullenberger replied, "I knew I had to solve
this problem.... The physiological reaction
I had to this was strong and I had to force

myself to use my training and force calm on the situation." When Couric asked if that was a hard thing to
do, Sullenberger said matter of factly, "No. I just had to
concentrate."
Here is what stands out about that response. Most
people are shocked by emergency situations and even
more surprised by their own body's fearful response.
When they feel their heart rate start to rise and breathing become rapid, panic sets in, rendering them no
longer capable of thinking clearly and formulating a
plan for survival. Sullenberger, though shocked by the
bird strike, did in fact anticipate his fear and quickly
began taking steps to mitigate his anxious reaction
before proceeding to handle the emergency. He was
able to spread a sense of calm, both on the flight deck
and over the public address system when he told the
passengers to brace for impact.
Survival expert Tim MacWelch describes
a similar fear mitigation strategy in his
wilderness survival blog. He writes,
"You plan for bad luck, and you expect
bad luck." In other words, the key to
survival in an emergency situation is
to actually prepare for the worst-case
scenario and expect it so you won't
be caught off guard and tempted to
panic if your engine actually does
quit seconds after takeoff.
So much of how you handle
an emergency depends on how
prepared you are before that
emergency ever happens. A wise
pilot gives an audible takeoff briefing
before every single takeoff, whether or not he is alone
in the cockpit. In this case, talking to yourself is not a
sign of insanity, but rather the opposite: an indicator
that a prepared, proactive pilot is at the controls.
A good takeoff brief should include not only the normal plan of action-for example, assigned headings and
altitudes, et cetera-but also the contingency plan for
safe landing sites if your airplane malfunctions at a low
altitude after departure. Sullenberger is often described
as being the perfect person to handle that particularly
stressful situation because of his extensive training on
emergencies and the fact that he had been an accident
analysis expert-not to mention experience in gliders.
But why shouldn't we all be that prepared? We don't
have to be survival experts, but a safety-minded pilot
should certainly be a student of aircraft accidents
as well as the emergency procedures for his or her
airplane. Doing so not only allows you to take the right

KEEP
LO
CAAD DM
N

OTHING
N

SO MUCH OF HOW YOU HANDLE AN EMERGENCY ACTUALLY DEPENDS ON
HOW PREPARED YOU ARE BEFORE THAT EMERGENCY EVER HAPPENS.
42 /

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG


http://FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

Flight Training - August 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - August 2014

Contents
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover1
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover2
Flight Training - August 2014 - Contents
Flight Training - August 2014 - 2
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