Pilot Performance - "In the Crunch!"
by Henry K.

In times of turbulence, pilots are trained to adjust to potentially damaging situations by adjusting the configuration of their aircraft and their priorities. Managing through turbulence requires reverting to the fundamentals, to ensure the aircraft can withstand the blows and maneuver to clearer skies.

Upon encountering turbulence pilots are advised to revert to VA - the maneuvering speed. This is usually well below cruise speed and is the prescribed limitation for full or abrupt movements to avoid structural damage to the aircraft. At this slower speed the pilot is better assured the ability to withstand the abrupt blows without sustaining damage to the aircraft and to maintain positive control through the temporary but potentially threatening encounter.

The pilot’s priorities revert to the fundamentals. In any circumstance of disruption, severity, disorientation, or sensory overload, all pilots will likely hear the three words drilled into their brain by their first instructors and reinforced throughout their training - first things first - fly the airplane! The obvious priority is to have positive control over the aircraft, by adjusting to the appropriate maneuvering speed, properly orienting yourself to the circumstance, and maintaining or recovering positive control.

The inherent principles of managing turbulence in flight are that of making the necessary adjustments to maintain structural integrity to withstand the blows, and then restoring positive control and positional awareness to chart an alternate course to your destination. And in these difficult and challenging circumstances the pilot reverts to the fundamentals of flying the aircraft first, and then determining the next best course of action.

A turbulent environment for business demands a similar set of adjustment by the CEO as the pilot-in-command. In Managing In Turbulent Times Peter Drucker advises that “an enterprise has to be managed both to withstand sudden blows and to avail itself of sudden expected opportunities. This means that in turbulent times the fundamentals have to be managed, and managed well.”

A key fundamental according to Drucker, is managing for liquidity and financial strength. “In turbulent times, the balance sheet becomes more important than the profit and loss statement.” The minimum liquidity needed to stay in business becomes something like the maneuvering speed to avoid severe structural damage.

“Concern for sales and market position, innovation and earnings, has to be balanced with concern for financial strength, solvency, and liquidity. Liquidity by itself is not an objective. But in turbulent times it becomes ... a survival need.” In turbulent times the priority is structural integrity and survival.

In turbulence it is critical to have the fundamentals handled exceptionally well - and when in doubt, or suffering severe blows, disorientation or sensory overload - fly the airplane first and foremost! This most definitely means dealing intensely - with complete attention and awareness - on the fundamentals for survival. It also implies suspending or deferring attention from the host of other activities until a sense of positive control and positional awareness are re-established.


Henry K. is a private pilot, author, artist, actor, whale watcher, fly fisherman, tour guide, seasonal server and surfer residing in Tofino, B.C. Canada, as well as a contributing editor to The CEO Refresher.

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Copyright 1998 by Henry K. All rights reserved.

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