I am convinced that we are born with an invisible bag filled with lots of good luck, much like the popular myth that a cat has nine lives. I think that we were also equipped with a good measure of common sense at the same time. If we continually dip into our bag of luck to save ourselves from bad situations instead of using good sense to avoid them, our bag of luck will also soon be emptied. This will usually happen at a time when we least expect it.
Here’s an example – a small child crosses a busy road and makes it to the other side unharmed but the chance of surviving any subsequent crossings reduces with the number of crossings – the law of probability – it is only a matter of time before he expires.
Why, because each time a vehicle misses him some luck is drawn from his bag of luck until there is no more luck remaining in the bag.
Is the fact that he now no longer exists, bad luck? What of the person assigned to take care of the child? Was it bad luck on their part or negligence and poor situational awareness for not ensuring the child’s whereabouts and/or assessing the potential hazards while he/she was on a frivolous phone call to a friend?
You see, the child’s caretaker relied on the good luck that he would remain in the sandpit at the back of the house as he always did and that he would venture no further. The fact that the child always played in and never left the sandpit was taken for granted. Luck, my friends, is like an elastic band and will stretch until it finally snaps.
Have you ever heard one person saying to another “now you’re stretching your luck”?
Consider the following scenario – every night you get up to visit the commodity down the passage. You are considerate and accommodating to your partner’s needs and so you don’t switch the light on – you know your way around in the dark well enough. Every night you make it back to bed without incidence but not tonight – It is cold – you move faster than usual and so you walk flat bang into the passage door and almost gouge your left eye out on the coat hook attached to the back of the door. “Damn it!” you lament “what the hell, this door is always open, why is it #$^*+@% shut”
Yes this door is always open but tonight it is closed – so what – doors can be open or closed – they don’t care a twitch – nothing abnormal. Whose fault is this? Your partners’ for closing the door? Or had the wind blown it to?
You see, every other night you had lucked it out and had taken it for granted that the door would be open – you became complacent. The blame lies squarely on your shoulders, my friend – no ifs and buts – poor situational awareness!
What options were available to you? You could have used a torch – you could have gone more carefully – you could have felt your way ahead – you could have gone a bit slower!!! At least you might have considered that the door could be closed!
Jim is young and has only some 1000 hrs total time. He’s in this job to build hours. He’s on his own here, without the guidance of a more experienced pilot or anyone else with at least some aviation knowledge. The only time he will see some dual or training is at his revalidation test. Jim is a nice youngster and the passengers take to him well.
Jim is always willing to please but he just does not have a very broad experience base. On this occasion he is tasked to fly four passengers from Lanseria to Durban – no problem – done this a few times before. Jim doesn’t bother too muchto study the Met – he’s in too much of a hurry – better things to do and so he figures that since the weather had been good in the region for the past few weeks or at least yesterday when he was last there, there shouldn’t be much change– just a bit of cloud about, maybe. Besides – hey, he had all the approach plates for Durban and right now he has a Squash date with a friend.
Although he hadn’t complied with his IFR recency in the last three months, he thought himself to be a pretty slick operator.
He files Richards Bay as an alternative since to some extent this would also suite the pax in terms of alternative arrangements that could be made to get them to their final destination, which is on the coast a fair distance north of Durban.
Around Ladysmith he enters a solid bank of cloud, both engines are running sweet as a babies bum and so Jim decides to copy the Durban ATIS.Bad news – Durbs is down and below minima – He establishes contact with his ATC friend at Virginia Tower (he learnt to fly there) who confirms the present weather matches that as advertised on the ATIS with no improvement expected but instead a marked deterioration is forecast. Virginia he says is way below minima as an alternate.
Reluctantly he informs ATC and the pax of his intentions and sets up his GPS Nav equipment (“jolly good stuff, this GPS.No more need for maps and charts” he thinks) accordingly and alters course for Richards Bay where the weather is bound to be better – not sure though -didn’t check the details but he reasons that if the weather was O.K. yesterday, the bad weather had probably only arrived recently in Durban and would be moving up the coast only to reach Richards Bay – much later “shouldn’t be a problem getting in on the NDB if there’s a bit of weather about” he thinks.
Jim hauls his Jep manual from his flight bag and flips it open on Richards Bay only to find to his astonishment that the approach plates he needs aren’t there. Jim wonders where they might be, then, he remembers that when he was updating his Jep the other night he removed the old Richards Bay plates out of the manual and then went out for a beer with the intention of replacing them with the new ones when he returned but forgot to do so.
“O.K. – O.K” he thinks feeling a little rattled “I know the ATC well at Richards Bay, she’s a buddy of mine so I’ll ask her to run over the cloud break procedure with me – that’s if its’ needed”.
Jim requests decent from JHB East and is instructed to “broadcast your intentions on frequency 118.9 Richards Bay for the approach, the tower is unmanned, no reported traffic.” The time is now 16:05z.
It turns out that Jim doesn’t need the approach plates or any info of this nature from ATC since the weather is still fine at Richard’s at the moment with a 4,000′ base and visibility better than 10 km but is forecast to change for the worse within the next hour – dew point and temperature are closing.
Jim carries out the visual approach and wonders why the tower is unmanned!
He lands without further incidence.
Jim bids farewell to his passengers who were in his care today much like the child playing in the sand-pit was in the care of his care-taker.
Jim steps across the apron towards the tower as drizzle begins to fall and some low scud starts moving in. He climbs the stairs to the tower to see why his ATC pal is not there? This is niggling him! He reaches the top of the stairs to find the door locked and nobody in the tower – ‘strange’ he thinks, ‘as far as I know the hours of operation are until 18:00z’ He looks at his watch, the time is now 16:20z.
A NOTAM pinned to the door attracts his attention, it reads“As of the 01/10/2008 HOD. MON – FRI.05:00z TO 16:00z”. Today is the 15/10/2008.
Jim shakes his head and strolls away thinking that he must refuel in the morning because his aircraft is pretty low on fuel now. He hadn’t taken on much fuel at Lanseria, just enough to meet the VFR requirements since the weather was going to be finein Durban or at least that’s what he thought, he wanted to tank in Durban – much cheaper and that’s what the Boss Man would like him to do as well.
How many times did he take things for granted?
Do you think he plans well?
How many violations did he commit?
Is he being assertive enough with his pushy boss?
Is he on speed with the latest AIC’s, Notams, AIP’s etc.?
Do you think he receives enough training?
I wonder if he knows his aircraft well. (All the systems and performance limitations as (POH)
On all accounts one should attempt never to rely on ones ‘superior skill’ to compensate for poor planning & sound judgment or to rely on luck because you might reach into your bag of luck to find it empty.
Of course we operate in a dynamic and changing environment but we can anticipate and think ahead in order to assess and manage the risks involved and make sound decisions in an intelligent, educated and responsible way.
We owe it to those who entrust their lives to us, if not to ourselves.
We also owe it to those who follow in our footsteps, to set a good example.
A role model has a powerful influence on those who follow. What the follower sees being done will mostly become the norm.
Demonstrate hazardous behavior and that is what will follow.
Demonstrate an attitude of responsible behavior based on sound principles, practices and rules, and that is what hopefully will follow.
We must avoid taking things for granted, being complacent and jumping to conclusions.
The harder you work the luckier you get! (That’s what Garry Player had to say about golf.)
This is a fictitious story created to demonstrate a point and makes no reference to any person or actual situation Technical details and information may not be accurate.