The flock of geese flew into view a mere second before impact. Sully instinctively ducked from his captains seat. Skiles feels the plane shudder as he holds his control stick and utters two words – “Uh – oh.” The pilots of US Air flight 1549 have arrived at their moment of truth. We all remember the day we watched “the miracle on the Hudson.” Coming soon we’ll have the chance to see Hollywoods take on the story. So, this week I decided to re-read the book titled, Fly by Wire written by William Langewiesche back in 2009 – the same year Sully pulled off the unthinkable, a picture perfect water landing on the Hudson.
Sully’s performance was not a miracle, instead, it represented his mastery of flight whether flying jets or flying gliders, he was always flying. He was always training. Most pilots don’t fly from a seat of love. Sully is not most pilots. He’s worth studying if you’re in our profession of understanding and unpacking elite performance. As you watch the movie in the coming weeks, don’t miss the most important moment – it’s gonna happen fast.
You see, Sully was not at the controls when the unthinkable occurs – his co-pilot is. According to Langewiesche Sully’s quick reaction was not something he received from his training even. ” Sullenberger at that moment showed a masterly presence of mind. Rather than falling back on by the book procedure, he improvised in a way not covered in his training, by reaching to the overhead panel and starting the auxiliary power unit – a small turbine engine in the tail that can be used for main engine restarts, and also drives a generator that would provide for electrical power should the left engine completely fail. Electrical power is essential for the A320’s flight control system. Sullenberger kept Skiles informed. He said, “I’m starting the APU.” Then he did his duty as pilot in command, saying, “My aircraft,” and took his control stick in hand.”
Sully’s reaction, an unconventional but masterly response in the moment, is one of the defining characteristics of elite performances. In moments of truth, the elite make quicker, more skillful, and more effective maneuvers than even the very well trained. The elite oftentimes don’t know how they know what to do, they just do. The myelin wrapped around their neural network provides an almost instinctual response – a presence of mind. The elite are elite because of their ability to not be overwhelmed when unthinkable kinda moments come their way. This ability is built through spirit, mind, and body. You must train all aspects if you want to maintain your cool when the crucible comes calling. Moments of truth are not the time to start figuring out who you, why you’re here, and what’s the aim of your work/life.
Know who you are, friend. Build within now. Author your CORE. Know why you’re here and the clear goal of your aim – your OPUS. And, fall in love with your training. Find the joy in flying and making the metal fit you like a second skin, if that, friend, is your profession. Whatever your aim, if you want to become elite, you’ve got to love it and love it enough to commit to a life of productive action directly at mastering the minutia. The combination of insignificant, small gains is the road to flipping your APU on before you grab back the reins. Moments like these are where masters are revealed. Train now. Train, spirit, mind, and body. Build your CORE, OPUS, and Playbook of Productive Action. Good…