Posted by: Brad Stanford | September 27, 2009

Keep Flying The Airplane

Over the weekend, the sky became almost completely clear, something it had not been in a while. It brought out some private aircraft traffic, the likes of which I had neither seen nor heard since I moved. This is a bit of a problem, considering how much I love aerospacial endeavours, but only a bit, because the when there is no air traffic, there is quietness. Still, it always does my heart good to see someone punching holes through the sky on a perfect day, and I welcomed the site of it as much as the sound.

Moving here has been a constant tornado of to-do lists. It’s difficult to get a handle on what to do next, simply because I’m already doing something that wasn’t next, but had forced its way to the front of the line. In the middle of one of these swirly thoughts, I remembered one of the golden rules of aviation: keep flying the airplane until the scenery stops moving.

Even if the wheels are on the ground, if the airplane is moving, a pilot should be in flight mode. This idea is most important when a pilot is in the middle of an emergency, and he has multiple things vying for his attention. If he focuses on the wrong thing (or even the right thing for too long), no one ends up flying the airplane, and what goes up will come down. But if a pilot’s attention is on getting safely to the ground, then he will tend to focus his attention only on the things that will accomplish that task in the shortest amount of time, even if it means not attending to something that might otherwise draw his attention. And even when the aircraft’s wheels touch down, he’s not done flying until the aircraft has safely come to a stop.

Today, I was reviewing some footage of my first five hours of flight training from many years ago. I was shooting touch-and-goes at Alliance Airport (KAFW). It was summer, and the air was very bumpy. I was really wrestling the airplane to get it to the runway, and I was so relieved to land it gently, that I released the back pressure on the yoke, which let the nose come down. It came down so hard, it bounced the airplane back into the air, but with not enough speed to fly. This was a dangerous situation, rectified by my quick-thinking flight instructor (only the quick-thinking ones survive, by the way). We both lived to tell the tale, in case you were wondering.

Mentally, I had set my finish line at touchdown. I should’ve set it at a safe stop, which would’ve been at the end of the flight, after all the touch-and goes. I didn’t keep flying the airplane when I needed to, and it got me into trouble.

This same principle applies to life. There are starting, stopping, and in-between seasons. Two-thirds of those seasons require me to fly the airplane, until we get to another stopping point. The turbulence makes it exhausting work to keep doing the next thing. The fact that God is simply allowing me to participate – rather than depending on my success – makes me thankful for the swirl of to-do items, and the things that remain undone as I go to bed. I never went flying to stop flying as soon as possible. I went flying to enjoy the flight, be it calming, or nerve-racking.

I did not pick this adventure because it offered a smaller to-do list, or a more sane lifestyle, or any other change that would benefit me. I picked this adventure to experience the adventure. Woe to me if I ever lose hold of that thought.



  1. Brad,

    I love it that you can so clearly express yourself and your relationship with God. Not everyone has the gift of communication, it is a blessing to many, that you do have it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: