BANDWIDTH

Successful soaring pilots are those who obtain the most from the least, both physically and cognitively. Every moment of flight, we’re surrounded by more information of all kinds than we can fully comprehend, much less process.  One of our greatest challenges is continually sorting through new stuff and discarding some to make room for whatever seems more important.  Mental capacity is like bandwidth, always subject to limits.  Especially when the clock starts ticking faster than usual. Triage.

And that can be any time from well before preflight until long after the dust has settled. Not only standard emergencies during takeoff and tow, but the endless parade of random jacks-in-the-box that pop up almost regularly throughout any long flight — or career. Say you survive a launch. Hooray! Now comes EVERYTHING ELSE, at least some of which you won’t know to expect. Objects running down, wearing out, going empty (or filling up) too soon; things occurring, or not, when they shouldn’t, or should. Perhaps out of nowhere (now here), fast and deadly TRAFFIC…

If it could happen it will, eventually, and when it does it will happen NOW. Call me superstitious, but such monkey wrenches always seem withheld by some cosmic hand until the worst possible time. In this atmosphere of uncertainty, my mantra is the same as for the actual air we soar: think negatively and act positively. Plan for the worst, play for the best.

Many minor calamities may seem forgettable, while some you couldn’t forget if you try, but they all enrich the database. Think of each as a unique and therefore special opportunity to learn. In ‘real’ time, observe any unusual detail closely, then when the pace returns to normal, take all of that precious resource you can afford to debrief and analyze those crucial seconds for gems of wisdom. They’re there. Information generated in this way expands the effective bandwidth available for your next surprise — and next success!

Unwelcome as these hiccoughs are at the time, they’ll constitute most of what you remember years later. And don’t kid yourself, how you respond determines the character of those memories. That’s why we do this, in the end, to indulge our curiosity and reflect forever on the results… fondly, we hope. Be honest, the evening after your final logbook entry, what else will you have to show for it all? The new memories you create next time you fly will travel with you from there on, whether you log them or not, so choose wisely.