OPINION: If you had asked my grandparents what stress was, they would have given you a very different answer than you would get right now.
Flight 401 was en route from New York’s JFK International to Miami International in Florida. All the flight crew were well trained and experienced with the aircraft. All was routine on board, until it came landing time.
On their approach into Miami, the first officer noted the green light that indicates the landing gear had been locked in the ‘down’ position had not illuminated. They cycled the landing gear again, still no light. They obtained permission to fly a holding pattern over the swamps of the Everglades, while checking to see if the landing gear had deployed or not.
Meanwhile, the Flight Engineer tried to remove the light assembly unit to check on the bulb. It just wouldn’t cooperate. All three of the flight crew then got involved with trying to free-up the light assembly unit to get at that bulb! In doing that, they failed to notice the plane was slowly losing altitude. Nobody had noticed either that the plane’s autopilot had somehow been inadvertently disconnected.
Sadly, the three flight crew, two of the flight attendants, and 96 of the 163 passengers on board, didn’t make it that night. Think about it for a moment; a tiny inexpensive light bulb captured the flight crew’s attention. They became totally preoccupied with something where other options were available, and it got their eyes off what truly mattered most.
The official inquest settled on the verdict of human error, and loss of what they termed ‘situational awareness’. Personally, I find these type of ‘it never should have happened’ stories incredibly sad, and all the more so when many innocent folks lose their lives.
It does clearly illustrate yet again that which I mentioned in a previous column; what I call the ‘human being factor’. We all suffer from it!
All of us humans make mistakes. Even the best trained and most experienced among us cannot somehow eliminate all human error and misjudgements.
Rugby fans will well remember the 2017 drawn series between the AB’s and the Lions. I recently read in the media that French ref Romain Poite admitted and regrets that he made a mistake in changing the very kickable penalty he awarded the AB’s, to a scrum. I quote Poite: “I am happy to say I made a mistake because I am human.”
Yes, moments of brilliance can be followed by moments that almost defy any logical explanation! One of the contemporary terms for this stuff is a ‘brain fade’.
It is rather amazing too, don’t you think, how the little things, the ultimately unimportant little things, can grab our attention and captivate us so easily.
Sometimes there are no real consequences to this, we can easily move right on. Other times we are just not that fortunate. Road accidents happen for this very reason. I personally know of a family where Grandma/Mum got distracted by some little thing in her car. Giving that little unimportant thing her attention, she strayed over the centreline into an oncoming truck. Sadly, she took her eyes off what truly mattered most.
I encourage you today to grow some roots down deep into the soil of things that truly matter. When it comes time to leave this planet, nobody ever regretted driving a Ford Ranger instead of a Colorado or Navara! That image you projected of how you wanted folks to see you won‘t count for zip either.
The person who helps you prepare for what matters most, is a true friend.
Take care and God bless.