1 – Aviate, Navigate, Communicate
In the aviation world, this is a common approach to all flying situations, especially emergency conditions. Aviation studies have found that pilots get so focused on solving a problem in an emergency that they sometimes forget to fly the airplane. In one accident involving Eastern Airlines Flight 401, the pilots were distracted by a burned-out indicator light in the cockpit that they flew the airplane into the ground. The axiom “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” teaches pilots to fly the airplane first, then navigate, and once the situation is under control, communicate.
We can employ a similar tactic if we face an emergency on the ground: Act first, get your bearings, and then call home!
2 – Always leave yourself an “out”
Probably the most important rule for pilots, leaving yourself an “out,” means never getting into a situation you can’t get out of safely. Never get yourself backed into a corner with nowhere to go. Pilots do this by planning for alternate routes, taking extra fuel and always looking for an emergency landing spot, even when there isn’t an emergency.
Whenever you make a decision, make sure you leave yourself another option in case things don’t go as planned.
3 – Nothing flies without fuel
An airplane obviously won’t fly without fuel, and humans can’t fly without energy. Whether you get your energy from endless cups of coffee or a healthy diet, it’s important to feed the system so it keeps running.
4 – Take off is optional, landing is mandatory
True in the most literal sense for pilots, this rule applies to everyone. Don’t take off unless you’re sure you can land! This can also be interpreted as: Don’t start a project unless you’re sure you can follow through, or always finish what you started.
5 – Stay out of the clouds
Nobody likes to get rained on! Pilots are taught everything they need to know about weather, thunderstorms and clouds, and they know it’s best to stay out of the clouds. Clouds can mean turbulence, embedded rain or thunderstorms and lack of visibility. Flying into a cloud on a visual flight is risky — you can no longer see other airplanes, towers or mountains, for example.
Stay out of the clouds in the real world, too: Avoid trouble and steer clear environments in which you can’t see clearly enough to make it through to the other side without crashing.
6 – Never let an airplane take you somewhere that your brain didn’t get to five minutes earlier
Instrument pilots in particular are taught to “stay ahead of the airplane” to avoid trouble. Staying ahead of the airplane means knowing exactly where you are and where you’re going at all times. Pilots are always planning the next step, preparing for the airplane’s arrival before it arrives. This keeps pilots aware of their position in the clouds and prevents them from losing track of the airplane’s position as it flies along without any visual reference to the ground.
Preparing for the future and knowing exactly what you plan to do before you do it will serve you well in all aspects of life.