In flight, assumptions are the Achilles heel in safety. One cannot press on with the assumption that all is well, when a crushing burden of mounting evidence is screaming against further pursuit. The fallacy of not knowing the unknowns ahead leads one to despair.
The desire to fix what had been broken ceased upon my nerves and now my multiple thousand hours melted away and I felt I was back in training. A certain drift of scent that emanates from failure hit me square in my nostrils and I realized that the glide path indicator had drifted down to the lower end, in accordance with a required missed approach. Damn!
Proficiency is a story of safety through constant practice, of acquiring experiences and then putting these experiences to hatch their possibilities. These experiences however must be taught to the “habit monster” within us to have the element of precision baked into them. All other non-precise experiences are side shows.
In the unlikely event that you encounter an emergency like the one Sullenberger was faced with, there are a few things that need to be processed immediately and without hesitation to ward off a disaster. Let’s first ask the question: when would a pilot face such an emergency?
You go up in the air with a whole bunch of fuel burn and then coast down with a bunch less. But in that bunch less is a major wizardry of airmanship. How we manage that energy is what determines the difference between the sound generated by the repeating Doppler-effect-engine-power-hog-jock and an aviator.
As he taxied to “line up and wait,” something was amiss. Yet he and I both persevered in our thoughts of better flight to come. Shattered easily by the slipping nose wheel as the throttle was advanced, I pushed the right rudder a bit and felt the resistance from his feet, locked in a state of motionless silence. He must have felt it, for he looked over at me with a quizzical look.