PILOTING THRU A CRISIS – by Rick Godwin.
On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, made an unpowered emergency landing on the freezing cold Hudson River in NYC. After suffering multiple bird strikes hit both engines causing them to fail, 155 passengers (PIC) and crew evacuated the Airbus A320 onto the wings and waited while other watercraft came to their rescue.
This incident became known as “The Miracle On The Hudson.” The crew was hailed as heroes for what they did. Over the next few months, news agencies did a lot of interviews with the Captain. People were awed by how he handled the crisis.
All of us as Leaders will face unexpected misfortune and unexpected circumstances. So, let me give you six strategies in a crisis.
- TAKE CONTROL – DON’T PANIC.
The Co-Pilot was actually at the controls of the plane when the collision occurred. But immediately, Capt. Sully said, “This is my aircraft now” and he took control as Pilot in Command.
As a leader in times of crisis, you must immediately reorganize your priorities and put your total focus on analyzing and re- establishing the situation at hand. Panic leads to irrational, sometimes uncontrolled behavior. It affects our ability to think clearly and rationally. In most crisis situations, more than anything else, what is done at the very beginning will determine the eventual outcome.
Stay focused. Don’t get distracted. Fly the plane first. If you need a job, that should be your unyielding focus. Or, struggling to keep your home.
The more prepared we’re for any crisis, the better we can handle tough times when they come.
- CONTINUALLY ASSESS THE SITUATION.
As soon as the bird strike occurred and the engines failed, the Captain put the nose of the plane down to maintain a safe airspeed and then began to assess the situation. He knew LaGuardia was not an option. He was asked by air-traffic controllers if Teterboro was an option, but it was again too far away. He quickly realized he would have to ditch on the Hudson River.
When in a crisis – knowing your options is critical to your outcome. When other avenues close, seek another. Be flexible. Examine then discard the plans. Choose the route that puts you in the best possible situation.
Get rid of non-essentials. Drop unnecessary expenses. Concentrate only on what’s the important. In first-aid, stop the bleeding.
- SEEK ADVICE.
But YOU still have to decide. The air-traffic controller on the ground said, “Turn around, you are cleared to return and land at LaGuardia.” But Capt. Sully knew that wasn’t going to happen. He listened to their suggestions but said, “There’s no way we’re going to make it back. The Hudson is our only choice!”
In the same manner as an effective leader, we have to seek wise counsel, listen to what others say, while remembering that WE have to make the decision. They can’t make it! Sully had a co-pilot to assist and the air traffic controllers. Talk to people about a job lead, how to navigate a foreclosure or obtain a small loan. Talk to others who have been thru the same thing.
You’re the one that best knows the situation at hand. You’re the one who knows what to do next in the crisis.
- COMMUNICATE WITH THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU.
In the 208 seconds between the bird strike and the landing on the Hudson River, Capt. Sully had to communicate with his Co-pilot, air-traffic control, his flight crew and the passengers on the plane.
Communication was critical in getting help, organizing the situation, analyzing the options, and preparing for the outcome. As a leader, communication is just as important in a time of crisis as it is in a time of growth and success – maybe MORE?
You’ve got to communicate with your team so others can help share the load.
- ESTIMATE YOUR HOLDING POWER.
Capt. Sully was also a Glider pilot. He understood glide ratios – altitude versus distance. He was at an altitude of 3,000 ft., so he could glide for about 3 miles in that aircraft. So, when Traffic Controllers wanted him to turn around and head back to La Guardia, he knew that wasn’t possible.
If you get to a place you suddenly lose your physical, emotional, or financial thrust – you’ve got to quickly be able to determine your gliding range. How much time do I have? How far can you make it? How long can you stay airborne in your business, in your ministry?
- EXPECT GOD TO ENTERVENE.
The plane didn’t break up on impact with the River. And it didn’t sink! Look at all those people standing on the wings! Hence the name, “Miracle on the Hudson.”
US Airways flight 1549Steven Day—AP/REX/Shutterstock.com
In spite of how negative situations appear, God’s power can quickly change whatever circumstances you’re dealing with. You must have confidence in God who began a good work in you — that He is able to give you the power to make it through.
Capt. Sully told a News reporter during an interview, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years I’ve been making small regular deposits in the Bank of Experience, Education, and Training. So, on January 11th, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal!”
So, what are you doing today, what are you learning today, what are you investing in your people? All those are personal deposits in your life account.
Keep your account full so that when misfortune comes – when the bird strikes occur – when crisis hits – you’re able to navigate it calmly and courageously, knowing you will come out victoriously.