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Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's Tebow Time !!


If you are not a football fan read no further.  You just won’t get the connection.  If you fail to follow my admonition and read the following article, BEWARE, you just might get it anyway.

This Sunday is the debut for Tim Tebow as the official starting quarterback for the rest of the Denver Broncos 2011 season.  Tebow, as a rookie backup QB, did start for Denver in a few games at the end of last years dismal (aka worst in history) season. Many outstanding college quarterbacks have entered the NFL with lots of hype and promise.  Their performance in pro ball runs the gambit from Ryan Leaf to John Elway.    Here’s what the Denver Post had to say about Tebow’s performance after the Broncos Raiders contest last December, “ The NFL has been around for 90 years, and until Tebow came along, only two quarterbacks – similarly styled Michael Vick (2002) and Kordell Stewart (2000) – had rushed for a 40-yard touchdown and thrown for a 30-yard score in the same game.   Tebow pulled off the accomplishment in the first quarter of his first start.” What is the difference with Tim Tebow? Tim’s teammate Jabar Gafney put it best when he said,  "That's what he does, creates energy for the whole team." 

Tim Tebow understands football the way few other contemporary offensive players do.  He sees the game very simply, gain yardage, score touchdowns.   The process does not overshadow the content.  It is not about the sophisticated game plan.  It is not about statistics and quarterback rating.  It is not about third down percentages.  These are only tools and indicators.  Gain yardage, score touchdowns!!!  We have all heard the pundits, “His release is too slow, his instincts are unconventional, he needs to get more comfortable in the pocket, he relies too much on his mobility.”

If Tim Tebow were an airline pilot he would see that aviation is as simple as football.  The objective of aviation is equally straight forward, be safe, fly the airplane.  It is not about the thousands and thousands of pages of manuals and regulations any more than a football games are all about the playbook.  Yes, the playbook is important.  The playbook describes who does what.  It’s the same in aviation.   SOP describes who does what and how, but its compliance is not the goal.  The goal is to BE SAFE, FLY THE AIRPLANE! 

Today, the airline companies around the world have focused on the wrong goal.  There are untold resources being dedicated to the writing of policy and procedure and much less devoted to the training of piloting skills.  Just as in football where the effectiveness of the playbook is judged only by how it is reflected on the scoreboard, the effectiveness of an airlines policy and procedure is reflected only in its safe operation.  Each safe arrival is a touchdown just as we gain yardage by flying the airplane. 

Currently there is a lot of discussion about the flying skills of today’s airline pilots.  In the current highly automated environment, flying the airplane includes controlling it BOTH manually and through the flight computers.  Flying the airplane is not sitting back and being engaged in some other activity while the airplane is flying itself. Football and aviation are very similar in that they rely on the players to adapt a preconceived strategy to a highly dynamic environment.  It is the ability to adapt that sets Tebow apart.  Captain Sullenberger has that same ability.

Another attribute that Tim Tebow the airline pilot would exhibit is leadership.  Not the ideological perspective seen in management pilots and union representatives, but real leadership that mentors other pilots by helping them understand aviation.  He would teach them how stay safe and fly the airplane.

Who knows what Tim Tebow’s legacy will be?  My guess is that he would like it to be that he was a team player.  From his position on the depth chart his attitude so far this season has been indicative of just that.  He was quoted repeatedly “I just want to help the team in any way I can.”  I, for one, find it refreshing that someone would actually put the team before self.  In an era of personal achievement and self-service, Tebow is unique among players with his talent. 

One thing is for sure, regardless of the score, at the end of the game Tim will have put his heart and soul into the game.  That’s just who he is.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Captain Kirk Never Flew The Enterprise

Pilots I fly with know one of my favorite sayings is, “Captain Kirk never flew the Enterprise.”  The meaning of this statement is that you don’t necessarily have the best view of the flight deck from the pilot’s seat.  The observer’s seat on an airliner is commonly referred to as the jump seat and has the most effective view of the flight deck.  From it’s vantage point a person can get a much wider perspective as well as absorb the actions of the crew in the context of the situation.  I am always grateful when a pilot in the jump seat gives appropriate, timely and relevant input.

It is not a coincidence that looking at life from a wider perspective was the theme of Gene Roddenberry’s scripts.  He was the creator of the starship Enterprise, its crew, its missions and its iconic Commanding Officer, James Tiberius Kirk.

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry was born the son of a US Army Calvary Sargent and his young bride on August 19, 1921 in El Paso, Texas.  Before his second birthday he would move with his family to Southern California where his father would start his career as a Police Officer. Gene spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, where his enduring love became science fiction.  He later studied law enforcement at L A City College.  Gene then transferred his academic interest to aeronautical engineering and qualified for a pilot's license by the time he was 19.  He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the fall of 1941 and was ordered into training as a flying cadet when the United States entered World War II.

As a Second Lieutenant, Roddenberry was sent to the South Pacific where he entered combat at Guadalcanal, flying B-17 bombers out of the newly captured Japanese airstrip, which became Henderson Field.  He flew missions against enemy strongholds at Bougainville and participated in the Munda invasion.   Coincidently, this is where my father served in WWII.  Gene was the lone pilot survivor on one of his missions.  He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

After the war ended, Roddenberry joined Pan American Airways as a Flight Officer.  In June of 1947 while deadheading on a flight originating in New York and making its inaugural westbound flight of round-the-world service, the Constellation’s No. 1 engine failed half-way on a leg from Karachi to Istanbul. Due to closed airports and inadequate repair facilities, the pilot chose to continue to its destination. Several hours later, the remaining engines overheated and the No.2 engine caught fire causing the plane to crash in the Syrian Desert.  Of the 36 people aboard Gene was one of the 22 survivors and his actions were responsible for the rescue of many of the passengers.

By the early 1950’s Gene had left Pan Am and had followed his father into the Los Angeles Police Department.  Gene began submitting written stories based on his experiences in the police force.  Soon his part time job writing scripts became a career in the new medium of television and Gene left his full time job at the police department. 

I can remember vividly the shows he wrote scripts for.  Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford and Jack Webb’s Dragnet were two of my favorites.  Another favorite of mine was the western drama, Have Gun Will Travel, starring Richard Boone.  Boone was a direct descendant of the frontiersman and patriot, Daniel.  The show’s principal character, Paladin, was a cultured hired gun whose calling card had an image of a knight chess piece and the inscription, "Have Gun, Will Travel . . . Wire Paladin, San Francisco."  I knew even as a pre teen this was no Roy Rogers cowboy show.  The Saturday night episodes were always riveting even though some were beyond my adolescent understanding.  The one thing I learned from that show was when you ask someone else to solve your problems you may not like the solution.

In 1966 after the first pilot was rejected for being “too cerebral”, Star Trek” finally premiered.  It was not a hit when it originally aired, but it had a large group of committed viewers.  Star Trek eventually became an unmitigated success and developed an almost cult like following.  Roddenberry was intentionally “boldly going where no man has gone before” by his inclusion of controversial social topics in his scripts.  Exceedingly timid by today’s standards, Roddenberry’s episodes gave the audience a rare chance to ponder the day’s conventional thinking.

Monday, October 24, will be the 20th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s passing.  His legacy is not only a host of great television shows, service to his country and his fellow citizens, but also the opportunity to look at life from a broader viewpoint.  He shared his perspective in an interview the year before his death.  "If there's one thing that characterizes me, it's the fact that everything was a learning experience. My mind does not say, 'That's good. That's bad.'  It doesn't structure everything into place.  I have an open and inquisitive mind."

Live Long and Prosper

Friday, October 7, 2011

All The Same Only Different

When I look at the ubiquitous Bic pen, I am reminded of what it represents.  Literally millions and millions of these pens have been manufactured and distributed around the world.  So simple and all absolutely identical yet each one is so unique.  Why? It is unique because of who uses it.  It can write a poem, a story, sign a check, scribble an epithet, doodle odd shapes, articulate a profound truth or initiate horrible lies.  Man is alone among the species of the earth in his ability to use tools to realize his thoughts.

This week we lost one of mankind's greatest visionaries, Steve Jobs.  Few people have had as much or more impact on the world.  His products are used all over the world every day by hundreds of millions of people.  Steve Jobs epitomized the human ability to look at the world and imagine what could be done with the tools and information available.  He didn't design the Apple operating system.  It was developed and rejected by Xerox.  He didn't invent computer graphics, but he used them to animate stories in a way that was not done before.  Pixar became the gold standard of computer animation.  He didn't invent the personal music player.  Remember the Walkman? Does anyone use one of these devices today?  He didn't invent the mobile phone, but he led his team to produce the mobile phone by which all others are measured.  To me, Steve Jobs legacy is the expression of himself and his vision through his application of technology.

How will we use the tools that are available to us in our profession? What will we create with them?  How do we make peoples lives better?  What will our legacy be?