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Where you going?

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo., -- Where you going? That's right, I am talking to you. Where are you going in such a rush? When I was a young captain and pilot, I was like a rocket - always fired up and moving fast. So fast, that at times I hardly had time to notice what was going on around me. Years later, I notice that most of the errors made, not only as a pilot, but as a person, occurred when I was hurrying. I will share a "there I was stories" to illustrate this ...

Many moons ago, when in the cockpit of a T-37, with a new instructor pilot who was teaching me cross-country flying, I had an experience that changed my life. We were on our second leg of a three-hop sortie and the IP was eager to get back home to attend a wedding reception for his brother. While airborne, we checked the weather before landing and were informed that a strange weather phenomenon occurred resulting in the airfield being completely socked in with fog, and thus forced a divert.

We ran the numbers and decided to land quickly, as we did not have that much gas. We discovered that we were above a civilian airfield with a long enough runway and proper equipment to turn us. After landing, we walked into base operations and were informed that the airfield was closing in just twenty minutes. That's when it got crazy!

My IP told me to hurry back to the jet, do the walk around and strap in. He would find a good follow-on base and file the flight plan. I got to the jet as the fuel truck was unhooking and performed a quick walk around. The IP ran out and jumped in, as if he was getting into a convertible red corvette.

We expeditiously ran our checklists and in minutes were cleared for takeoff. As we were rolling down the runway, I noticed that we only had a couple of thousand feet remaining! My IP pulled back on the stick to its aft limit and we barely got her airborne, before the runway disappeared into a valley. Our aircraft shook as we were flying just over stall speed at our max gross weight over trees. I found out later that we took off on the wrong runway - one that was half the size of that required! I was livid that I almost died because I was pushed by an over eager IP who had "get-home- itus." Looking back, whenever I made quick decisions without all the information, I frequently regretted the choice. If you find yourself always hurrying, then I encourage you to slow down.

Where are you going? Analyze the situation and take a deep breath before taking action. Where are you going so quickly that you are not even aware of those around you? You may be listening to words coming out of people's mouths, but not really listening to the words coming out of people's lives. Be honest with yourself. Are you a person that is always busy and hurrying to get from one place to the other that you are not taking care of yourself or those around you?

Now that I am a "grey beard IP" my perspective has changed. I still push it up and get fired up about flying jets for the Air Force, however I find myself slowing down and becoming a better listener. It takes effort, but it is well worth it. Personal relations matter. People matter. I am committed to never ever rush a take-off, unless there are missiles inbound. Other than that, it can wait for me to safely ensure my aircraft, its crew and most importantly, my mind is ready to go.

Similarly, I choose to slow down and think before acting. As a result, I am enjoying life more and there is a lot to be said about that! Aim Higher!