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What to do in an Emergency

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River.  All souls on board survived.  Why was it that this emergency outcome was a success, while many before were not?  What did Captain Sullenberger and his crew do differently?  I found myself asking these questions shortly after, and came to the conclusion that when the emergency occurred and both engines failed, he did not rush; instead, he slowed down and prioritized.

Through my years of being a pilot, I have realized how important it is to slow down in an emergency.  I remember when I first began flying, I felt like it was a race to see how fast I could go through my ABCDs (Airspeed, Best place to land, Checklists, Declare emergency) when my instructor simulated an engine failure.  It was a race that I was going to win!  However, when I began flight instructing, I realized that the faster my students tried to get through a checklist in a simulated emergency, the more items they missed- even if they were reading the checklist word for word!

I loved showing each of my students how much time they really had if they just slowed down- it almost felt like we had MORE time to deal with the situation.  Think of the last time you slept through your alarm and had less time to get ready.  You probably felt pretty rushed.  How many times did you drop the shampoo bottle, or your socks, or grab the wrong shirt from the closet?  You may have even left your cellphone at home.  Let's face it- when we rush, we get sloppy and miss things, which doesn't really save us any time.  Our minds cannot think clearly.  This is the same when dealing with an emergency situation.  If our engine fails and we try to do everything within 2 seconds, it will take us much longer than if we just slowed down, prioritized, and calmly dealt with the situation.

Captain Sullenberger, at the 2012 NAR Leadership Conference, spoke of thethree things that made his emergency situation a success.

1. He forced himself to be calm

2. He prioritized

3. He realized there was not enough time for everything, so he picked the most important tasks, and did those few things very very well.

If he had tried to rush and get everything done, he would not have been able to.  He had only 3 1/2 minutes to deal with the situation, but because he slowed down and prioritized, he had the time he needed to make a beautiful landing on the Hudson River.  So remember, when in an emergency, Slow Down!

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