Lionel Oger este îndrăgostit de România, iubește tradițiile noastre și face cozonaci. S-a amorezat total de România în 1999 cînd a venit într-o excursie cu clasa și, din întâmplare sau poate nu, în 2007 cunoaște o româncă și se căsătoresc. Lio este pilot, prieten, soț și a scris pentru reIMAGINE câteva gânduri despre cum putem trata cu astăzi din perspectiva unui om care lucrează în aviație.
The Airman perspective.
As we are going through some difficult times where information is coming from many sources and differs greatly in its opinion and form, it’s really hard to remain cool headed, as we should, to be able to face this Coronavirus crisis the best way we can.
Nonetheless, a category of people seems to remain detached and more cartesian in this ordeal. And it does not come from their personality but rather, from their training and mindset. I’m talking about Pilots.
Hi, my name is Lionel Oger, I am 38 years old and flying planes since I was 15. Through my flying time, I went from gliders to small planes to airliners where I’m now a line instructor on the Boeing 737.
As mentioned, with my colleagues together with some other pilots from other companies or branch in the industry, we can globally see that the trend is to stay cool and rather relax through these harsh times. We take no pride in this because it’s just how our job and our training morphed us and made us be and act.
So, I was thinking that I might give you some tips and info on how we manage to think like this and to stay put through these stressful times. I hope you may find in this some ideas that will help you too.
Technical and Non-technical skills.
It’s no secret anymore that even in the early days of aviation, this industry was a leader in organization and verification. It starts early with the mechanics and engineers that make prepare and make sure our aircraft is ready for the flight, even before we step in it. And this verification of setups, status, condition is verified at every important phases of the flight trough Checklists. Checklist exist in aviation since the 1920’s while it’s only been introduced in the medical world in the mid 1990’s…Also, we base every part of our work with SOP’s or Standard Operating Procedures.
Basically, actions that we do in a specific and identical way overtime. It is also based on our knowledge of the systems and capabilities of our planes and it’s environment (just like weather…), there is little room for creativity…
So, every flight is performed by being consistent and repetitive and always verifying actions trough procedures and checklists…. That’s the Technical aspect of the skills required by pilots to perform their duties.
But technical skills alone are not enough.
When a situation arises, pilots are suddenly facing a surprising situation where things might also happen fast and require quick actions. The startle effects! And with adrenalin rising, it’s easy to overlook and miss some critical information that might help us to recover the situation. There comes the Non-technical part of the problem solving and the one that interest us today. It’s based for pilots on 2 main axes.
CRM and Work method.
CRM came up even during world war 2. Multi-crew airplanes could only fly if all the actors onboard could coordinate themselves together to make it happen. Even more, we had to get away of the hierarchy structure where a Captain will be like God Almighty as this position tends to mute his co-workers and lead to a counterproductive one man show. Depending on characters and Ego, this could lead to seriously unpleasant situations…So, more and more, the industry focused on human behavior, interactions and communication.
But what does CRM mean?
It started as Cockpit resource Management with the interaction of the 2 pilots but soon we realized that there is also a big part of the team on the other side of the cockpit door, and so it became the Crew Resource Management. But still, later on, we enlarged the sphere of influence to the outside world as well and ice also encompass the communications methods and interaction with the outside world.
These behavioral and communication skills are emphasis and retrained every year to make sure crew members are on the same page when it comes to solve issues as they arise. And since we are on the same page, we manage to cool down the atmosphere.
CRM helps individuals with different characters to level with their colleagues. Examples vary from recognizing, for an experienced crew member, that he is doing things too fast for his colleague to understand and work together at the same pace. But CRM also gives tools to the slower one to attract the attention of his team mate (speak up!) that he’s playing the partition too fast… It can also help the temperamental person to detach himself during a problem and to express himself in a proper civilized fashion…
So, I guess, you get the idea, CRM condition and sets together the actors to perform their duties. It’s an important “conditioner” for the good development of a flight.
Now that we worked on that Important psychological aspect, we can think about the other Nontechnical skill that help us to manage any ordeal, I’m talking about work method. This work method is the skeleton that holds our athletic bodies together… Joke aside you can have as much muscles you want, without a proper column, a proper structure, big muscles (i.e.: other great set of skills) will be useless.
It is also a skill that we train and need to be great at! How many times do we find fantastic pilots that can master the plane and fly it beautifully but end up in very bad posture due to the lack of methodology to cope with simple malfunctions or failures…
There is no perfect method, but at least a canvas for the crew to work out any situations.
These methods are usually given by the companies but all have more or less the same idea behind. They come with funny names that are acronyms to make sure we remember them. DODAR, FORDEC, DADIER and so on and so on. and basically, they give you a guideline to cope with anything and everything from an engine fire to a faulty coffee machine (for us, a much worse failure then the first one).
Every pilot in the company has to use the given method so that both of them will be on the same line, talking about the same stuff and generating ideas to make sure they do everything in an organized fashion.
AH? this sentence rings a few bells, because, it’s like a checklist, we do this in an organized way trough interaction tools tailored for the whole crew? Ringing any bells? Yes, a work method, well executed, helps us to cover Technical and Non-Technical aspects all together. It is really impressive, during training in the simulator or in the plane to put trainees in situations where they use their experience the way they thing is the best and add little by little some more stressful elements and see them saturate quickly. Then, after a break to cool down, start it all over again but show them to use these work methods and rely on the “skeleton” to solve their problems.
Usually, they self-debrief with the same idea; “Following the canvas made them feel more at ease because they take one step at the time, one little problem at the time, and in a factual manner instead of emotional rush”.
It’s amazing how well it works…. As I mentioned, we have many methods available.
I like the Lufthansa one for example as it leaves a very wide vision of your situation, they use the FORDEC and it goes for:
- Facts Gather all the information you need about your situation.
- Options Generate different scenarios of how you can act to “save the day”.
- Review Talk about what you think with your colleague because he’s been thinking too!
- Decide Together you decide on a course of action, and you stick to it!
- Execute Prepare and act according to plan.
- Confirm Go through the same thinking again to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
With my company for example, we use the DADIER:
- Diagnose Also, the gathering of information and assessing the situation.
- Analyze What you can do and how you can act according to the situation.
- Decide Just like on FORDEC, as a team, take a decision for the course of action.
- Inform Broadcast your intentions trough all desired channels (Cabin crew, Tower, company…)
- Execute Prepare and stick to your plan.
- Review Reconsider your status if any new developments and if any changes, start anew!
Well, you get the idea. There’s more to it for each letter with sub-menus but here you have the essential. The beauty of it, as I said is that you can use it for any failures but also for any phase of your day to day life!
It’s also an advice we give to trainees to develop and train these skills!
Just for the giggles, here is the work method applied to 2 events, one is annoying, one we face in the plane, the other a small day to day problem:
|Diagnose||“Engine failure eng n°1”|
First of course, and before doing
anything, we make sure that we have the
aircraft under control.
Then, we distribute the tasks, who flies
and who clears the problem.
Identify ———> eng fail N°1
Memory actions—> According to required memory items in Checklist, they are done by heart.
Profile—> do we need to clean up,
descent from altitude etc
Procedure, Supplementary procedure
——> set up the aircraft before starting
Non normal checklist——> the pilot not
flying will do the Non normal checklist
Normal checklist .
At this point the big interrogation is:
DO WE HAVE TIME?
if yes, continue otherwise, land as soon
|“Honey, we have no more milk”|
OK, the bottle in the fridge was empty.
Wife is making the diner so I ll handle it.
So , no more in fridge but is there any in
Do we need it for tonight’s dish?
it’s 17h45 and the shop might close.
Do I have time?
Yes, so let’s see how I can do this
|Analyse||What system has failed, some system are|
degraded, We can switch them to
alternate mode of function. If no alternate,
the checklist will tell us the limitations and information of how to use it.
What is our fuel status, what autonomy
does that gives us?
Check weather, check airports around for status check performance, landing distances etc.
|I m in my PJ, I need to dress up, I can go|
to the supermarket but are the roads
empty? (everybody coming out of work,
There might be another shop further but I
don’t know at what time they close, but
they have a better brand of milk that my
Do I have some cash somewhere before I
|Decide||quick briefing with the colleague to get his|
opinion, his observations. then, together,
we generate our options and make a risk
assessment before taking a decision.
Let’s go land there.
|Quick decision with my lovely cook, She’s|
OK for simple milk and we decide it’s
better to go to the nearby shop as we
know it’s open for sure and it’s quicker.
|Inform||Talk with the chief of cabin, she will brief|
the passengers. state your intentions to
tower via the radio, they will help you and prepare the greeting committee when you arrive!
|Ok darling, I l be back in 15 minutes, I ll|
get the milk, you can already prepare the
appetizer in the meantime.
|Execute||Prepare your plane for the approach and|
the configuration imposed by your
|I m at the shop I decided to go to and go|
straight for the area with dairies as I know
exactly what I need.
|Review||Make a quick resume of what happened|
and go trough the steps you took.
consider any new idea that pops in mind
and check what can affect the outcome of
your approach, landing or go around.
if something new comes in the play, start
all over again with new affecting factor.
|OK, so I m here in front of all the milks.|
Oops? low fat or plain milk???
reconsider, call at home to verify and
finalize your shopping.
Now, as you see and joke aside, it’s easy to apply to any situation. And the beauty of it is that you can come up with different solutions. In aviation, there is not one and only solution but many. And as long as you can justify and explain your decision based on valid inputs, many outcomes are possible to complete a “good show” with a happy outcome.
The beauty of having a method is that once you’ve done your diagnose and analyze correctly and once the decision is made, (and considering you have time), the stress part is out of the way. How many times did I found myself in situations with bad weather, storms, airplane defects, low fuel (not all together thank god) but once in these ordeals, I took the decision that made me escape from the issue, the stress evaporated and got me back some peace of mind.
An example, one Easter few years ago, getting closer to our destination, we faced a squall line, a wall of the perfect storm in front of us. It was really impressive because we were in perfectly clear skies and fantastic May weather around us except for this huge wall of clouds in front. We tried to find a gap, with our weather radar, but it was very thick and we knew we could expect turbulence, lightning, ice an hail and all the other planes on the other side of this wall were all struggling with it so We decided to turn parallel to it and fly along that system to try to find a gap from where we could enter and pass but our fuel was getting low. Also, what if I find a gap in that thick soup? Should I go in and struggle to find my way with fuel getting lower and lower? With no guaranties?
Stress level was going up and up.
So we analyzed the situation and the options. And just to our right was Cologne airport with perfect weather and welcoming runways…..We decided to just go there, refuel and wait. And once that decision was made…… Boy, we were cool and relax again! In front of us, our new course of action, our new plan was to come and land, in the perfect evening weather on a big nice airport and with plenty of fuel to do so compared to our initial scenario.
How simple is that? How simple can I make my life?
And it was the right thing to do, that night, other planes had massive issues and diversion due to that storm and while we were waiting on the ground in Cologne it eventually came over the airport but we didn’t care because we took the a good decision earlier and we were safe on ground and not sorry in the air…
The other important thing to notice as well in the work method is TEMPO. You can only act and take a correct decision by not rushing through the steps. Imagine, like in the table here above, you rush to your car to go to the first shop and your wife calls you and ask “Why did you left so fast, I changed my mind, I don’t need milk anymore”… Do your steps in order and in time, no rush and you’ll go further…
Also taking problems at the time helps in dealing with anxiety. Why worry already about problem XYZ while we are only at step A-B-C and who knows if step G-H-I will not solve the situation or change completely what you expect of the following letters?
OK, fine but how does all that theory can help us nowadays with the confinement?
Again, it’s a question of using and adapting technical and Non-technical skills like the ones I described here above. And you can use all these in a way that suits you. I would like here to make a link with the essential knowledge of Survival training. We use this 3 words to push through a situation for a good outcome.
Cope, Adapt, Overcome…
Here’s my proposal:
Coping with work method, Adapt with SOP’s Overcome with CRM
As I said in the opening line, it’s hard to get a “global picture, a god’s eye view” as we say, of the situation with all those senseless medias polluting our minds with sensational news. Keep in mind that even if you still find great reporters and good journalism out there, the trend is to go sensational. Many have the editorial lines following the concept of “If it bleeds, it leads!” And just like us, dealing with the problems in our aircraft, Triage is a necessity to face all those information inputs.
Help yourself in not raising your stress level by limiting the time you give to News and media. 1 hour a day will be more than enough to get the picture of the day about evolution of the situation. Stop being all the time looking at your smartphone for news like this as it’s a constant mind bombing. your brain deserves some air….
Also compare info given by big press agencies (they distribute info) and not local channels (they modify, cook and present info biased in some ways). Social media info also proved quite unreliable as anybody tries to show his views which leads to erratic presentation of the (miss)information. Keep in mind to that it’s the empty barrels that are making the bigger noises…. This triage is used all the time in a cockpit and is a necessity. For example, a new information comes to us as we already took a decision and acted according to our problems.
We then apply the steps of the work method which means…. …Reconsider (good, you’ve been attentive :)). But If this information does not bring anything better to our situation or is not fully relevant, We will totally ditch it!
So, New info: Considered? —> No added value or no changes in my situation? —> trash and carry on with your plan.
This new Info that I get today, does it change my situation?
No? —> trash Yes?—> Can I do something about it? No—> trash Yes?—-> adapt course of action.
By making triage and using the work method to filter the information, you keep your stress level low and you will be giving more deserved attention to essential news, and have more time for more important tasks of the day. Now, being confined,
Building routines will be the Main “skeleton” of your day. It’s going to be your SOP’s. Like the French will say: “On fait son lit comme on se couche” Or just like in US Marine corps training: 1st rule “make your square bed”. First thing they do indeed after the wakeup call, is to make their beds, meaning, start your day organized with tasks and structure.
We will extend that by keeping a planning and making plans for the day.
Many people, stuck at home, find themselves useless with no goals and boredom due to the situation. this leads to counterproductive mind wandering or even worse, creation of bad habits, vices (alcoholism for ex). So why not building your timetable of the activities of the day? And if you want, why not make it for a few days!
Eat at fixed hours, read, learn new skills, do physical exercise daily and with a planning (yesterday legs, today arms…), Got kids? home work at fixed hours.
See? Stop CNN and News (max one h I said) and open Youtube for Gym courses, craftman’s tutorial, gardening techniques… Stay curious, keep learning. And then build your planning around it! No need to become obsessed about it and plan anything and everything but have goals and a timetable to fill up your day is essential.
Remember Rocky? Deciding to get ready for the fight of his life and imposing himself a training routine? You can do it too (but no climbing steps of Philadelphia city hall yet, that s for later)! With such attitude, even in confinement at home I’ve got the feeling the days are too short as all I want to do should require 30 hours long day…
Your mindset is what matters. How you live through this alone, or with your family at home is where CRM comes in play. Keeping good morale is fundamental. And how you interact with the others will be the key to a smooth “living together”.
Google CRM, (like I suggest here above, learn new things) you’ll see how interesting this psychological aspect of working/ living relation can be improved by simple things.
Care with each other is paramount. If you are a rock and you can stay cool headed in those moments, it will be your role to be supportive, encouraging, distractive for the others. Listen to them and help them to do triage of their dark thoughts, help them see through this mess and ponder the situation, de-dramatize, rationalize…
As for morale? You’re in charge! Smile, laugh, play little jokes (but careful, know your audience), Suggest activities…. Reassemble people around a common project.
On the other hand, if you know or feel you are struggling with the situation: Speak up! Do not fear to express your feeling! To tell them out loud is already a part of your solution. Even if your public is not the most receptive.
Admit your shortcomings and fears but don’t focus on them, focus on the solutions and ask the other his opinion!
Give some credit and trust in the opinion of people you are with to develop more serene thoughts. Engage and participate in proposed activities… Together, by caring about each other strong and soft points, you’ll get through this in CRM symbiosis….
How to conclude?
Eventually these are just hinting and advises, they brush the surface of how we are made, pilots, through our career and how it helps us in hard times… It’s now all up to you to try to use these tools as well. You can do it too! You can make your own life easy because you are the master of your life and you have the willpower to go through this ordeal in a coolheaded way.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way….