Every so often, an emergency happens in aviation. 17. April 2018 was one such day. The left engine on Southwest flight 1380 failed. Shrapnel escaped from the engine, damaged the airplane, and broke a window. Sadly, that killed one of the passengers on board. And then news filled with phrases like “heroic pilot” and “nerves of steel”, framing the story around one person who performed well that day.

I am an amateur pilot. One of the habits of many pilots is to read about aviation accidents. From this we learn about what went wrong for others, so that we can do better when things go wrong for us. Like many who know aviation, I would like to suggest a different frame. It’s not about “a” pilot. It’s about a wide range of people: a crew of five people on that Southwest Airlines flight, Air Traffic Controllers, and more. It’s not about “heroic” deeds or “nerves of steel”, it’s about well-trained, competent people, thrust into a stressful situation for which they trained, performing their training well. And while these people are admirable, so are their peers. Continue Reading »