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13 July 2009

Decisions. The Right, The Wrong.. And?

Before I commence my take-off roll for Part III of the blog, I must pay my respects to Captain Dom and Captain Lim who always continue to inspire me with their work. Thanks so much for your kind words Captain Lim on your most recent blog post here:

http://blog.airasia.com/index.php/an-impressive-airline-student-pilot

I am humbled by your words and inspired to further excel in my studies to one day follow in your and Captain Dom’s footsteps for safer skies painted in red.

If you are reading this post for the first time, do read my other articles here prior before reading on. You would then have a better understanding of what Captain Dom, Captain Lim and I am trying to achieve with you as the respected reader to our AirAsia Blog.

Part I : http://blog.airasia.com/index.php/living-the-dream-so-you-wanna-be-a-pilot

Part II : http://blog.airasia.com/index.php/taking-to-the-skies-one-flight-at-a-time

Okay on to Part III. Captain Hans. This one is for you. How one blackberry message of “you are a pilot… make a decision!” can go a long way eh…


When I was growing up, my knowledge on decision making was a pretty simple affair. I would either be making the right decision or more often than others, (throughout my childhood) be making the wrong ones. Sigh… Women. hehehe

Anywayyyy, It was often acceptable to me then for poor decision making, as I was a boy who learned from his own mistakes. Of course, the older I became, the more I would learn from the mistakes of others and their wrong decisions.

In aviation, many living would appreciate, that there is no tolerance for mistakes particularly those from poor decision making.

Throughout my flying career and amongst the many thoughts constantly flowing through my head even when I sleep, one of the most important phrases would always be “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Now, I am confident you are no stranger to that phrase, but please let me share with you the importance of it in aviation primarily for commanders of an aircraft.

In July 1988 towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Navy Captain William C. Rogers III of the USS Vincennes was informed that there was a “bogey inbound intentions unknown” being tracked on radar. As soon as the UFO was suggested by his men to POSSIBLY be an F-14 Tomcat Fighter Jet, and after numerous attempts at trying to contact the UFO failed, Captain William ordered that it be shot down & destroyed.

The aircraft was not a military F-14 Tomcat Fighter Jet but a civilian Airbus A300.

Although the much controversial Iran Air Flight 655 which saw the death of 290 passengers will continue to go down in history as one of the greatest tragedies of aviation decision making, Captain William’s story and actual thought processes which lead up to the decision are still being learned in many management courses and universities around the world.

You see, although extremely tough, Captain William made a decision.

In aviation, especially as pilot-in-command, the job is essentially about making decisions. The more experienced you get, the better the decisions you make.

Over the past couple of months, studying flight down under here in Australia as an Airline Transport Student Pilot, I have formulated the FINAL DECISION as a third decision following RIGHT and WRONG.

Captain Williams from the USS Vincennes may have not made the right decision, but ultimately, he made a decision and that decision was final.

One cannot stress the importance of actually making a decision no matter how difficult that decision may be. Often comes a time where we find ourselves trying to “stall for time” with hopes that the situation either decides itself or someone / something else makes a decision for us. History has proven again and again that no good may follow from such a delay.

In January 1989, a year after the infamous Iran Air & USS Vincennes tragedy, Captain Kevin Hunt was flying the Boeing 737-400 British Midland Flight from London Heathrow to Belfast, Ireland when shortly after takeoff; he heard an extremely loud pounding noise haunting the cockpit. He gathered as much information as verbally possible from the First Officer, as he needed to fly the aircraft, and post their impromptu analysis “on the fly”, believed that the left engine failed completely.

He immediately made a decision to shut down the left engine and commence an immediate return to land procedure. Why I say procedure is because, it is never as simple as “point the aeroplane to the nearest airport and hope for the best”. Passengers need to be informed, a check-list of items need to be carried out (ie. weight to wheel / load factor ratio etc).

In this structured madness, the Captain actually called for the shutdown of the wrong engine, so obviously now both engines died out. Both pilots then believed they had a double engine flame out and then began to commence a “glide procedure”. The powerless 737, being a now very big glider, at its best glide ratio was looking at landing right smack in the center of a town called Kegworth which was short of their proposed runway. The captain made the decision to “stretch the glide” which according to the laws of aerodynamics, is impossible. However, making that decision, Captain Kevin didn’t slam the aircraft into the ground (which could have easily been achieved by pitching the nose down abruptly), he decided to raise the nose and reduce its overall ground distance yet also achieving the same objective but with a proven less impactful outcome. His estimated calculations were correct and he landed short of the town ultimately saving hundreds of innocent people on the ground from certain death.

Now neither of these examples mentioned above may have been the right decision (ie. Navy Captain William could have not fired the missile and Airline Captain Kevin could have turned the right engine off instead–literally), but by actually making a decision and having that decision final—it is still far more superior than not making a decision at all.

Therefore, in future when you need to make a decision, do the following. Think P.I.L.O.T. Probe the Facts, Identify the Problem, Look for a Solution, Operate (Execute) your Plan, then Take Stock of your decision(s). Good luck!

So the next time someone asks you “whats for dinner?” Don’t just say “anywhere” or “anything”, step up to the plate, make a decision. Take charge and Bon Appetite!

Till the next blog post…

Humbly Yours,
Johan Farid Khairuddin @ JFK
AirAsia X – Gold Coast,
AUSTRALIA

  • Jong

    This is so true especially for the last few sentences.

  • Low

    how about promises? =)

  • Yee

    Noted with many thanks for sharing… cheer

  • Hare

    Hi JFK,

    I’ve been reading all your posts since then and all of em’ are very useful especially for aspiring pilots like me! ^^
    And not to mention they way you express, it’s fun to read !

    Hope to see more from you and also from Captain Lim and Captain Dom ! Thanks !
    ; )

    Hare Chandran Jr.

  • Jasper

    I read about the incident 2! Tragic really. I hope this sort of accident wouldn’t happen anymore with help of more sophisicated equipments to help controllers & pilot. Anyway, is there anymore intake for pilot, AirAsia?

  • Johan Farid

    Anonymous – Hehe. Ps. Why so secretive with your identity? ;)

    Low – There are just empty & fulfilled. I prefer the later. Hehe.

    Yee – You are most welcome. In turn, thank you for reading! :)

    Hare – I am too humbled by your kind words, thanks for the support mate, really means a lot to us!

    Jasper – Affirm, very tragic, however; as many often refer to it as tombstone-technology (where people have to die before we learn to develop/industry relevant parties invest in something), i’m just glad it isn’t as bad as it was— with the right aptitude & attitude, things can only get better :)

    Cheers all!

  • Ram

    Hi JFK,

    Good article indeed…

    As mentioned, it is definitely better to learn from other people’s mistakes. This is especially so in aviation as it is not forgiving.

    Best of luck in your exams and let’s meet up when you are back home for some ‘teh tarik & roti canai’. Alternatively, I will call you if I am flying to Brisbane.

    I liked the photos too. BTW, Han, what’s your anti-ageing secret?

    Warm regards,

    Capt. Ram Singh Virik (MAS)

  • Johan Farid

    Hi Capt. Ram,

    It is such an honor to have an airline veteran like you even reading yet alone positive commenting posts written by small-time flying fry me!

    Thank you so very much once again. You words are motivating me to excel further!

    Affirm I will most definitely be looking forward to a catch-up session over Teh Tarik the next time you are inbound to YBBN. Your Holiday Inn on Surfers is just a bus ride away from me so please do request for a stop down here soon! :)

    Re Capt. Hans, I mentioned it to him over dinner yesterday and he broke out laughing!

    What a small world in an even smaller yet rapidly expanding industry.

    God Bless & See you soon.

    Johan

  • Ram

    Hi Johan,

    I will surely make the flight request for the ‘teh tarik’ session in Surfer’s Paradise. We will substitute the ‘roti canai’ for ‘hungry johans/jacks’ or something else there.

    See you soon, mate.

    Regards,

    Ram

    PS – the word ‘veteran’ makes me feel old…