20 Humorous Leadership Lessons. Aviation Wisdom

Tony Hughes

20 Humorous Leadership Lessons. Aviation Wisdom

My flying days are well behind me but back in the 1980's I was a pioneer in the ultralight movement, the poor cousin grass roots segment of sport aviation. I recently found this document on my computer from back in that era. It brought a smile and some wonderful memories. There are lessons here for leaders in every walk of life. Enjoy as you read and think about how these can be applied within your profession.

20 RULES OF THE AIR (also for leadership on the ground and in the boardroom)

  1. Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.
  2. Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, most experience usually comes from bad judgment.
  3. You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.
  4. Confidence is usually the feeling you have just before you understand the situation.
  5. Keep looking around. There's always something you've missed - inside and outside.
  6. Every take-off is optional. Every landing is mandatory. It's always better to be down here wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here. You cannot control prevailing conditions.
  7. Never let an aircraft take you somewhere your brain didn't get to five minutes earlier.
  8. The ONLY time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.
  9. Both the altitude above you and the runway behind you are of no use at all.
  10. Stay out of clouds. The silver lining everyone keeps talking about might be another airplane. Reliable sources also report that mountains have been known to hide in clouds.
  11. When in doubt, maintain your altitude. No one has ever collided with the sky.
  12. The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival. Large angle of arrival, small probability of survival and vice-versa.
  13. A 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. A 'great' landing is one after which they can use the plane again.
  14. There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.
  15. Helicopters can't fly; they're just so ugly that the earth repels them. The dictionary should define the word 'helicopter' as 'mechanical contradiction'.
  16. If all you can see out of the window is ground that's going round and round and all you can hear is commotion coming from the passenger compartment, things are not at all as they should be.
  17. Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the number of take offs you've made.
  18. In the ongoing battle between objects made of aluminum going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.
  19. Remember, gravity is not just a good idea - it's the law, and not subject to repeal.
  20. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are however no old bold pilots.

I survived a plane crash in my aerobatic biplane and several of the key lessons, the things that saved my life, were in this top 20 list. We tend to remember things through repetition or emotional impact. Humor is therefore a good way to create emotional connection to ideas you wish to retain in yourselves or others. Make work a fun place to be but also one where commitment and competence are the hallmarks of execution.

QANTAS is one of the world's great airlines and my article about flight QF32 has had approximately 200,00 people read it in LinkedIn Publisher. The leadership of Captain Richard de Crespigny and the teamwork on the flight deck is truly inspiring. If you haven't already done so, read the QF32 article here. It highlights how genuine leadership averted an Airbus A380 disaster.

Back in the 1980's, these were reportedly true exchanges between QANTAS pilots and ground crew engineers. Back then, pilots would log notes concerning problems or concerns for maintenance engineers to address after a flight. These exchanges were generally known as squawks and after attending to the issue, maintenance crews were required to log the details of the action taken. These are from a bygone era with propeller aircraft servicing regional routes but never let it be said that engineers lack a sense of humour. P = The problem logged by the pilot, and S = The solution and action logged by the engineers.

P - Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement. S - Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P - Something loose in cockpit. S - Something tightened in cockpit.

P - Dead bugs on windshield. S - Live bugs on backorder.

P - Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent. S - Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P - Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. S - Evidence removed.

P - DME volume unbelievably loud. S - Volume set to more believable level.

P - Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. S - That's what they are there for!

P - IFF inoperative. S - IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P - Number 3 engine missing. S - Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P - Aircraft handles funny. S - Aircraft warned to "Straighten up, Fly Right, and Be Serious."

Be relentlessly inquisitive and competent, stay humble and maintain a sense of humor - these traits will take you a long way in life.

Now it's your turn: When have you leveraged humor in your career? Who were the most humorous people you worked with? When did humor diffuse a business problem? Please share below.


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.

Main image photo by Flickr: Philo Nordlund


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