The Magic and Curse of the Autopilot

Posted on 29. Mar, 2017 by in Leadership

Lesson #19: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit

The autopilot can be an aviator’s BEST friend. It’s precise, alleviates workload, and provides good piece of mind. All positive factors, but if the pilot isn’t careful, it could lead to big trouble!

Take the case of Eastern Airline Flight 401 where the crew was preoccupied diagnosing a gear light problem, and  didn’t notice the autopilot was inadvertently set for a gradual descent, causing the plane to crash (CFIT) and kill 86 on board. The crew relied on their autopilot system as they had done thousands of times before. Only this time, their reliance turned into a deadly mistake.

I fly the Cirrus SR22, a high performance/complex single engine aircraft, operated through multiple layers of automation, including a really sophisticated flight control system!  The one big challenge with all this great automation is keeping up basic flying skills, since I rarely need to fly the plane manually. But what happens if the system fails – then what?

Is Your Business Running on Autopilot?

Are you getting too comfortable with certain aspects of your business? Sometimes it’s not obvious. For example, one of my clients recently got out-bid on a long-standing contract they had been servicing for years. It was a shocker. They had become complacent and then, one day, it was gone!

In hindsight, there were signs of this coming, including more competitor bids, subtle hints from the client to cut costs and the initiation of a new bidding process. But none of this made it to the top of their issues list, and therefore was overlooked.

When things are running smoothly in your business, it can be like flying on autopilot; You get comfortable until blindsided by a sudden failure that you may not be prepared to handle.

How to Recover from Autopilot Failure?

Pilots frequently practice emergency procedures with instructors to build confidence and proficiency in the cockpit and prepare for the unexpected.

You can do the same within your business by holding weekly Level-10 meetings and focusing on solving your most pressing issues through IDS.

Be pro-active to avoid your own preventable crash (CFIT)!

Leave a Reply