‘Damn it! We’re going to crash. It can’t be true!’

“We’re below the glide slope and slow.” I could hear my own voice in the headset as the airplane continued to sink below where it should be on final approach to landing. My student, learning to fly a bigger twin-engine airplane, made no changes.

Don't Slip Into Denial Here

“We’re on the centerline but still below glide slope.  Our speed is critically slow.”

Nothing changed.

I looked over at my student. His eyes were fixed on the runway ahead of us, one hand on the throttle controls and the other on the yoke. He seemed frozen.

“We’re too slow.  Add power.”   Still no response.  I’m not one to inject stress or drama into a situation, preferring instead to remain level and logical.  Calmly I spoke again,  “We’re now below blue line, add power.” Another two seconds passed.  “Add power,”  I repeated myself for the third time.

Still no action from the pilot flying.  Flying slower than blue-line  at this phase of the approach means we could lose control of the airplane if something unplanned suddenly occurred.

I’m going to admit something.  The pilots lack of action fascinated me. I thought, wow, he’s in complete “denial of impact”!

Denial is one of our minds most interesting defense mechanisms.  As humans we use denial in a large variety of situations.  For example: denial of addictions.  We could go on and on about addictions but I’ll spare you.

Then there are subsets of denial, like, minimization; where one admits the problem but denies its seriousness.

And then there’s projection; admits the problem and its seriousness but denies responsibility. Children use this one a lot along with DARVO.  *DARVO is an acronym that means:

Deny, then

Attack the victim, thereby

Reversing

Victim and

Offender

*(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

It’s fascinating to see a pilot in denial but not shocking.  Denial has been cited as a contributing factor in more than a few aviation crashes. Some well documented. The following excerpt is from a book:

‘Damn it! We’re going to crash. It can’t be true!’: pilots’ chilling last few moments of confusion and denial before plane crash.

The book, Rio-Paris Crash: A Collection of Pilot Errors, written by French aviation author Jean-Pierre Otelli.

Aviation isn’t the only profession where denial causes damage.  Recently I had a conversation with a Realtor who buys properties at auction and then flips them for profit. Lets call the Realtor John.  John wanted to know about an exclusion on the Preliminary Title Report he’d never noticed before.  The Title company (not Chicago Title) indemnified itself from potential tax liens.

John. “But that’s what I want Title Insurance for, to protect me from tax liens!”

Me.  “Well John, the indemnity clause is removing that option from their offer to insure. Frankly those tax liens, especially the IRS liens, are the reason Chicago Title doesn’t always offer a policy for properties bought at auction unless we can get an SI from the foreclosed owner. There’s just too much exposure.”

John went into denial. “But they said…”

Me.  “True but they are excluding the very things that can bite you inside the redemption window. That’s why I recommend avoiding those one-off  Title Insurance companies John.”

Chicago Title has been in business for more than 160 years. It’s a publicly traded Fortune 500 company. If we offer a policy we’ll tell you up front exactly what that means. If we can’t insure we’ll tell you why before you buy.

While other come-and-go companies say they’ll insure, you’ll need to read the fine print to see what they’re really offering.

When I told John we couldn’t insure the property he was interested in out of auction, and then explained the reasons why, he found a company that said they would insure it.  I didn’t see how they could.  Turns out they were taking out the real meat of the policy in the fine print.  Thankfully John read the fine print this time and called me. I wondered if he also reads the iTunes Agreement?

Once safely on the ground we talked about the importance of flying a stabilized approach and managing airspeed. Both co-related. We also discussed the tendency for people to easily slip into denial.  “If the airplane is flying toward the runway nothing’s wrong”.  Or, “if a Title company says they’ll insure then what could go wrong”?

There are a lot of old adages but in business this one seems to offer the soundest advice. “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true.”

Flying has it’s share of old adages too.  One of them I like says, “A ‘good’ landing is one you can walk away from. A ‘great’ landing is when they can use the plane again”.  No matter how you land the plane… don’t go into denial about what’s going on while you’re in the air – or when you’re buying Real Estate!

Note:  Besides being a CFII, MEI, Pilot, I’m a Title Rep.  Comments made here are my own and do not necessarily belong to my employer; Chicago Title & Escrow.

For more information about Title Insurance or flying airplanes, contact me directly at ric.Lippincott@ctt.com.

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