Last week I flew to Nebraska for a speaking engagement. I had a stopover in Denver on my way back to Salt Lake City that required me to take a small aircraft—a Beach 1900 D model. Four other passengers and I climbed the stairs and took our seats on the twin-prop plane. I noticed the pilots, both probably in their twenties, both wearing very cool sunglasses, and both completely engaged for the entire hour and fifteen-minute flight.
Before now, getting from point A to point B in a plane seemed simple to me. I usually do it on a larger aircraft where the cockpit is closed. I sit down, fasten my seatbelt, have a snack, read something, maybe chat with someone, and soon I’m landing at my destination. But peeking into the cockpit this time opened my eyes to what it really takes for the people who are actually doing the getting there.
The pilots worked in tandem, constantly pushing levers, punching buttons, and adjusting dials. Like concert pianists playing an intricate duet, each would often cross over the other man’s arm. They would occasionally take out a chart or a map, some of them hand-drawn, to check their course.
Fascinated, I watched them the entire flight. I counted 263 touches (not counting all the times the captain reached for his Tupperware container of cherries). Each change was so small that I could not feel a difference in the plane’s performance. But each change was necessary to keep us safely on course.
How similar this is to life! Every day is dynamic and can be a little unpredictable, so we need our maps. We need to check where we are in relation to where we want to go and make minor yet frequent adjustments all along the way. If we have someone to help us watch for needed course corrections, even better.
After we landed, I was curious to know how many miles it is between the airport in McCook, Nebraska, and the mile high airport in Denver, Colorado, so I looked it up. And guess what. It’s 263 miles! I’m not even kidding.
How many times should each of us check our course? How many adjustments do we need?
For these pilots, those 263 tweaks happened at a rate of one every 15 to 20 seconds. But since life for most people doesn’t move quite as fast as an airliner, every mile or so should keep us on track just fine.