When the Engine Stops at 19,000 Feet over the Atlantic

It really did happen when I was flying around the world in 1995. The small airplane engine stopped while we were over the 50-degree waters of the Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 miles from any land. Silence. Nothing.

My heart started racing so fast, and for a split second I didn’t know why. My conscious brain hadn’t caught up with my body’s survival response. I immediately went into checklist mode, like any good pilot would (like Scully did – he was pretty much just running a checklist and did everything perfectly). Number one is always the same thing:

1. Fly the airplane.

So many accidents occur when pilots are distracted by any number of things: a red light in the cockpit, a weird Air Traffic Control instruction, even a passenger. In an emergency, the best thing to remember first is to fly the airplane.

It’s not a bad lesson to remember for 2010. We can get so distracted with the economy, the government’s messes, a needy client, a too close for comfort bankruptcy of a friend, and our own fears that we forget to “fly the airplane.”

Where in your life do you need to remember to get back to just flying the airplane? Your business, your marriage, your life’s purpose? I’ll leave it to you to apply where it resonates most.

Sometimes, we need a jolt to get re-aligned with our core. Even though we fight it tooth and nail while it’s happening, we end up growing so much from a really good scare. I don’t necessarily recommend you cut the engine when you’re over the Atlantic. I do recommend you take some risks that scare you once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with getting good at flying the airplane.