Letter: A-N-C aviation lessons for leaders

There's a lesson for our leaders in an acronym that is taught to every beginner pilot, to be used in time of emergency. A-N-C, which means aviate, navigate and communicate.

Inevitably in a pilot's career there will be a day when things have not gone to plan. The pilot is lost, there is engine trouble, or the weather has turned for the worst. These are extremely stressful situations and staying calm is crucial.

The first thing the pilot learns is the importance of flying the plane. That is, ensure the wings are level, fuel is on and a reasonably accurate heading is maintained. The pilot should quickly establish that progress is being made and problems have been diagnosed correctly.

After successful establishment of a flight path, the pilot can then navigate. Where are we now? Where do we need to be? How do we get from here to there? Finally, when the plane is straight and the path has been chosen, it is time to talk to the people involved.

The success of the A-N-C acronym is that it is carried out in that order. There are many stories of pilots so obsessed with a flashing light in the cockpit they did not notice the rapidly approaching ground. It does not help to dwell on plotting a course if the plane is about to crash and burn.

Similarly, sending out unnecessary communications uses up valuable resources, better spent directing the plane and ensuring a correct path. The secret to minimising the requirement for A-N-C in the first place is to reduce the opportunity to confuse the pilot. A quiet cockpit with the right tools at hand (maps, compass, calculator) will ensure minimal distractions and reduced chance of error.

Know the plane and its performance. Check the weather ahead. Be ready to fly an alternate path if the destination chosen is no longer an option. Whatever happens, aviate, navigate and communicate, in that order.

This article was first published on BusinessDay on 2 May 2021.

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