That Uneasy Feeling

How the feeling of anxiety can help eliminate risk.

We tend to think of a sudden feeling of unease or apprehension as a bad thing, a foreboding sign that something is amiss. But as pilots, not only should we heed these uneasy feelings, we should consciously decide to welcome them as a way of eliminating risk and breaking potential links in the accident chain.

For example, say you’ve been flying along for a while and haven’t done much of anything flight-related for the last few minutes. That should give you the uneasy feeling that you might want to be planning for the next stage of flight by reviewing the approach plate, checking the destination weather or pulling out the checklist to prepare for descent.

If, say, the gear is still up as you prepare for your initial descent, that should give you an uneasy feeling as well. Even though it’s not quite time to put the gear down, the fact that you are thinking about tasks related to landing and the gear is still up should make you feel anxious.

If you’re flying an amphibious airplane, you should have an uneasy feeling anytime the wheels are down, since landing on water with the wheels out can often prove fatal. Even if the airplane is sitting on a dry ramp with the engine off, when you look at it and see those wheels down you should feel a little nervous twist in the pit of your stomach.

Feeling of anxiety can be a good thing in aviation, because it often means we are thinking about the right things that will ensure a small problem or missed checklist item don’t snowball into a dangerous situation.

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