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Sep 12, 2022

Fly the Plane. Work the Problem

Several pilots I know express a standard command often given to less experienced pilots.

"Fly the plane, work the problem."

The context involves pilots who fixate on a problem like a storm, console light, or other issues. Riveting one's eyes on a single point to the exclusion of the bigger picture can quickly result in disastrous outcomes – especially when piloting an aircraft. The crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 on December 29, 1972, caused 101 fatalities. An investigation revealed that the cockpit crew fixated on a burned-out landing gear light while failing to recognize the disengaged autopilot.

Locking in on one issue while dangerously losing perspective is not exclusive to pilots. Caregivers frequently spiral out of control while arguing with an impairment like Alzheimer's disease, alcoholism, or addiction – all of which easily overpower a caregiver and divert eyes from "flying the plane."

Our responsibility as caregivers is to see the bigger picture when our loved ones can't. Just like every passenger in the plane depends on the pilot not losing focus, so do all who rely upon us as caregivers.

While no one would think of handing over a plane to an untrained individual, caregiving sadly serves as the ultimate "on-the-job training" environment. Even the best of caregivers discover they are outmatched and ill-prepared. That's why each of us requires regular reminders to keep calm - and "fly the plane, work the problem."

"Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you." Proverbs 4:25