Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Inspiration is a rare, valuable and important ‘tree’. The fruit of inspiration is Creativity. However, there are other things that need to be in place for the seeds of Inspiration to grow. 

Maslow established the set of conditions under which the human being could thrive, and become the fertile soil for the seeds of Inspiration to take root. The, so called, ‘Maslow’s Triangle of Self Realisation’ is taught to those studying education and psychology, and it is also the basis of success in many other sectors, including aviation.

The concept is that we need to build the successful human condition from the ‘foundation’ of our basic physiological needs. Without sufficient air to breathe, safe water to drink, food to eat, place to stay, sleep and a suitable temperature range we can barely function as a human being. This is demonstrated most clearly when we consider the aviation world: 

A pilot who lacks sufficient air (which can happen with altitude) will fail to make decisions correctly, and eventually pass out and die. 
A 10% dehydration level can lead to a 50% lack of judgement and a missed approach or wrong selection of power setting or other control.
Sufficient, appropriate food is necessary to function correctly, and there are many accidents reported from lack of food – just missing breakfast can be sufficient for a pilot to make a mistake that leads to an accident – and that is documented in accident reports!
Rest is so important that there are rules and regulations in relation to the rest periods for pilots – because lack of rest results in lack of judgement.
Maintaining a suitable temperature is essential. Too hot and judgement is affected, dehydration increases, etc. Too cold and hypothermia will set in, lack of muscle control from shivering can result in mistakes in control inputs. 

The second level of human self-realisation is related to our need for safety. If we do not feel safe we are less likely to perform at our best. We see this in children who are mistreated. They are constantly cowering, ducking their heads and covering their face, at the slightest sudden movement of an adult’s hand. Their concentration is on their own need to survive, since the thought of being able to thrive is just not possible. Again aviation parallels this perfectly. The focus on safety and security is woven at the base level of aviation. The extensive amount of checking and cross checking of the aircraft prior to flight, the screening of passengers and bags, the access control to the aircraft, etc. There is no doubt that without security and safety in place aviators would be distracted from their primary task, and of course, malevolent forces would be able to inflict harm on the aircraft, crew and passengers. Security provides peace of mind, a necessary component to move to the next level.

If our physiological needs are met, and we feel safe, then, and only then, can we truly make friends and experience the feeling of belonging. It is also a major challenge in the developing nations, for the very components of our human security suffer from lack of completion of the basic ingredients we have considered so far. It is not possible to trust others, and build meaningful relationships, if we do not have the basics. We may think that we do, but at the slightest change in condition, we find that what we thought was a friendship is quickly disposed of in favour of food, or an opportunity to find a more secure place. Aviators know the importance of ‘belonging’ and the very operation of a crew is about that belonging. That team work – the ability to trust one another. I know that I can meet aviators from another country, another culture, another language and yet within minutes we ‘belong together’ through our common bonds, and our essential lower level completions, and we can climb into an aircraft, putting our lives in each other’s hands, and share a flight.

The subsequent level is fairly automatic, and happens as a matter of course. Esteem - the feeling of respect, appreciation and accomplishment is relatively high on the pyramid construction programme. Few people, believe it or not, ever reach that stage sustainably. It is sad, since it means that the layers below are not complete – or are so fragile that they cannot endure the load. Aviators obtain that feeling of accomplishment as a part of their daily operations – landings, take-offs, successful navigation, fuel management, and the amazing feelings that come with flying.

All of this leads to the ultimate goal of becoming a successful human being – that of ‘self-fulfilment’. Feeling fulfilled is necessary in order to bear the fruit of creativity. Which brings us back to the beginning. Inspiration. Creativity is the result of inspiration, but that fruit can only be found once the human being into whom that inspiration seed has been planted has been fed with the layers of the pyramid of self-realisation. Dispute it all you like, but without a suitable medium for inspiration to mature, creativity fruits cannot be found. 

However, there is some good news. The seed of inspiration is often the driving force for the self-development of the solid construction of one’s personal pyramid.

Last week I spoke at AERO Friedrichshafen, the largest General Aviation exhibition in Europe, about this very topic. I started by asking what inspired the audience to enter aviation. Without exception it was the sight of a small plane flying overhead as they grew up. That seed of inspiration, sown in the early years of their development, and grown on the fertile seed bed of physiological and emotional stability, led to them becoming pilots, engineers, designers, machinists, technical writers, teachers, nurses and more. 

We need to expose our children to more ‘inspirational moments’, if we really wish to see sustainable developments. 

I assure you that every flight we do in our small aircraft, over the rural communities of Ghana, we are busy planting the seeds of inspiration into the hearts of thousands of children and young people. All we need now is for the socio-economic conditions to improve sufficiently for those seeds to grow and to yield their fruit.  

Why not become a sower of inspiration and a farmer of creativity in those around you?

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail )

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