Sunday, April 20, 2014


ATTITUDE - APTITUDE - ALTITUDE; choosing a flight path in life.

Targeting, goal-setting and 'success' are very much part of the 21st 
Century social philosophy. In particular areas of our lives, most of us 
have a desire to do well - we want to 'succeed'.
What this really means differs with each different person, but it is a 
common drive.  The North American version emphasises being a 'winner' 
and the usual measuring device involves dollars, and the material goods 
that money can buy.  Other communities have their own versions of 
'social success'.
Irrespective of a person's goals or philosophies there are common 
elements that heighten a person's ability to achieve. 
When I first visited an international airport I was stunned to see how 
steeply the international passenger jets climb when they first leave the 
ground. After gaining maximum speed on the runway, it seems that the 
pilots immediately put them into maximum climb under full throttle.  I 
later learned that these planes burn a huge percentage of their fuel in 
the first few minutes of flight, climbing as rapidly as possible to gain 
as much altitude as possible, so that they can then level out and cruise 
at their chosen altitude - 'cruising' at high altitude apparently being 
an economic way to travel vast distances, particularly with a lightened 
payload now that the bulk of their fuel has been burned. 
Later, when I had the chance to take the controls of a small four seater 
plane my pilot coach explained that when my nose - or rather the nose of 
the plane - was pointed up, I was gaining altitude. He then further 
explained that to gain altitude I, or the plane, had to have a positive 
attitude, and that this was an absolute requirement on leaving the 
runway. Altitude must be gained immediately as a safety requirement, so 
that if something went wrong I had more thinking and praying time before 
reconnecting with terra (very) firma. 
And so I learned that when flying small planes, attitude has a big 
impact on altitude; when a plane is flying at a constant level, the 
pilot could say that he is maintaining a neutral attitude, (which could 
be described as 'just cruising') and the nose of the plane is pointing 
level, neither up nor down.  However when the plane is gaining height, 
the nose of the plane is up, and the plane is said to have a positive 
attitude and is climbing.  When the nose is down and the plane is 
descending, it has a negative attitude, and may be coming in to land. 
Typically a pilot would be very careful to avoid a negative attitude 
unless a welcoming airport was in near proximity. 
So in my first flying lesson I learned that the 'attitude' of the plane 
is chosen by the pilot as a deliberate mechanism to achieve the desired 
outcome in terms of the plane's altitude.  If he wants to increase 
altitude, to fly at a higher level for some reason, he adopts a positive 
attitude, applies appropriate throttle, and hopefully climbs to higher 
However, to achieve higher altitude the engine must be worked harder and 
more fuel will be burnt.  Small planes have small motors, and small fuel 
tanks and so have a correspondingly small aptitude in terms of how high 
and how far they can fly.  In general terms the bigger the plane the 
bigger the motors, the bigger the fuel tanks, and the bigger the flying 
range - and the higher the altitude at which they can fly. 
However, before flying each pilot is required to submit a flight plan, 
an outline of where and how he is going to fly.  He is required to plan 
his flight, then to fly his plan. This flight plan however will be 
specifically limited by the capacity - the aptitude - of the plane he is 
flying.  It will include information about the weight to be carried, the 
distance to be flown, the amount of fuel carried and the altitude he 
proposes to fly at.  Each pilot is required to understand the aptitude 
of the plane he is flying, and to plan his flight according to, or at 
least within the limits of, the aptitude of the plane. 
I never did get my pilot's licence, because being colour blind I 
couldn't tell the difference between the wind-sock (bright orange) and 
the grass of the landing strip.  However I did get a very valuable 
lesson in terms of attitude, aptitude and altitude, and individual 
flight-plans when dealing with a wide range of ventures in my life.
Training and qualifications, career plans, relationships, notions of 
personal 'success', sports involvement and other areas of life can all 
be likened to flying.  How high do we want to go in terms of our 
performance? What costs might this have in terms of losing ground-level 
perspective?  How quickly do we want to achieve our desired level? How 
much fuel are we prepared to burn to achieve this, and once there, how 
long is that flight before we take a break and consider another leg in 
our life journey? 
Attitude, aptitude and altitude - but the most important of these is 
attitude.  Where your flight-plan represents your intention, your attitude 
is the factor that will create your actual outcome - and this is simply a
personal decision.


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