“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible."~ Jonathan Swift
We recently finished a three-day soiree with our long time friends from Boston, who we have visited frequently on Martha's Vineyard where their family has had a home for more than 100 years.
As usual, the conversation turned to island lore, Fall from Grace, the recent mystery novel from Richard North Patterson, which takes place on the island (which I highly recommend), … and inevitably to the Kennedy folklore and the tragic death of JFK Jr.
My wife has had a lifelong interest in the family side of the Kennedy dynasty, so she was enthralled by a factoid we hadn't heard before ... that as a poignant denouement to that fateful airplane crash, JFK Jr.'s suitcase happened to wash up on the shore of none other than his mother's home on the island.
During our conversation, my mind drifted to wonder again why JFK Jr. was overreaching his capability as a private pilot. He had a basic pilot's license, which permitted him to fly under VFR ("Visual Flight Rules"), which basically means navigating around only the things you can see. Yet he was flying into weather conditions that required IFR ("Instrument Flight Rules") for which he was not qualified.
Flights operating under VFR are flown solely by reference to what is visible. What you can see serves as your cue for navigation, orientation, and separation from terrain and other traffic for safe operations during all phases of flight. Essentially, it means navigating around only the things you can see, while IFR requires instruments to see the things you can't see.
Most of us are pretty good at dealing with what’s in front of us where we’re much more comfortable, aren’t we? Don’t we often find ourselves saying something like, "I'll believe it when I see it", or "seeing is believing”? Even utilizing all of our five senses, we are primarily attuned to only what is in our current space. We’re convinced that if we can have full command of what's in our field of perception, our powerful senses can guide us with great precision and understanding. We’re good at that, so if we see it, we can handle it.
So, why do we continue to make so many decisions while flying VFR when the conditions demand an IFR instrument rating? While we might hear or see or smell distant objects, our perception is severely limited by focusing only on what is within our "field of vision”, and hardly substitutes for other tools with more far reaching capability.
Maybe it’s hubris or arrogance that makes us think we can conquer anything regardless of our visibility, but that’s not very realistic, is it? We really need to devote some quality time to advancing our skills to understand and refine the tools that do belong on our IFR dashboard. These metrics can range from simple sales reports to more sophisticated business intelligence that captures and tracks information from multiple sources to help us understand what's happening outside our field of vision.
As your business grows, even finely tuned IFR skills will need to be revised and upgraded depending on the type of aircraft you’re flying. Are you piloting a blimp or a helicopter rather than a multi-engine aircraft? You’ll need to be clear about that, as well, to make sure you’re collecting the right intelligence and developing the appropriate metrics. As your team grows, you may even need a further upgrade to an Airline Transport Pilot certificate that allows you to bring other people along with you.