Thursday, June 13, 2013

Planning - The Enemy of Surprise

Here's a link to survivors.
When it comes to aviation, surprise is always reported as an evil.  Think about it.  Inside nearly every “I’ll never do that again” the great unknown, the airborne demon just waiting to reach out and grab you, the thing that almost did them in was surprise. 
How many times have you heard someone say something along the line of, “The last thing you want to have out here is a surprise”?  Or how about this one, the classic we’ve all had to listen to at some point, “Plan ahead; you don’t want to be caught by surprise”.  Surely you are familiar?   Implied is the notion surprise is so bad it might even take time to set an elaborate trap just for you.
Fortunately, there is a cure of equally mythical proportion.  What is it?  Organization of course.  Plan ahead and you won’t get caught.  Surprise will see you coming, assess the situation, realize you are organized, and take its finger off the “execute” button.  Glory hallelujah your OCD has saved the day.  Or has it?
Growing up there was one thing I remember every kid loved; surprises.  Who didn’t love them?  And yet today everything is about removing surprise.  What’s up with that?
Personally I still love surprises.  It’s also one of the things I love most about aviation.  Despite the best efforts of the safety Nazis and their ceaseless promotion of flight condoms, it’s full of them.  So full in fact you don’t even have to be flying to experience all the gifts aviation has to offer.  Here’s a great example.
Recently Ginger and I chose to spend a day of doing "nothing" together.  Of course by doing nothing I mean nothing we needed to do and nothing aviation related.  So, off to Louisville we went.  Where we’d eat was undecided.  What we’d do for entertainment was undecided.  And even when we’d come home was, well, undecided. 
As with so many other planes, it is amazing how many survive yet sit on static display in museums.  This  one on the other hand flys 50 plus hours a year.
As it turns out, Monday the 10th was a perfect day of nothing. We ended up visiting an excellent restaurant during off hours and closed down a favorite antique shop.  After that we hung out in a book store.  Then during our next, “what do we do now”, I realized we had been having so much fun I had forgotten we were low on fuel.  Oops.  That generated the next excitement.
Driving straight to the nearest gas station was what we’d do next.  It would also place us next to  to the highway which led back to Indiana.  That would start us thinking of home.
Seeing us merge onto the highway, anyone familiar with horses would have described us as  "heading for the barn".  Mentally we were ready for the return trip.  But just as our discussion turned to things to do on the way, out of the corner of my eye I spotted something unmistakable, a Lockheed 12.
“A LOCKHEED”, I exclaimed.   Yes, it’s true, I said it like a kid who had just spotted a mountain made of candy, covered in chocolate, and sprinkled with the most addictive candy ever created, pretzel M&Ms.  But hey, it was a Lockheed.  You understand, right?
So there we were in a city we rarely visit, on a stretch of highway we never take, and going the correct direction at the very moment which would allow us to see the silver angel as is passed through a gap in the trees.  Try planning that.  A professional film crew would be hard pressed to make it happen.  And yet, it did. 
No more than five minutes later we had changed lanes, taken the first exit, made our way to Bowman Field, and found, to our surprise, a familiar Lockheed 12A sitting in front of an FBO.  It was our friend Joe Shepherd.
Ginger and I had arrived so fast, Joe wasn’t even out of the plane and yet the surprise of seeing such a beautiful aircraft on the field was already generating a crowd.
Click here to see Joe's web page for the plane.
Joe was surprised to see us, we were surprised to see him, and the rampers, flight instructors, and students were all pleasantly surprised by the aircraft.  Generally speaking, it was a great surprise finish to a wonderfully relaxed day which had started and ran to completion with no planning.
Can a lack of planning cause you problems?  Of course it can.  Remember, I almost ran out of gas.   Ultimately though, to really live we must embrace the randomness of life, for it is from there where the best moments come without warning.  Few greater things exist in the world than the unexpected sight of a friend, a chance view of a beautiful sunset, or a surprise hug.   Last Monday, our lack of planning brought us all three.

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