Johnson Cook

Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

Johnson Cook - Atlanta tech investor. Entrepreneur.

This Pilot’s Flying Nightmares


powerlinesAs a pilot, of course I have dreams about flying airplanes.

Although, occasionally they aren’t happy dreams.  Fairly often I’ll have a nightmare about flying an airplane that causes me to wake up very happy to have only been flying a bed for 8 hours.

I think most people would assume these nightmares are about engine fires, thunderstorms, mechanical failures, and just crashing in general. But turns out, none of these enter into my nightmares.

In my flying nightmares, I usually don’t crash. I normally end up landing the plane just fine and everybody walks away without even knowing there was anything out of the ordinary about the flight.

This is what my flying nightmares include:

I make bad decisions.  Every pilot secretly wants to buzz through a canyon or a crowded skyline… low and fast, impressing everyone on the ground.  In my dreams, every time I do this, I realize how stupid I am to be in the situation and desperately want my altitude back. I want to be far from the ground. I have action movie sequences of heading towards a canyon wall and just not having enough power to pull up at a safe rate and barely missing.   Same goes for power lines that sneak up (hard to see) and even flocks of birds that surprise you.   If I wouldn’t have decided to fly low, I wouldn’t be in that situation. It’s the worst feeling possible.

I include others. The worst part of these bad decisions dreams are the stress that is on me knowing I’ve put my family or friends in the plane with me.

I get behind the curve. This is when things are happening faster than I’m prepared for them to happen. Predictable, rehearsed, and controlled is the way to fly an airplane and survive. It’s the worst for a pilot. You cannot get “behind the airplane,” or it will punish you.

I didn’t prepare. In the most recent nightmare (last night, per the trigger of this post), we had decided that piling in the whole family and some friends in the plane to go somewhere fun was a good idea.  Turns out we were terribly overweight and I hadn’t run the most simple weight and balance calculation that every pilot knows is a big DUH!   I was thus, commanding a plane full of people that weighed more than the poor engine and airframe could pull into the air. The fictional event was survived, but so stupid it left me stressed out when I woke up.

The entrepreneurial metaphor: sometimes the things to be afraid of aren’t what you think or expect.  The dangers certainly aren’t usually spectacular. The things to fear most are the little things that you already know. Preparation and self awareness are the best avoidance strategies for these dangers.




Category: Gumption, Ideas
  • William Howe says:

    You need to add “Panic”, one of the biggest things I learned as Aircrew in the Navy is to control that fear or panic. By controlling it you can still operate and correct the problem. This applies to aircraft but also you own car, the boardroom, pitching and everyday life. Those who don’t get befuddled when problems arise can do great things.

    August 22, 2013 at 10:59 am
    • Johnson Cook says:

      Yep! And training is the best medicine for anti-panic, right? The few times I’ve had small issues in the air, I’ve never felt that there was any time to panic. There was too much else to do.

      August 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm
      • William Howe says:

        Unfortunately I have to admit that I’ve had more than my fair share of aircraft related emergency but that was the nature of the beast as the time. Panic or fear never played a role until afterwards on the ground and you think how close it was. But I never gave it up. I recently was waiting to do a shark tank type event and one of the panel asked if I was sweating yet. I told him no but was thinking he’d have to really work at it to get me to panic or sweating. The Navy cured me of that by trying to kill me.

        August 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

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