Aviate, navigate, communicate

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kyle Wilson
  • 39th Operations Support Squadron commander
Aviate, navigate, communicate!  This is the first lesson we are taught in Air Force pilot training.  Does this seem simple?  Yes it does, but when things can go drastically wrong in less than a few seconds this prioritization is ultimately the formula that will save our life, keep the aircraft safe and prevent us from hitting our wingman or the ground.  It is a tool, technique and procedure that is drilled into our subconscious, so when an emergency presents itself we have the skills and discipline to overcome the problem.  So, what does this flying lesson have in common with daily life at Incirlik?  Well, if it is applied correctly to daily life, many simple and complex problems can be managed, resolved, or avoided altogether. 


The first task in an emergency is to maintain aircraft control.  Again, this is a very simple concept, but it can be very demanding at times.  Many aviation incidents can be traced back to a point where the pilot was unable to perform this task and thus lead to a mishap.  If you pay close attention you will notice this happens to all of us.  We can become so engrossed in a work or personal problem that we lose focus of our daily responsibilities.  It is at this point when your wingman instincts should kick in.  Help our Airmen refocus, reprioritize, and ensure they understand that they are becoming task-saturated.  It is imperative to regain control.


The next aviation priority after maintaining aircraft control is to make sure you are going in the correct direction to the correct destination.  Although this seems obvious, there are many Airmen who lose sight of their destination.  This can be as basic as navigating daily activities such as attending a meeting or as complex as orchestrating an office relocation.  It is important to navigate all of your appointments and tasks so you stay headed in the right direction.  Another way to think about this is to determine what you want out of your career and make all of your decisions and actions based on your ideal end-state.


The final step in managing a flying emergency is to clearly communicate with your flight and air traffic control.  This type of communication can vary drastically based on the situation, but common to all scenarios is that it must be clear, concise and correct.  In our daily life we are in constant communication with each other.  We may not realize that even when we are silent we are speaking volumes through our non-verbal communication.  Be a good wingman and really listen to those around you.  Listen to what they say and pay attention to what their body language is telling you.  If you are struggling with an issue, let someone know so he or she can help you.  Communicate the problem and I am confident fellow Airmen will step-up to offer assistance.

Commanders at all levels strive to build winning teams by setting the standard, demanding excellence and creating a unit climate where every Airman is comfortable providing feedback focused on improvement.  This will only work when we all work together to accomplish the mission.  We can't complete the mission if we are not focused on the correct things. It is up to all of us to be a good wingman and help each other aviate through the emergencies, navigate by setting the standard and then communicate in a positive way to inspire those around us.