Unreliable Winds

In general aviation, when a pilot is approaching an airport to land, we are required to listen to a field-specific frequency to get the weather report (ATIS). It will often sound something like this:

Rockford Tower information X-Ray, 0754 zulu.
Wind zero-eight-zero at eight
Visibility one-zero, light rain
Ceiling 2500 broken, 4500 overcast
Temperature four, dew point one
Altimeter three-zero-zero-three
ILS runway one and ILS runway seven approaches are in use
Clearance Delivery is 119.25
Ground control is combined with tower on 118.1
Advise on initial contact you have information X-Ray

All of the information in an ATIS report is helpful, but there are two critical pieces that a pilot is listening for – the altimeter setting and the wind direction/speed. The altimeter setting allows us to accurately measure the distance between the ground and the airplane. The wind direction and speed tell us which runway we should use. We always want to land INTO the wind. Landing with the tailwind risks you floating off the runway, something we want to avoid. 🙂

This past week as I was completing a flight and coming into land at an airport, I switched over to the frequency and listened carefully for these pieces of information. The altimeter setting was 30.06 and the winds were “unreliable.“

I chuckled, thinking if that wasn’t a metaphor for our time, I don’t know what is.

These days feel we’re all flying in unreliable winds. We’re being blown in all kinds of directions that feel scary and disorienting. We are trying to land safely, but the forces of politics, power and change are making our journeys feel dangerous. Our natural instincts are to cling to control. We tighten our hands on the yoke of what brings us security – our jobs, family and money. We think, “It’s up to me to see us safely through. I better be in command.”

But that is exactly the wrong thing to do.

When good pilots encounter turbulence, they LOOSEN their grip on the yoke. They trust that the plane is designed to fly, adjusting to the wind to maintain steady, stable flight. If the pilot grips the yoke tightly, it makes the plane less able to adapt. It increases the risk to the flight.

Instead, in the greatest turbulence, you learn to “fly loose.” Holding the yoke gently between your fingers, you let the plane do what it was designed to do – fly straight and level. You may need to make corrections to help increase stability, but trying to control the plane reduces the flexibility needed in the aerodynamics of the plane to fly as safely as possible.

We are flying in unreliable winds these days. So, lighten your grip and see if your life begins to fly more smoothy.

We are in this together,


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