I just finished the refresher training for my Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate. This is the eighth time I’ve renewed it since my last check-ride. Yet, for some reason, this time seemed unusually focused on mishaps. Granted, the lessons focused mostly on avoiding them, and surviving them (when they couldn’t be avoided), but mishaps nonetheless.
This year, I had lessons on avoiding and surviving:
- mishaps in the mountains
- mishaps in helicopters
- mishaps in seaplanes
- mishaps while teaching student pilots
- mishaps in bad weather
Then, as a break in training, I watched the Weather Channel’s “Why Planes Crash.”
Yeah, that was relaxing.
Yet, after all this, I can’t wait to get to the airport and go flying, again. I really enjoy flying so why focus on all this negativity?
So it won’t happen to me. I hope that I never need to apply any of this information, directly. At the same time, I hope to apply what I learned about these mishaps all the time–not just while flying.
Most of the mishap scenarios could be summed up as:
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Which applies to just about any aspect of life.
I’ve had a lot of flight training in the 40+ years I’ve spent hanging around airports. The bulk of it–70-80%, I’d guess–involved dealing with emergencies (the rest delt with how to avoid them in the first place). So far, fortunately, these emergency scenarios have only happened to me in training scenarios. While I have a story or two to tell about when things didn’t go exactly as planned, the vast majority of my flights were quite safe.
So, if the probability of an inflight emergency is very low, why spend a disproportionate time in training for them? Because, while they are very low-probability events (0%, ideally), they are very high-cost events.
Is it worth it to spend all that time training for something that is not likely to ever happen? You betcha!! I’m sure the people who fly with me would agree!
What does any of this have to do with technical writing? It’s like I posted in this post on in-flight reading material, some topics provide a little value many times, while other topics provide a great deal of value, but infrequently. The value of content that results, somehow, in a financial transaction is relatively easy to compute: subtract the cost of producing and promoting the content from the gain it provides. Computing the value of content that provides great value but only infrequently, much harder.
Like the flight training that’s kept me from having an accident, how do you measure the value of events (accidents, misunderstandings, errors, etc.) that have been averted or costs that have been avoided?