Top of Mind Thursday – January 11, 2024: Flying High

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Since the start of the year, we’ve seen two scary incidents involving in-flight aircraft.

In the first, a JAL wide-body plane burst into flames when it collided on landing with a Japanese coast guard plane about to take off from the same runway. Five people on the coast guard plane were killed, but everyone on the JAL flight survived with only a few minor injuries.

Then, three days later, a piece of the fuselage blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight shortly after it left Portland, OR. The plane was able to return to the airport and land safely without losing any passengers or crew.

Two incidents this close together may feed a fear of flying in some people, but there’s good news here.

First, safety procedures really do work. The JAL crew followed procedures to evacuate all passengers and crew in minutes, in spite of fire and smoke filling the cabin. The flight crew on the Alaska flight followed procedures for handling a rapid depressurization and brought the aircraft to the ground without further incident.

That’s not to say the people involved aren’t traumatized by these events, but they could have been a lot worse. In the case of the Alaska flight, it was sheer luck that no one was sitting next to the door plug that blew out. The JAL situation was helped by the fact that passengers followed crew instructions and left their carryon baggage behind as they exited the aircraft using only some of the emergency evacuation slides.

Second, in both cases, forensic teams immediately jumped into action to determine what caused the incidents. In the case of the Alaska flight, the NTSB and FAA immediately called for grounding all similar Boeing aircraft until they could be inspected and deemed safe. United Airlines found loose bolts on several of their planes, other potential tragedies have been diverted.

The last fatal airline crash in the US was in 2009, likely caused by pilot fatigue. It’s safer to fly now than it is to drive on your local freeway. We have systems in place to analyze incidents like this and take swift appropriate action to see they don’t occur again.

What processes do you have in your organization to review failures and learn from them? Are you prepared to take action to change direction when necessary? Do you have a plan for how to quickly respond to a serious crisis?

We can’t avoid all failures, but how we respond to issues when they occur separates those who will continue to soar from the ones who drop out of circulation.

Check out our marketing leadership podcasts and the video trailer for my book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters.

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