Are We There Yet?

Judgment is overrated.  The fact of the matter is, we have not been “here” before–the landscape of flight test is changing.  The tools we use to accomplish development of experimental aircraft are different and new.  We are breaking new barriers, technologically, and we won’t know we’ve arrived at our waypoint unless we establish concrete criteria for evaluation.  Not deciding ahead of time–claiming that we’ll use our engineering judgment–is a recipe for getting lost.

This is a VFR chart, a planning tool for pilots.  Before a pilot sets out on a cross country flight, he must determine how he is going to get from point A to point B.

Once enroute, the pilot evaluates his progress along the intended course using a clock, the map, and the ground.  Each of these permits quantitative measure, but they also highlight a characteristic of the use of analytical tools…and using them with judgment.

The intent of the pilot–and the intent with which we must lead through times of change in flight test–is to remain on course.  Zero error is the target, although unstated and unexpected.  Let me illustrate.

At thirteen minutes and thirty seconds into the flight, when the pilot sees that this much time has elapsed, he examines the map, the plan of execution, to see where he should be…at fourteen minutes into the flight.

He chooses a time in space slightly ahead of where he will be, to accomodate looking forward and navigating while flying. But it is an exact time, an exact place on the map.

I interrupt the narrative again to reemphasize the first distinction in the use of analytical tools.  They are not used with judgment.  They are used with concrete criteria.  When a decision is made, a line must be drawn in the sand upon which the decision is based and can be communicated, concretely, to others.

The plan is the first draft of these concrete criteria.  We have the sophistication, both technologically and intellectually, to adapt the plan when criteria are not met, but that is a discussion that we’ll continue in later posts.

We must plan to navigate through an exact time and place in our future. This is the challenge of leadership and the requirement for vision.

Any analytical tool that does not permit recursive and iterative adaptation, the art of navigation, does not belong in our kit.

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