On September 4, 2007 I first introduced you to Michael Panebianco who is a seasoned airline captain.  His infamous “Fire in the Plane” idea map was one of many emergency procedures he has mapped in order to commit the responses to memory. This is a revised idea map that he created after actually experiencing a fire during one of his flights earlier this year. I’ll let him tell the story in his own words.

“The “lightbulb moment” that I had was the actual visualization of the original map during a high stress and adrenaline situation.  While there are checklists to perform, and guidance from aircraft manuals and procedures, the one thing they leave out is the human element.  The effects of adrenaline on the cognitive skills we need to operate a complex function can be detrimental.  This is why pilots train in simulators so frequently, and go through mental checklists every single phase of every single flight.  This map is a living pathway that I created to complement the existing checklist for the emergency procedure.  The one I created previously, and you posted, was produced in conjunction with the existing procedure and “training” events experience.

The new map was created after experiencing the actual condition.  For confidentiality purposes, no identifiable information is enclosed, and in no way do either of the 2 maps reflect any operating procedure from any company, or any governing agency.  This is my personal interpretation of priority, thought process, and motivation to deal with a smoke/fire situation on an aircraft.  I have removed references to checklists, as they are run continuously from the identification of any problem.

The biggest challenge in any emergency is to keep present in the fight.  While it is stressful and our fear is a constant detriment, the map is a way to keep priority, and keep moving into the problem and towards a successful outcome.  I could teach a 2 hour seminar on this type of situation and still not cover the quality a good idea map can bring to our efforts of resiliency in conflict.  In keeping with the principle of practice makes perfect, I quote Coach Tony Blauer; “Practice Does not Make Perfect.  Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”.

The new map cleaned up associations and priority.  Memory, or immediate action items were consolidated with a warning for Oxygen use.  Rather than presenting the golden rules of aviation (aviate, navigate, communicate) in separate terms, they are now coupled for clarity, and flexibility.  Sometimes they are interchangeable in order, and should occupy the same root idea.  The scenario dictates the order.  Firefighting was also consolidated.  There are many variables, and they fit under this new common heading.  They all lead to an arrival, and the manner in which that arrival is made.

The arrival and landing have been added to the map due to the possibility of dealing with an ongoing problem once on the ground.  Passenger communications have been omitted from the map, as they are assumed, and every situation will call for a different approach.  After conferring with attendants, a decision on the communications will be made for the cabin.

The new map is more concise, and flows a bit better.  It takes more into consideration, and omits things that are mostly covered in the checklists.  A mental plan is the true goal.  After experiencing it for real, even though the problem was handled early, nothing teaches like experience.”