We all want things done now. Not tomorrow or next week, but now. We are probably tired of hearing about how our culture ‘these days’ expects things instantly: fast food, music and TV on demand, and can your internet ever really be fast enough?
I love running, especially far, and in the mountains. In fact, I have a race coming up just this week in Lesotho. It’s a 50km mountain trail race, but let’s just call it a ‘run,’ as the only person I am racing against is myself. The aim of mountain running is to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some people ask me ‘on a 50km race, do you ever walk?’ After an embarrassed laugh, I usually answer, ‘the question is “do I ever run?”’ The thing is, sometimes the fastest way to safely and effectively reach your goal is to take it slow, efficiently and deliberately. If you get your head down and keep a slow to moderate pace, before you know it you’ll be there.
I mention this idea because thats what I’ve been feeling over the past few months, as I slowly chip away at flight training here in Lesotho. It hasn’t been fast, and there’s a good reason for this: For me to get fully signed out as a safe and effective MAF pilot in Lesotho, its a process, and not a simple checking of the boxes.
I started with local flights around Maseru, working at making the airplane more of an extension of my body before taking it into the mountains. Then, our chief pilot Bryan and I headed out for an overnight mountain checkout session. The majority of our airstrips here require new pilots to practice at them with an instructor on board, to ensure we understand every intricacy of them before going at it alone. We had a successful time, and managed to get 7 airstrips completed, after sweating it out doing landings, aborts and emergencies until I dreamed about them.
One of the reasons we don’t rush this process is because a key element to our safety structure is something along the lines of ‘If you are unsure about something, then don’t do it.’ If you have doubts about the wind conditions and your ability to handle it then don’t go do it. If you have a doubt that the airplane is 100% set up to land during your final approach then back off, get out of there and try it again.
So, pretty soon I will get to start operating to those 7 airstrips. Building experience and confidence, and then slowly we will add on more airstrips, little by little.
Sometimes it’s hard to not rush ahead and try and advance faster. Saying ‘no’ when the weather is marginal isn’t fun, or deciding to not land and collect a sick patient because the conditions aren’t safe, is a hard thing to do. Ultimately it means we can go out next time and try it again, day after day and year after year.
We couldn’t be effective in our mission here if we were unsafe, and to be safe, you have to take it slow. Like I said, the fastest way to run uphill is to walk.