Course Correction Flight 901 – 29 Nov 1979

I heard a story that has intrigued me. Dieter Uchtdorf related the account of a fateful flight of a tourists leaving New Zealand for a visual flyover of locations in Antarctica. Due to a faulty flight plan of only two degrees the plane crashed into the side of a volcano killing all on board.

There are so many lessons I have considered from this account that nearly thirty years later this disaster can still teach us.

Uncorrected Directions Can Lead to Catastrophe

This plane crashed because of an error as minor as two degrees in its flight plan. If we are driving down the road a two degree error is corrected without consequence. As we drive painted lane stripes keep us within safety bounds that are readily apparent. We, or those around us can easily see if we are in error. If however we are proceeding down life paths without apparent guides or making small minor errors in our navigation our destination make not be where we intended to arrive.

Who we Listen To for Advice

There is no lack of people with good, well-intentioned advice. Friends, co-workers, even family and friends may have the best of intentions but the wrong advice. Trusted people may be misled, ill-informed or worse malicious in their intend to disrupt and lead in error.

In the case of the Air New Zealand flight investigations found the 2-degree error was known before the flight was ever in danger. In a long chain of events including a briefing nearly three weeks before the flight the error was neither addressed or discussed.

Course Examination and Correction

Here is where the parallels of this flight and our lives intersect. During the years prior to GPS this flight relied on radio and navigation charts. Today GPS devices allow almost worldwide coverage of specific location data. Today, this flight would be able to monitor and more accurately pinpoint its location and make necessary corrections.

We require similar corrections. It is important for us to constantly evaluate where we are relative to our goals. If we have clear, attainable goals the path begins to take shape in front of us. As we journey along this path towards our goals we must be ever-vigilant as we proceed to ensure we are moving in the direction of our destination.

Humble Enough to Learn

There is a balance we must make – achieving our correct goals or re-assessing priorities. If we believe we are on course for achieving our goals the efforts and choices we make today will get us there. As we become distracted or otherwise not moving in an appropriate direction we may reach our goals late or not at all.

Not to discount the roles others have in our lives, but we have many friends, family and colleagues who are also interested in helping us reach our goals. Some may have been where we are now, others are mere observers who can anticipate the outcome. In each case evaluation of their intent and instructions can be considered as you reach your goal.

Finally, never forget your goals and the destinations you want to reach are personally yours. They should be treated with respect, cause you to grow and give you a sense of accomplishment. Your happiness and success in life will come as a result of your efforts. Make the evaluations of your journey often and your corrections early to ensure you reach your goals.

“A Matter of a Few Degrees“, Dieter F. Uchtdorf,  Ensign, May 2008, 57–60
Mount Erebus Plane Crash“, Arthur Marcel, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland


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