Air Canada and running out of fuel
Many years ago, a Boeing 777 ran out of fuel over Manitoba. It was a famous near-disaster.
A colossal jet, full of passengers. Thirty-three thousand feet, no gas, and no power. Sudden quiet, deathly quiet.
Without power, the pilots skillfully glided the plane to a safe landing at an abandoned WW2 airstrip in Gimli, Manitoba. The mind fairly boggles. A 300-ton glider, one shot at a safe landing, and they made it.
A book was written about the adventure. I read it with interest and took away a program lesson.
Running out of gas was not a single mistake; it was the culmination of a series of compounding errors. The flight started in Montreal, and the fuel gauge in the cockpit was not functioning, so they had to measure the fuel in the tanks with a dipstick. This old-school method was a standard procedure, but the dipstick was calibrated in imperial measurements, and the pilot thought it was metric. The calculations were therefore flawed with wrong information. The plane stopped briefly in Toronto, and another ground crew error meant that the low fuel condition was missed again. Broken gauge, manual measurement, incorrect units of measurement, bad calculation of fuel in the tanks, even a last chance to correct. A series of mistakes. The result — they ran out of gas.
This story came to mind as I listened to an AA brother describe his recent slip back to drinking. Before he relapsed, he ceased his morning prayer and meditation practice, stopped going to meetings, lost touch with his sponsor, and drifted away from the program. A series of mistakes. The result — he went back to drinking.
One step away from the program was not enough; he needed a series of steps.
Airplanes are robust; one error will not cause a crash. It requires a series of mistakes to create a disaster.
Our spiritual maintenance program is robust; it will not fall apart with one step. It takes a series of steps to create the disaster.