-V1 and Life’s Decisions

V Speeds

V Speeds

“Are you ready?”

I release the brakes and smoothly push the power levers forward to the takeoff power setting for the day. My right hand stays on the power levers, guarding them, and to be immediately able to pull the power to idle if something major goes wrong, and the takeoff needs to be aborted. My left hand is guarding the steering ‘tiller’ on the left side of the cockpit, and is standing by if any major emergency steering inputs are needed. We are, however, going straight down the centerline of the runway by using my feet on the rudder pedals that are connected to the nose-wheel steering. My co-pilot holds the yoke in her right hand and applies the appropriate crosswind correction through the ailerons.

“Power Set.”
“80 Knots Cross Checked.”

Upon hearing “80 knots”, my left hand moves from the area of the tiller to the yoke. We have now gathered enough speed that the aerodynamic rudder at the back of the airplane has sufficient air flowing over it to provide enough ‘rudder authority’ to keep the airplane straight.

“My Yoke”, I call as my co-pilot releases her grip.
We continue the takeoff, gathering speed, until I next hear…

“V1” (Vee One)

Hearing “V1” from my co-pilot, I now take my right hand off of the power levers and firmly grip the yoke with both hands.


The airplane yaws to the left… I instinctively add right rudder to keep the airplane tracking straight down the runway.

What to do???

We are still on the ground, but going very fast!

  • Maybe we should try to stop on the runway remaining in front of us. Can we stop on the runway remaining in front of us?
  • Maybe we should try to get the airplane to try to fly on the one engine that is still producing thrust? Will it fly? Will it climb?
  • Maybe we should just throw our hands up in the air. It is inevitable we are going to crash.
  • Maybe we should turn to each other and discuss the pros and cons of our options.

Oh that’s right. We don’t have TIME to discuss things. We’re a little busy.


What to do?

What to do?

What to do?

The answer my friend, is in the first two sentences of this essay. “Are you ready?” “Ready.” The decision(s) have already been made.

Let me explain.

V1 is the takeoff decision speed. Better defined as the ‘first action’ speed. If the pilot has not started to abort the takeoff (by pulling the power levers back, and/or applying the brakes, and/or deploying the flight spoilers, and/or deploying the thrust reversers), by default he (or she) is now going to continue the takeoff with the remaining thrust available. Remember my moving my right hand from the power levers to the yoke? My hand is no longer poised to pull the power levers back. It is a commitment to fly. We are not going to try to stop.



Also part of the equation is the concept of ‘accelerate stop distance’ and ‘accelerate go distance’.

Prior to achieving V1 speed, if an engine fails, or something else bad happens (such as hitting a deer), the crew has enough runway remaining in front of them to stop the airplane. Accelerate stop.

Conversely, after achieving V1 speed, if an engine fails, or something else bad happens (like a blown tire), the aircraft is still capable of accelerating to rotation speed (Vr), and reaching an altitude of at least 35 feet by the end of the runway. Accelerate go.

The concept of V1 is just one small part of the safety net when you fly in a transport category airplane. All of these performance considerations are taken into account as part of the preflight planning, in the pilot training, and in the aircraft certification. Decisions of what to do, when confronted with an event that requires immediate action, I refer to as ‘pre-decisions’. If this – then that.

These concepts cannot always be 100% correct, but by thoroughly considering potential situations in advance, we can help to load things in our favor, and increase safety. This is a way for us to expand time.  Pre-decisions are a way for us to manage time to our advantage.

So, here is the question! What does the concept of V1, and pre-decisions have to do with the way we live our lives?

It could be as simple as the decision to not answer your cell phone while you are driving. A pre-decision… you have weighed your options in advance. If it rings, the potential cost of answering it is unacceptable. Similarly, and even more importantly, absolutely – NO TEXTING while driving.

It is possible for the idea of pre-decisions to be as broad as fighting fatigue. If I am scheduled to fly across an ocean tomorrow, it is imperative that I get a proper night’s sleep tonight. If this – then that.

It might be as important as marriage vows, when both partners pledge they will love each other “for rich or for poor”, “in sickness or in health”. They cannot foresee the future, but the answer remains constant. When faced with questions and threats, their pre-decision will provide direction and answers. I will love you… no matter what.

How can you, yes you, use the jet pilot’s concept of V1, and of pre-decisions to better your life and the lives you come in contact with?  Are there answers that you can come up with now, that will be good solutions to the problems you might be faced with in the future while on life’s journey?

Here’s to coming up with some answers before you need them. Good luck with life’s questions.

“Are you Ready?”

Epilogue; Oh, and the Engine Failure After V1? We continued the takeoff, reached rotation speed, rotated the airplane, raised the gear and climbed to 1500 feet above the ground. It was determined that we should not attempt to restart the failed engine. We returned to a successful single engine approach and landing to the runway we had just taken off from. We were in a simulator. The instructor was able to check a few more boxes on his form. Just another day at the office…

Training Simulator

Training Simulator


The Year Ahead

The Year Ahead

“Hello Friend!”

There is a song from the Musical RENT, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure… Measure a year?” That is what 2013 will hold for me, and for you. No more, no less. How will we use it, invest it, spend it?

Life is a balance. It seems if we want to do one thing, something else has to be left behind. So, we must choose. There are givens in my life. I fit in what I can around those givens, those nonnegotiables. If I am asked to fly for work, I fly. It is an irregular schedule, but it (the flying schedule) is a nonnegotiable. Some weeks I don’t fly at all, and sometimes I am gone for over a week straight. If I am in town, I attend church and sing in choirs for two services on Sunday mornings. If I am in town, I attend Thursday night choir rehearsal. If I am in town, I take a piano lesson on Thursday afternoon. I get to choose what to fit into the time that is left over.

Unlike a person who works 8:00 to 4:30, five days a week, every day is different for me. I like the variety! But, with that variety and freedom comes the responsibility to not waste time. I need to fill the voids constructively. There are times when the schedule just gets jam-packed. It sometimes feels like one activity segues into the next, and I don’t have a chance to come up for air. I tend to have many different interests, and want to do it all. Now! I need to be more cognizant of choosing well, and doing what is important in the long run. The important things involve others. Am I making a difference? Are you making a difference?

Resolutions at this time of year often involve losing weight, or trying to improve one’s health. But the resolutions fall by the wayside, and after a few weeks are forgotten. Let me try to put this concept into perspective.

If you lose your health, everything stops. Period. There are people who spend their whole life earning money, but at the expense of their health. They then spend all their money trying to regain what they have lost. Wouldn’t it be better to not lose it in the first place?

So, invest in yourself. Do it for yourself. Do it for the ones you love. Do it for those who love you. But do it. You know what it means. You’ve heard it all before, but do it. Do it now. Eat the good stuff, skip the bad stuff. Eat less of it, and eat the smaller portions more often throughout the day. Exercise regularly. For me this should be running three times, swimming at least once, and biking at least once each week. Find an exercise buddy or group. It makes it so much easier, and you can hold each other accountable.

And get proper sleep. Sleep is when the body repairs itself and gets stronger, both physically and mentally. Sleep is a basic human need. Just like food and water, you need sleep. Shoot for eight hours. That means if you need to get up at 0600, you need to go to bed at 2200. Plan accordingly. Try to make it so you wake up when you are ready to wake up. If you need to, set an alarm as a backup, but try to make it so you really don’t need the alarm.

I get to choose. You get to choose. We could be unhealthy but rich, or be healthy and not rich. Given those choices, I would choose healthy every time. Make it a lifestyle. Make health one of the nonnegotiables. I believe health is the second best investment you can make. (Faith would be the first, but we’ll save that discussion for another time). With health all the other doors and possibilities open. Without health your options become limited.

Wishing you health in the New Year! But it is your choice. No one can do it for you. You are responsible for you. Invest in yourself. Choose well!