troller asked if I could see the runway. Well…Washington,
D.C. at night looks like an extravagantly lit Christmas tree.
Runway lights are kept low, and for a newcomer like me,
they were indistinguishable from road lights, car lights, mall
lights, house lights, a big merging maze of lights.
“Negative,” I said.
The controller put me on a 360. Coming around, he asked
again if I could see the runway. I couldn’t. Knowing that my
passenger was listening turned up the stress level. I casually
asked him if he could see the airport. No.
“Negative,” I said again to the controller.
Another 360. I strained to focus. After the third 360, I remembered I could ask for vectors. I did and to my relief, Runway 19 lined up in front of me. We landed and rolled to the
FBO, where my passenger, as quiet and composed as if nothing untoward had happened, got in his limo. Meanwhile, I
took a deep breath, tried to shake off the tension and regain
my confidence for the return flight.
As I lifted off, the engine missed. Climbing out, it missed
again, and again. I reported the engine roughness to ATC and
requested a climb to 12,000 feet, where I hoped I could diagnose
and correct the problem. I was reluctant to return to the same
controller I’d just spent too many 360’s with, feeling dumb. But
courage can show us where pride sets us back. So when 20
miles south of D.C. there was no improvement, I decided to turn
back, the risk of engine failure at night was too great.
I easily identified the runway, landed, and humbly returned
to the now familiar FBO.
It took until the next morning to find a reciprocating engine
mechanic in the turbine world of an international airport. The
culprit was fouled spark plugs. Not a big thing on the ground,
but a challenging uncertainty in the air.
In the meantime, making the best of a bad situation, I’d
spent the night at a four star hotel, did some post-trauma
shopping at the killer mall next door and spent every cent and
more I might have made on the flight.
With experience, I got proficient and comfortable in a Class
B airport. I went on to fly my 182 into DCA, LaGuardia and
Newark many times. What had initially tested my courage became another skill I mastered.
Where can your courage take you?
Line up on that runway, point your nose into the winds of
change and challenge, push forward those throttles, feel the
power of your courage as you rise above the chains of fear
We all deserve a chance to fly. Bon voyage! ✈
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Betty Shotton (WAI #41335) is the CEO and Founder of LIFTOFF LEADERSHIP LLC, and is a Partner with Berkana Consulting. She has more than 25 years experience as a CEO, Entrepreneur, and Leadership Consultant. Her business career started
at a Fortune 500 as an Internal Consultant and a Manager in
Human Resources. She is currently working on her first book,
scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011 with Beaufort
Books of NYC. Shotton spoke at the 22nd Annual International
Women in Aviation Conference.