Challenge & Response:

Or how to talk yourself into landing inside an active Volcano

      Modern CRM teaches pilots the value of the Challenge and Response system for referencing checklists. Here is an example of how the system works.
      Have you ever found yourself circling deep inside the ancient rim of an active 13,000 ft volcano wondering how you got there? Then as you continue to circle have you felt the pressure mounting to decide whether or not to continue? Now is the time to reference the POH and find the correct checklist. If volcanoes are not covered in the Supplement Section you can pull out now to save face and just say, “It wasn’t in the book, so why risk it?” Most people would nod their heads in consensus and agree wholeheartedly that you did the right thing.

The Challenge:

      “I mean, look at the risks. Did you even contemplate the risks? Shame on you for even considering such a thing.”
      “First of all, isn’t there some kind of law preventing you from landing inside a volcano? I mean if there isn’t one, there ought to be. And isn’t the volcano inside a national park. That means it is protected. If you land there then you might be violating some kind of regulations. Plus, you’d be out of radio contact with flight control. What if something happened? No, you had better not go at all.”
      “What about the weather? There must be strong downdrafts coming off the mountain. Would you be able to climb out once you got in? And you know the volcano clouds over every day. You would not be able to see the mountain in the cloud. What do they say about clouds with granite centers?”
      “You also have to remember that this is an “active” volcano don’t you? It last erupted with a heavy lava flow only as recently as 1994. Can you imagine what would have happened if you had been there at the time? Hah, you’d be toast. Or soup. Not to mention that this particular volcano has been rated as one of the eight most dangerous volcanoes in the world! This baby is a pressure cooker. It can go at any time. Do you want to be there when that happens? Think about that.”
      “Not to mention that no one has measured the depth of the lake. You could easily hit a rock and sink the floatplane on landing.”
      “And there is basic chemistry to consider. Every one knows that volcanoes turn water into sulfuric acid. Haven’t you seen the movie? Landing there would certainly corrode the floats. You could sink on the spot. Apparently sulfuric acid will strip the flesh right from your bones. Yeetch!”
      “Worst yet, don’t you remember that volcano eruption in Cameroun where the vent gasses turned the water in the lake to a carbolic gas that killed every cow and cat and villager around for miles. Remember, the first reports said the Israelis had tested a Hydrogen bomb. That was the only way they could explain the mysterious deaths, because by the time they got there the gas had cleared and they found nothing but bodies. Even the cockroaches were dead. Even the fleas on the dogs were dead!”
      “Never mind all that,” says the Chief Pilot. “I checked the Pilot Operating Handbook and the charts don’t even go that high. This lake we are talking about is at 7,000 feet above sea level. You can’t extrapolate these charts so you really do not have a choice. The manufacturer has the last say in how this aircraft can operate and you can’t make it do what it won’t do. It was simply impossible anyway so why try? Besides you have your family to consider.”
      “Now, let’s forget all this nonsense and go for a beer.”

We have all been there.

      Challenges come from all arenas of your life: mental, physical, social. For some of us just getting up in the morning is a challenge. This type of challenge is wholly psychological in that you have convinced yourself there is nothing worth getting up for. The challenge here is to “face the day” if you are stuck in a situation where you have little control, or to “face the music” if you have recently messed up. A physical challenge is getting up in the morning after going on a bender the night before. A social challenge is facing your girlfriend after making out with her best friend while you were under the influence the night before. We have all been there.
      The pressures and decisions of our day-to-day lives are our challenges. Man’s response to these challenges has been to control the environment around him. To delay darkness he has constrained fire, to avoid rain he has built shelter, to foregoing famine he has bred the self-protecting poisons out of plants and the wildness out of animals, to protect against marauders he has fashioned spears, and to counteract pain he has chewed the bark of willows.
      When a hurricane blows away his shelter, however, or a flood washes away his livestock, man is really whistling in the wind. It is those times when man’s control slips away leaving nothing but the primitive rite of survival. Those mornings after are really when it would be tough to get out of bed, if you have a bed to get out of.

Natural disasters can ruin your whole day.

      Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wild fires, and earthquakes are all beyond our control and for the most part unpredictable. Most animals have evolved to have an instinctual fear of natural disasters. Birds fly inland from hurricanes; deer head for high ground in floods; wildebeest stampede from wild fires. Evolution has traced that protective fight or flight pattern into our survival instincts. Man, however, has the ability to learn from experience and can live with the worst of his fears. Besides, not all disasters are all bad.
      Volcanoes, like floods and wildfires, bring not only disaster, but good as well. They enrich the soil: floods and fires for the season and volcanoes for generations, leading to a confused state of a primitive mind. When they come they bring death and destruction, but when they finish they allow crops to thrive and civilizations to flourish. How does a society deal with that concept? When you live beside a river or a meadow, do you fear it’s destructive potential to swell into a flood or rage into a wild fire? Or do you view these landscapes as benign and serene? For the most part, I believe people see a river as a river and a meadow as a meadow and leave it at that.
      There is something decidedly different, however, about a volcano. A volcano can be nothing else. It cannot become a volcano. It is a volcano and therefore the potential or threat is always present.1 You may build your woven grass shelter or plant your subsistence crops on the side of a volcano, but when you look up from hoeing your cassava it is still a volcano. It is a hostile landscape that is only temporarily man’s to borrow.
      A majestic and awesome volcano towering over and dominating the landscape stirs the deepest fears of man. These fears are not just about running away, but something more spiritual. Those fears are of the unknown. The volcano inspires the imagination and fires the soul. The volcano makes man believe in gods and in other worlds. The volcano makes man wonder where heaven is when hell breaks loose. Fire and brimstone and obsidian projectiles disgorge from the bowels of the shaking earth. Steaming poisonous gasses spew forth. Erupted smoke and ash and dust turn the sky dark and the air becomes un-breathable. Molten rivers of red-hot lava destroy everything in its path. This is hell on the move. This is not a place for man.

The PropThrust Response:

      "Where do they want me to land the floatplane?

       Damn! Well ...ok.

       Anyone see smoke?"

Article and Images by John S Goulet

Write to PropThrust with your ideas of what is right from wrong and get published on Virtual Horizons.

Use the attitude indicator as your guide back to eBush Communications.

Top of this page.
Return to Knowledge Based Stories.


 Last modified on June 15, 2006 .
© Virtual Horizons, 1996.