This is an exceptionally long article. It might be easier to print and read it over breakfast, or at bedtime.
This article is geared toward people who seem to continuously find themselves in adversarial situations, or as sometimes coined, "Stuck in the revolving door of the judicial system." In many instances, an individual finds him or herself stuck in the system, in large part because of whom they continue to associate with. Be aware, your friends may not have your best interest at heart.
In order to emphasize my main points of this article, I first need to discuss a number of related topics. So, be patient, read from start to finish, and perhaps you will find this helpful, particularly if you are one who is stuck in the system.
Many people have a tendency to serve their own needs. Everyone has their own agendas and their own Dragons to slay. Consequently, we humans are sometimes selfish and self-serving creatures.
This does not diminish the innate need many people have to help others as I have discussed before. When people are presented with the opportunity to help someone, and they believe the person they are helping is working to help him or herself, many of these people will generally provide that help. But, as I have alluded to before, the question remains, what is the core reason that underlies their charity? Is it completely out of altruism or benevolence, or is it because of the goodwill feeling that they receive?
As that pertains to you, and as it pertained to me when I needed that help, who really cares? I received the help I needed and the person helping me received their benefit. It was a win-win scenario. Nevertheless, you do need to understand that no one is going to chase after you and beat a path to your door to offer his or her help. You need to seek out your own destiny and there will be people along the way who will give you assistance. You will also face some challenges and disappointments. Don't worry about the instances where you can't get help - just focus on the next stop and keep looking for those who can give you help.
As an employer, I realize and understand the relationship between a company and its employees. There is only one fundamental reason why people came to work for my company. Sure, I provide a really neat environment. The company presents a high-tech, laid back corporate culture, fun people to work with, free snacks, our corporate puppy to play with, etc. But, the singular and fundamental reason that facilitates a congregation of people every morning around nine o'clock is money! Almost any other benefit could be removed and people would continue to show up every morning. However, if money is not a part of the equation, I guarantee that no one would come to work.
I frequently ask people during an interview why they want to work at my company and just listen to them regurgitate some rhetoric on the fly that doesn't amount to much more than a pile of manure.
Occasionally someone interviewing for a sales position would state straight out that their reason for wanting to work at my company was money! They were generally hired on the spot. The response that always caused me to really pull up my pasture-trolling boots is, "Because I love People." Uggg. Please don't ever use that line in an interview.
I don't know about you, but I go to work every day to make money. If you want an environment to exercise your love for people, join a church. If you want a job and you want to work, do it for the money.
The relationship between an employee and employer at its bare essence level is self-serving for both parties. When people come knocking for employment, I fully understand and accepted the fact that they are only there for their interests, to determine if this company could serve their needs, and if working at my company could satisfy their agendas. Guess what? I was only interested in hiring them if it would serve my needs and the needs of my company.
A corporation is an entity in and of itself, defined by law and in a very practical sense, as a "person," which has needs and agendas. A corporation is much like an infant. It is incapable of fulfilling any of its own needs. Infants and corporations need caregivers and fiduciaries - people whose responsibility it is to ensure the company's health and welfare.
As President & CEO, my primary job is to facilitate the needs, health and welfare, and overall stability of the company. Companies are narcissistic, selfish, self-serving, self-focused, self-centered, self-seeking and egocentric entities. Corporations and people alike are interested in what benefits accrue to them from a relationship.
Once you understand and internalize this fundamental fact - that people and corporations are interested in what they get out of a relationship, then you are able to form relationships that facilitate your agendas by appealing to the needs of the other.
I would like to believe that the genesis of various programs within my company was my humanitarian doctrine. With some companies I have owned, beginning in our first year, the company celebrated the Christmas holidays by giving its employees a paid holiday break from December 24th through the first weekday after January 1st. That generally equated to roughly ten days off, with pay, in addition to their normal paid vacation accrual.
Employees received a days pay for taking off on their birthday. National holidays and even company-invented holidays (Festivous) were paid in addition to an annual allowance of personal and sick days. In all, the company provided roughly 30 days a year off with full pay.
As the caretaker of the company who was obligated to serve the needs of the company, what justification did I have for implementing such programs? How did these programs serve the needs of the company? Did I implement these programs because I just love people, or was there a business case that supported the company's needs?
Indeed, my responsibility was to the company. The business case for our holiday break was simple. Business in American, excluding retail and few other industries, functionally shuts down between Christmas and New Year's. There is nothing significant happening from a practical business standpoint and payroll would be issued whether people worked that period or not. The payroll question was a wash.
Would the company's interests be best served by having people come in every day during the holidays and effectively take a vacation in a suit (since there was no real productive work), endure hours of boredom and frustration, their minds at home, longing for time off? Or, would the company's interests be better served by letting people spend time with their families and get the rest they need? Many of our employees enjoyed the boasting rights about the great benefits they receive from their great employer among their friends, who were still working during that season.
The benefits I implemented had a dramatic and positive affect on morale. People returned to work after the first of the year refreshed and energized - their sword and lance sharpened and ready to engage the Dragon in battle. The "Dragon" is a metaphor for life. Life is a Dragon. You either slay the Dragon (Life) or it will slay you.
One of our early advisors and minority shareholders suggested that employees could perform routine maintenance during holiday break. However, this was the same advisor who shared his signature methods when starting on a new construction project. The way he managed his new employees was the day his company started a new project and the union had sent a group to the worksite to staff the project, he walks out and fires one. Astonishing!
I'm not suggesting that one of us is right and the other wrong. I suppose we just have different management styles. It is interesting however, that the revenues of my company exceeded the revenues of his company in only a few years, and his company was roughly 60 years old! He inherited it from his Daddy, so he never did fully understand what it takes to actually build a corporation from scratch. If my recollection serves me well, I stopped listening to his advice right around the time he suggested that I just walk out and fire someone without cause, just to make a statement.
As an employer, I simply recognized the needs and wants of people and whenever possible, I implemented programs that appealed to those needs. The business case was that the company was the benefactor.
As an employee, it is important to identify the needs and wants of your employer, the company, your supervisor and your supervisor's supervisor. Serve their needs and you will definitely be served. Take your focus off of yourself and put it on others, and the benefits that will accrue to you will be bountiful.
Just as with professional and business relationships, people maintain friendships and interpersonal relationships for what they get out of it - not for the benefit of the other.
Why do men and women seek a partner - a significant other? We seek the fulfillment of our needs - not the fulfillment of the other's needs. Among other things, we seek physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual gratification. We seek an individual who can satisfy most of the needs that are the most important to us at that particular period in our lives. We forge bonding interpersonal relationships, akin to marriage or civil unions, with that one person who gives us the feeling of fulfillment of our needs - not with the person who we are able to fulfill their needs.
If your spouse or significant other fulfills your needs, and simultaneously, you fulfill his or her needs, it is the gratifications each receives - not gives that perpetuates the relationship.
You do not maintain these relationships because you love your partner? Although that is clearly a viable component in the relationship, it's foundation is based upon the fact - because they love you, which satisfies your need. When the needs are mutually satisfied, the relationship continues. However, it is critical to understand that people and their schedule of most important needs will change as they evolve through life. Your needs change and so do the needs of those people with whom you share a relationship. Relationships, whether interpersonal or business must maintain equilibrium, or they will dissolve. One must either rise to the level of the other, or one must lower their standards to achieve this equilibrium. Too often I see the latter. Don't lower your standards, but rather provide the inspiration for the other to rise.
As I stated, we form our closest interpersonal relationship with that one person who satisfies most of the needs that are the most important to us at that particular time in life. The needs that are the most important at any particular time are dynamic and will change. As we change and evolve, our needs change, and of particular importance, as we change, we may not be capable of fulfilling one or more needs of the other. If both parties of the relationship continuously examine one another's needs, they can make assessments as to whether or not they continue to satisfy those needs that are most important throughout their individual and collective evolution. Relationships evolve through a productive communication that achieves positive results and conclusions.
Relationships become dysfunctional for lack of awareness, understanding, consideration and attention to this fundamental premise. The survival of a relationship necessitates a continual communication and delineation of respective and changing needs, and the ability or inability of one to satisfy the needs of the other.
Through a healthy communication and understanding regarding each person's evolution and change, a relationship can not only continue, it can grow stronger because each are able to address and satisfy most of the needs that are the most important to the other. Furthermore, the expectation for satisfaction of a particular need that the other is incapable of fulfilling no longer creates tension when an open communication is practiced.
Marriages many times fail because one continues to have the same expectations of the other that were formed during the genesis of the relationship. Sexual expectations are formed when the relationship is in its hot passion phase. As time goes on, whether it is a year or fifteen years, the passion tends to fade, the frequency of sexual activity decreases and the gratification diminishes. Infidelity and its consequence is arguably a behavior of one who is re-seeking that fresh passion.
As two people in a relationship change and evolve, so do their respective needs. A person's individual needs directly affect their ability to fulfill the expectations of the other. If people recognize this and adjust their expectations of one another based upon the other's needs, they are capable of communicating and adjusting, resulting in the continued fulfillment of one another's needs that are the most important at any point in their respective evolution. This concept holds true for personal and interpersonal relationships as well as professional and business relationships.
Observe and adjust to the other persons needs and communicate your changing needs to the other person.
I believe that the relationship between men and women has a deliberate design by nature. I believe that women innately want a man who is going to treat them like a queen and provide for all of her needs. Women want their man to be a true warrior, a man who will conquer challenges, slay Dragons, be responsible and accountable, be a leader and provide for his family. If a man wants to keep a woman, he need not focus on that relationship. All he really needs to do is be the warrior his woman envisions, and she will have undying loyalty. Bear with me ladies, I'm genuinely not being sexist, condescending or chauvinistic.
I have met so many men who worry about the relationship with their spouse or significant other. The reason they worry is because deep inside, they know that they are not doing their part. Consequently, they try to keep a woman by force or some other Neanderthal method. These are the men who don't have the guts to really go out and hunt, battle and slay the Dragons. Instead, they lie around sucking their thumb and make excuses, and frequently blame their woman for their lot in life. They beat on their puffed out chest and declare themselves head-of-household. Those are the men who have more lead in their seat than steel in their backbone. A cursory examination of these men indicates that they wear their zipper on the side of their pants. The woman becomes the true head-of-household. Again, by the deliberate design of nature, where a man won't take action and fulfill his responsibilities, a strong woman will take over.
If you're a man reading this article, be a man, be responsible and accountable, and do whatever you need to do to provide for your family. If you're a woman reading this article and you are with one of those men who finds his zipper on the side of his pants, there are a lot of fish in the sea. Find a warrior. This also applies to same-sex relationships. Someone needs to be the leader, show their mettle and be the warrior.
People often use the word friend very loosely. We often refer to people who we know by name, our acquaintances and co-workers, classmates and our neighbors as our friends. In recent years, the popularity of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Google Circles, etc., have really exacerbated just how loosely people define friends. Does anyone really have two or three thousand friends?
It is important to understand the difference between a friend and those people who are merely acquaintances. We frequently consider co-workers, people whose name we know, relatives, and people who we simply find ourselves associating with because we live in the same neighborhood, work in the same place or otherwise share some commonality of interest as friends. Those relationships do not necessarily establish the requisite elements that really define friend.
Establishing a relationship of friend requires a conscious and deliberate decision, but only on the part of one person. The term friendship would suggest that both parties have made the deliberate and conscious decision to be the friend of the other. However, the relationship of friend is not always mutual and does not require that people consider the other to be their friend, or that they are the friend of the other.
I can make a choice that I am your friend. However, I cannot make the choice that you are my friend. The decision for me to be your friend is my decision - not yours, and the decision for you to be my friend is your decision, not mine.
You can freely give your friendship to anyone and it is critically important that you be judicious to whom you give your friendship. The decision to give your friendship to someone creates obligations and responsibilities. You have no control however, as to whether or not the other person gives their friendship to you. Therefore it is entirely possible that you can be a friend to someone and that person may not necessarily be a friend to you, and vice versa.
It is entirely possible that a person can be your friend and you are not necessarily their friend. As stated, being a friend to someone requires a conscious and deliberate decision, and that decision has nothing to do with the choice or decision that the other person makes with regard to him or her being a friend to you.
Making the decision to be a friend to someone means that you've decided that you will not judge him or her for whom they are, or what they've done in the past, or for their future aspirations or lack thereof. You accept them for whom and what they are. You may make suggestions in their best interest as you recognize potentials that they could pursue toward greater rewards, provided that those suggestions dovetail into that individual's pursuits and passions.
When you commit to being a friend to someone, you decide that when they make a mistake you will not chastise them, but rather, you will be compassionate and understanding, you will put yourself in their shoes, and you will try to help them resolve whatever challenge they may face.
As a committed friend, you will be available for your friend and make time for them when they need to talk, when they need counsel, and you will always try to give objectivity and help them work through any difficulties that they may be experiencing. You will allow them to make their own choices and decisions. Although their choices may not necessarily be the choices and decisions that you would make for your life, you will support their choices and support their decisions, provided that their choices will not lead to negative implications or consequences.
If you're a friend to someone, always remember that they are a completely different and distinct person than you, and that their goals, their aspirations and their dreams are different than yours.
When you're a friend to someone, you don't demand that they live up to your expectations. You attempt to help them recognize their gifts and talents, their skills, and perhaps most importantly, you try to help them identify what their passions are. Then you try to help them define, and set and achieve goals to fulfill their passions - not yours.
Now, turn everything I've been discussing here around and examine the people who tell you that they are your friend. Are your friends demonstrating the fundamental ingredients I have described and the compassion and caring of a friend? Who are your real friends?
Many a professional musician and artist were criticized and dissuaded, perhaps by parents, from pursuing their passion because that particular agenda did not meet the expectations that were envisioned by the parents. Don't place your expectations on someone else. Rather, mold your expectations around the passions of the other person and support the attainment of their aspirations and goals.
Based upon the definition of a friend, you can see that giving your friendship to another definitely creates some obligations and responsibilities. It is not easy to be a friend, but rather it is difficult and incorporates sacrifices. Conversely, remember this when you are looking at those individuals who claim to be your friend. Are they really your friend or just using the term for their personal gain?
As president and CEO of a young growing company I previously founded, I hired a large number of young people, primarily because in the early days we did not have the budget to hire people with vast amounts of experience.
Hiring young people presents a number of challenges. First they don't have a great deal of experience. However, as long as they had a good and positive attitude, were teachable and willing to learn, had the aptitude to learn the necessary components of their job, and were willing to embrace training and mentoring, I was prepared to work with these individuals and invest the necessary time to help them grow both personally and professionally.
One of the second challenges was that young people sometimes have a tendency to get off track, and they do things that are occasionally in opposition to the rules.
When I met a young person whom I felt had great potential, I also recognized that as a result of their youth there would probably be times that they would make mistakes and would need support. In these instances, I made a very conscious decision with those people that I was their friend.
I'm quite sure that there have been times that many of those young people did not even realize that I was their friend. Many of them thought their co-workers – the people with whom they hung out after work and on weekends, and everybody else were their friends. In their mind, I was just their boss. But when they were in need, when they made mistakes, or when they were in trouble, they then realized that I was their friend because I was the only person who was there backing them up.
When I made a conscious decision to be a friend to one of our young employee's, it meant that I knew there would be times that they would need my assistance, and because I decided I would be their friend, the support and assistance would be there when they needed it. It was not important to me that him or her be my friend. His or her decision to be my friend had nothing to do with my decision that I was their friend.
On average, there was a thirty-year age difference between many of these people and myself. Therefore, most of these people were not individuals that I interacted with on a social level. Our relationship was pretty much limited the work environment. However, I did not define the relationship of friend as to whether or not we shared social activities, or necessarily even had commonality of interest. I simply recognized that this is a person with potential, and in order for them to reach their potential, they occasionally need somebody who would stand behind them at times that they needed support. I was interested in providing support toward the personal and professional growth of our young staff, not assembling a group of people who would be friends to me.
I can vividly remember working for a man during my late teens that called me into his office after I had made a mistake. I remember my boss reprimanding me and saying, "Dave, as long as you're right, I'll always back you up one hundred percent." My response was one of bewilderment. There was probably ten full seconds of silence as I examined what an absurd statement that was, and what would be the best way of responding. After I had gathered my thoughts, I looked my boss in the eyes and said, "Sir, as long as I'm right, I don't need you back me. I can back myself if I'm right. I need you to back me up when I'm wrong."
I can also remember when I was probably 14 or 15 years old and the Vice-Principal of my junior high school, Vernon Rhoades, who I seem to have challenged on a frequent basis, once told me, "Dave, you probably don't understand this, but I am your best friend." At the age of 14 or 15, I'm sure I probably thought that this guy is full of malarkey. It wasn't until years later, as an adult, that I recognized the utter truth in that statement. When I reflect upon those adolescent years and the many discussions I had with Mr. Rhoades, I would venture to say that, not only was he my best friend, but also he was my only friend.
There are three fundamental points that I would like to emphasize in this discussion. The first, and probably the most important point, is to recognize who your friends are.
Your real friends are those people who are trying to provide help to you and are not looking for any return from you for their help. This list might include your parents, teachers, counselors, case workers, ministers, priests, employers, supervisors, probation and parole officers, some social workers, and numerous other people who have dedicated their life to assisting other people.
Your friends are those people who want to see you succeed, are there to help you solve problems and identify and conquer challenges. They're not necessarily the same people with whom you will interact socially, join on a picnic, go out with for dinner, or accompany to an amusement park. Those people are your pals - they're your playmates and your toys - but not necessarily your friends.
Your friends are those people who see you for who you can become - not for who you are today, or who you were in the past. They are willing to work with you, help you, and give of their time and their effort to help you stretch and grow and achieve your very highest potentials.
I can remember when I was eleven years old and was being scolded by my father for some behavioral infraction. As I recall, I was being disciplined and was told that I had to go to my room for the rest of the evening. I protested, as I apparently did not feel that the infraction was deserving of such a severe penalty as spending the reminder of the evening confined to my room. My defense was, "you're not my friend!" As my Dad looked at me, I could see compassion in his eyes and he said, "No David, I'm not your friend - I'm your father." He paused briefly, and said, "We will be friends later." Even at the early age of eleven years old, I genuinely understood what he was saying. I remember that I hugged him, and then went to my room for the evening. That was my last conversation with my Dad. It was that night that my Dad had a heart attack and died.
It is important to recognize that your true friends are not always going to tell you what you want to hear or sugarcoat the facts so everything appears peaches and cream. A friend will tell you the truth and be honest with you. They will help you identify challenges that you may not see, but that they recognize as challenges that must be addressed and conquered in order for you to move forward.
Your true friends will give little or no consideration to whether or not you like them. A true friend's mission in the relationship is to help you - to be your friend, not for you to be their friend. This is a decision that they have made, and it is not a decision that you have any part, or participation in making. A person's decision to be your friend is completely independent of any input by you. Whether you decide that you are their friend is completely immaterial and irrelevant to their decision that they are your friends. Recognize who your real friends are.
The greatest appreciation that you could show to your friends is not what you give them back, but what you do with what they give to you.
Conversely, and perhaps critically important, it is imperative to recognize who are not your friends. If you engage in activities and behaviors with another person or group of people that lead to undesirable consequences, then these people are probably not your friends.
Friends will not put you in a compromising situation where you could have negative consequences as a result of any mutual activities in which you engage. Your friends are not those people who maintain a relationship or interaction with you primarily for their benefit - or simply because your association and interaction provides them some kind of justification for what they are doing with their life. Your friends are not people who either dare you or otherwise pressure you to do things to somehow prove your loyalty to them. Your real friends will not support your excuses or your rationalizations to quit trying to succeed.
Make a written list of your friends. Ask yourself about each of your friends and whether they make some positive contribution toward you achieving your goals and dreams, and a healthy life of legitimacy and normalcy. Alternatively, are some of your friends holding you back, or otherwise corroborating your excuses so you can give up and quit?
If your current friends are not moving forward in a positive direction with their own lives, then they cannot be much help to you and your goal to move forward in your life. In fact, they will hold you down. If you make an honest assessment of your current friendships, you might conclude that it is time to let some of those relationships drift, and then find new friends.
A very fast and effective way of finding new friends is to go volunteer for something. United Way is a great place to start because it centralizes a plethora of different non-profit organizations that are always looking for volunteers.
When you volunteer for something, you will feel good about yourself, and you will be interacting with people who are in the workplace. You will make new friends, and you will be networking with people who can help advance your career.
I was flying full-time as a Learjet Captain in the early 1990's for a fairly large air charter firm. The company had a fleet of various jet and turbo-prop aircraft that numbered around thirty-five, and a staff of roughly forty pilots. Most of the pilots were cross-trained in two or three different aircraft, and I was type rated in the Learjet Models 25 and 35, the Cessna Citation, and the Israeli Westwind.
From a business standpoint, it made good business sense to capitalize upon the economies of scale by maintaining a minimum staff of pilots and maximizing their use. From a practicality standpoint, there were many times that crewing flights became very difficult because of the duty time limitations specified by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's).
Air Taxi or Air Charter operations are governed under a specific and stringent set of federal aviation regulations (FAR's) that fall under FAR's Part 135. If a pilot is flying an aircraft for him or herself or for the owner of the aircraft, those operations are governed under FAR's Part 91 - a substantially less restrictive set of guidelines.
Under FAR's Part 135, a pilot's maximum duty time is fourteen hours, and he/she must have a minimum of ten consecutive hours of rest before starting a new duty cycle.
Company policy required that pilots arrive one hour before a scheduled flight. Therefore, the duty cycle begins one hour before departure and ends a half an hour after landing. Because the company operated with minimum flight crews, the duty time limitations frequently conflicted with the scheduling demands of charter customers.
During my employ, there were times when a pilot would complete a duty cycle and sign off-duty, but then be required to sign back on exactly ten hours later, and that ten hour mark was the actual departure time of the next flight. In other words, the pilot was to allegedly arrive at the airport at the exact time the flight was to depart. There was zero pre-flight planning time. It amounted to fudging the paperwork to meet the regulations. There were also occasions when the company dispatchers simply asked pilots to fudge the paperwork. As the company grew larger, the frequency of scheduling and duty time conflicts increased as well.
My flying schedule kept me on the road twenty-three to twenty-nine days a month. As much as I enjoyed flying, I suppose there comes a point that any job becomes work. The flying part was great. I still love operating an airplane. Flying a Learjet is like strapping your ass to a blowtorch. The part that gets old is being out of town all of the time and never being able to make any personal plans that aren't subject to interruption by the telephone or pager. Pilots were on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Even Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays were frequently spent in a hotel room. Staying in nice hotels and eating in nice restaurants is fun for a while, but eventually it gets old too. How many times can you go to Disney World in Orlando before it isn't a vacation anymore? I've been there over twenty times.
The hardest part of flying corporate is the waiting. Hence, the reason I traveled with a computer and taught myself several programming languages. It was a great way to pass what is otherwise completely unproductive time.
Federal Aviation Regulations and flight safety are sacred to me. This is partly because of my unconditional decision to pursue a life of total legitimacy, partly because these concepts became thoroughly ingrained in me when I was teaching the aviation technologies, and partly because I have seen the results that occur when aviation regulations and prudent safety procedures are ignored.
Despite the intimidation from my employer to fudge the regulations, I never did. If I wasn't operating within the legal duty cycle, I didn't accept the assignment. If the airplane had any mechanical or maintenance issues, I grounded it.
My employer became unhappy with me grounding airplanes and the relationship grew tenuous. I felt the pressure that was exerted by my employer - holding my income and financial security over my head if I didn't place its policies above safety and regulations. However, I figured that getting fired from a job is better than picking aluminum out of my teeth.
The morale in the company was low. The pilots were being stretched beyond reasonable limits. Once morale begins to slip in a company, people begin to complain about anything and everything. I was cognizant of this, but it can be difficult to avoid when your interaction with your co-workers is comparable to living together. As an analogy to deteriorating company morale, my boss once said, "Half the fun of being in the Army is complaining about the Army."
My fellow pilots respected my attitude toward safety and regulations. They seemed to take delight in how I stood my ground with company management. Although my co-workers applauded my posture, management accused me of being belligerent. To some extent I was. It wasn't just the safety issues that eventually irritated me. Having worked in management for the company for a number of years, I knew the company and its management inside and out. I knew all of the little secrets, and I knew that management expected the pilots to follow the unwritten policies of the company - even if those policies conflicted with regulations and safety.
I departed from Cleveland on a trip to the West Coast. Before every flight, I conducted a thorough preflight examination of the aircraft and its systems. When the passengers arrived, it was my routine to have them board the aircraft and then make one final walk around the airplane to make sure that there were no abnormalities.
The Lear 35 is fueled through receptacles in the tip tanks that are attached the ends of its wings. From the tip tanks, the fuel free-flows into the wing tanks and can then be transferred to fill the fuselage tank by an electric pump. Fully fueled, the Lear 35 holds roughly 6,200 pounds, or 925 gallons of Jet-A fuel, which is essentially kerosene.
As a part of my walk around, I would visually and physically check to make sure that the fuel caps were locked and secure. The fuel caps are very conspicuously located, and it would be almost impossible to walk around a Learjet and not notice that one is not locked.
As we departed and were in the initial departure climb, the control tower radioed and said that we were streaming fuel from our left wing tank. I looked out at the tip tank, and sure enough, we were losing fuel rapidly. The airplane quickly began developing an imbalance since the left tank was losing fuel and the right tank was still full. When we departed, we were close to our maximum weight of 18,000 pounds. The maximum landing weight of the aircraft was 15,300 pounds - a difference of 2,700 pounds.
I had three concerns, the first being control of the aircraft. If it went too far out of balance, it would become difficult to control at the lower landing speed. I began transferring fuel from the right wing into the left wing. The second concern was landing weight. We needed to lose 2,700 pounds, or roughly 400 gallons of fuel.
Generally, if an aircraft has an emergency immediately after take-off, it dumps fuel through fuel dump valves to achieve the maximum landing weight. Since I was already losing fuel rapidly, I was faced with the choice of dumping fuel to meet the maximum landing weight, which added the risk of running out of fuel. Alternatively, I could consider landing above maximum landing weight. I elected to land over the maximum landing weight. The landing was uneventful.
As we taxied to the parking ramp, I reviewed in my mind whether or not I checked the fuel caps. I clearly remember visually and physically checking the security of both caps. After we parked, the line service manager who had fueled the aircraft could not even make eye contact. I found this disturbing since he was a friend of many years, or so I thought. I wondered if he had loosened the cap after I had checked it.
Within only a few minutes, I was called to the office of one of the vice presidents of the company. I sat in his office and he questioned me about the fuel cap. I explained that I had checked it and perhaps there was a mechanical issue with the locking mechanism. However, I was thinking that perhaps the cause was something more sinister. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out three employee warning reports that he requested I sign. One was for failure to check the fuel caps before departure, one was for landing over the maximum gross landing weight and one for poor attitude. I found it curious that these warning reports were completely filled out and in his desk drawer within ten minutes of the incident. I did not sign them.
A few weeks later, I was captain on a flight with a plane-load of attorneys from Columbus, Ohio. On the return trip to Columbus, we were completing our approach checklist and beginning the landing checklist.
The landing gear and the brakes on the Learjet are controlled hydraulically. In the event of a hydraulic system failure, there is a pneumatic system that "blows" the gear down with 1800 PSI of nitrogen. The breaks can be actuated using the pneumatic system as well.
When the landing gear is down and locked, there are micro-switches that make contact and illuminate three enunciator lights in the cockpit, indicating that the two main gears and the nose gear are down and locked.
We were on approach to OSU airport in Columbus. We extended the landing gear and had green down and locked indicator lights for the two main landing gears, but no green light for the nose gear. We tested the light bulb and it was working fine.
I suspected that the problem was simply dirt in the micro-switch, preventing it from making contact. We cycled the gear a couple of times - raising it and then lowering it again. There was still no light that positively indicated that the nose gear was locked down.
The nose wheel steering on the Learjet is electronic. There is another micro-switch that must make contact before the nose wheel steering will work. Once the nose gear is raised, the switch breaks the electrical circuit and disables the nose wheel steering. If the nose gear was down and locked, the electrical circuit for the nose wheel steering should be closed. I turned on the nose wheel steering and the enunciator light came on indicating that the micro-switch was closed and the nose wheel steering was operative. Since the nose wheel steering micro-switch was closed, there was a reasonable certainty that the nose gear was down and locked.
From a pilot's perspective and an understanding of the Learjet's systems, I was certain that the nose gear was down and locked. However, this flight was governed under FAR's Part 135 which require a strict adherence to the manufacturer's operating manual.
According to the manufacturer, the only positive and approved indication that the nose gear is down and locked is the green nose gear down and locked enunciator light. Therefore, even though I was quite certain that the nose gear was down and locked via secondary verifications, my common sense and system cross checks were not an approved method to serve as a positive indication. At the very least, it would be embarrassing to land and have the nose gear collapse, particularly with a bunch of lawyers on board.
We declared an emergency and asked to be placed in a holding pattern as we consulted the landing gear abnormality checklist. To give every assurance that the gear was down and would not collapse on landing, we extended the gear hydraulically, and then actuated the pneumatic gear blow-down system. With the additional 1800 PSI of nitrogen on the gear from the pneumatic system, the gear was not going to collapse. I told my co-pilot to advise the passengers of the situation and to make sure their seat belts were securely fastened.
We radioed air traffic control and advised that we were prepared to land. My plan was to touch down on the main gear and then hold the nose gear off as long as possible, thereby reaching the slowest possible speed before the nose gear touched down.
We made a textbook perfect approach. The main gear touched down and all of a sudden, the nose gear slammed down with such force, I was surprised it didn't break off. The airplane was decelerating rapidly, I had no lateral or steering control, and it was heading toward the edge of the runway. The touch down and roll-out was anything but routine.
As the airplane came to a stop, I began shutting down the engines and all of the systems. I turned to my co-pilot and calmly said, "Evacuate the airplane." I never saw him move so fast.
As I got out of my seat, I took the fire extinguisher that was located behind the co-pilots seat. I was concerned that we might have a fire from over heated brakes. I stepped off of the airplane and looked under the wing to see all four main gear tires were blown, completely worn down almost hitting the rims.
Obviously, the brakes were completely locked on landing. How that was possible was a complete mystery. Luckily, the airplane had new tires installed the previous day. This was the first flight on those new tires. Had the tires been older and more worn, it would have destroyed the rims and wheel assemblies, which on a Learjet run in the twenty-thousand-dollar apiece range.
The airport fire & rescue team arrived and took the passengers to the terminal. A maintenance crew placed the airplane on dollies and towed it to a hangar. After completing a report, my co-pilot and I rented a car and made the drive back to Cleveland.
The next day, I was asked to report to the same vice president who gave me three rather quickly prepared warning reports for the previous fuel cap incident. He already had another warning report prepared for landing with the brakes locked. I suggested that we might wait until maintenance determines what happened. He insisted that it had to be pilot error. This guy was just such a weasel, and the only reason he was a vice president, or even had a job, was because he went to school with the company president.
It was apparent that the company, or at least this vice president, wanted to stuff my personnel file with bogus warning reports so he could justify firing me. Admittedly, I was a thorn in his side, or perhaps I should say, the Federal Aviation Regulations were a thorn in his side. All I did was abide by the regulations.
I contacted a friend who was an inspector with the FAA. I explained the situation and asked that the FAA observe the maintenance inspection on the Learjet I landed in Columbus. He assigned an inspector to oversee the maintenance inspection.
As I mentioned before, the landing gear and the brakes on the Learjet are hydraulic, and both have a high-pressure pneumatic emergency back-up system. There is a lever in the cockpit to actuate the emergency pneumatic gear system, which sends 1800 PSI of nitrogen into the landing gear hydraulic lines to blow the gear down. There is a separate lever that can be used after landing to divert pneumatic pressure to the brakes. Both the emergency gear and brakes are served from the same 1800-PSI nitrogen bottle.
As the maintenance crew inspected the airplane, with the FAA observing, it was discovered that the pneumatic lines that route high-pressure nitrogen to the landing gear and brakes had been crossed. The line that went from the pneumatic braking valve was routed to the landing gear, and the line that went from the emergency gear blow-down valve went to the brakes. Consequently, when we actuated the lever that controls the valve that releases the 1800-PSI of nitrogen to the landing gear, it actually went to the brakes. When we landed, there was 1800 PSI on the brakes.
There was no way we could have known that the 1800 PSI didn't go to the gear, but went to the brakes instead. We already had the gear extended hydraulically. Putting the 1800-PSI pneumatic pressure on the landing gear was just added insurance.
If our emergency had been an actual hydraulic system failure, and we had to extend the landing gear strictly using pneumatic pressure, we would have known that the pressure did not go to the landing gear because the gear would not have extended. However, there still would have been no way of knowing that it went to the brakes. Most pilots would have concluded that the gear did not extend either hydraulically or via the emergency pneumatic system because of a blown hose or leak in a line.
A hydraulic system failure preventing us from extending the landing gear hydraulically or pneumatically would have been an even worse situation.
If we had miraculously concluded that the 1800-PSI nitrogen pressure went to the brakes, that pneumatic pressure would have been spent on the brakes, and there may not have been adequate pressure to extend and lock the landing gear. Further, if the landing gear would not extend by using the emergency gear down lever, I'm not sure that either my co-pilot or me would have even thought that perhaps we should try extending the landing gear using the emergency brake lever.
I never found out how these pneumatic lines were misconnected. I thought it was a poor design that the receptacles were of identical size, and they were not even color-coded to prevent them from being cross connected.
I have no way of knowing if those lines had been improperly connected since the airplane left the manufacturer, or if they had been inadvertently switched during subsequent maintenance.
At the time of this incident, management seemed to have a petulant attitude toward me, and my adherence to regulations and safety. I wondered what had occurred the previous day when the tires were changed.
Changing tires on an airplane requires that it be jacked up off the ground. Conspiracy theories are generally for crackpots or people who otherwise have way too much time on their hands. The thought simply crossed my mind.
Interestingly, that incident became a part of Learjet initial and recurring training at FlightSafety International. In the event of a hydraulic failure, if the gear does not extend pneumatically with the pneumatic gear down handle, then try extending it with the pneumatic brake handle. It is also my understanding that Learjet began color-coding the lines and connections so there would be less likelihood of the lines getting crossed.
After the fuel cap and the locked brakes incidents, I was measuring the support I might receive from other pilots if I choose to pursue either civil remedies or a grievance through the FAA. My co-workers and I all believed that the company management was intimidating pilots and expecting them to compromise safety for the sake of profitability.
I had 100% support from all of my friends. As I prepared a grievance to file with the FAA, I was eventually fired. Out of all of those friends, there were only two, Craig and Bob, who stood up for what was right. The rest of my friends rolled over and wet themselves. They were still complaining, but too afraid to stand in unison. All of those supporting people had their own agendas, but they were never my friends. That was a powerful lesson.
From that experience, I learned to only count on those individuals who I know have made their decision that they are my friends. I am a friend to many, but very few are a friend to me. I have no issues with that - it is just important to know who your real friends are.
When I started my company in 1995, most of my friends thought I was nuts. I was starting a company that would compete with a few dozen billion-dollar giants. I reflected on the previous experience I had regarding my friends.
If you have ever gone fishing for crabs, you know that one crab in a bucket will crawl out. The way to keep a crab in the bucket is to put in another crab. As one climbs out, the other will grab on and pull it back down.
Sometimes friends will hold you back because they fear that you might leave the nest. Sometimes people can be like crabs in a bucket. If you try to climb out and move on to a more prosperous life, your friends might try to hold you back. They won't grab on and physically pull you down. However, they might just criticize your direction and mock whatever it is you are doing.
If you have a friend who ever mocks you for taking positive steps forward, you might want to consider letting that relationship drift. Move on and focus on your destination. When you arrive at new and better destinations years later, you will look back at that friend, and you will be astonished to see him in exactly the same place you left him.
Volunteer for something. You will meet a whole bunch of genuinely good people who are also volunteering. Some may become your friend and you may become a friend to some.
There are hundreds of organizations that assist various people in need, or that advocate for important causes. This is the place you will find people who are moving in a positive direction. You will become networked with people, and these people will become your new friends and peer group. They will help you move forward, and as those relationships grow, you will help them as well.
If you're caught in a cycle or your life is stagnating, make the deliberate evaluation.
Are your friends really your friends?