Matt Hall teaches us all how to “take our lumps”

When we used to have a blog at the Plane Crazy Down Under show’s website, my co-host Steve Visscher posted this article about our friends at the Airplane Geeks Podcast. I’ve posted it here to preserve his words so they weren’t lost when the blog was shut down.

By now most of you have seen the dramatic footage of Matt Hall’s incident in Windsor, Canada.  A high G turn that went wrong saw him plunge downward, recover to wings level and do a little surfing on the river before climbing out to safety – all in a matter of seconds.

Although I’m not an expert on high performance aircraft such as the MXS-R, I’m fairly certain that it’s not an amphib, and to say Matt was lucky to survive with little more than battered pride and some cosmetic damage  is clearly an understatement.  The quick recovery to flight is testament to his high skills and military training.  The ability to instantly assess the situation and instinctively take the required corrective action is something that I believe certain pilots are born with.  The military training just perfects that ability.

There have been many articles written about the incident itself, so I need not re-hash it any further here, but the aspect of this story that fascinates me is the way in which Matt has handled the events that have followed since that day in Windsor.

Naturally, the event was reviewed by race officials and in the end, they decided that Matt would not be allowed to race in the following round in New York.  They also cited concerns about “dangerous flying” in the Rio round as well, although we don’t know any specifics at this stage concerning this.

So picture yourself as a Red Bull Air Race pilot, and being delivered this decision.  How would you react?  Speaking for myself, I felt a surge of anger just reading the news as it arrived in my inbox, and I found myself trying to picture Matt’s reaction.  Over the years, I have seen some of the other pilots take bad news poorly, even if it was only in the relative sanctity of the cockpit.  I can also point to more than one Formula One driver taking a negative decision equally negatively.  But here’s where this man impresses me the most, giving a  public response that almost causes me to feel childish at my own negative thoughts on the matter.  Rather than displaying anger, rather than lashing out at the decision, Hall instead chose to confront it and turn even this most negative of situations into a positive.  Rather than appeal, he chose to accept it as a learning experience, crediting this in his newsletter to his military training.  In accepting the sanctions imposed on him by the race committee, he says “what’s done is now done”.  He says his military career taught him how to accept an incident, positive or negative, and learn from it.  “I have only one option now and this is to look to forward to the future.”  He elaborates further in a report & video on his website.

This is an excellent example to all of us, not just as pilots, but as people.  All too often these days we see the shirking of responsibility.  It has become far too easy to look for other parties to blame, or to make excuses for failures.  While Matt’s incident was over in seconds, the lessons learned from it will make him a better pilot (by his own admission) and his mature, honest and positive handling of the sanctions that followed shows that there is a better way to handle things when they don’t go your way.

Matt is no stranger to our podcast, and we’ve been biding our time in the long media cue for our turn to have another chat.  We hope to do so later this week, and plan to release the interview as a special stand alone episode.  You’ve read and heard the generalized mainstream media coverage,  but we’ll cover it in the technical & specific manner that only a specialist aviation programme can do.  Keep an eye on the PCDU Twitter feed for a release date!

Update 2017-02-05: We spoke with Matt about this incident in Episode 36: Incidentally, Matt…

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