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Ups and Downs

Posted by Philip Smith on 12 June 2017

Level Flight

As we work and grow, we learn. We learn many new things and in the process we tend to forget some of the lessons learnt and, at times, we have to learn the same lesson many times before it "sticks" in our mind.

When our lives get busy and we are driving as hard as we can, we can miss some of the lessons in front of our noses.

Recently I was reminiscing with some friends, about the many years I owned and flew hot air balloons, when one of them asked about how much control one has in directing such a craft or whether one was simply at the mercy of the prevailing winds. An interesting discussion followed about all manner of things aeronautical.

Later that night several thoughts popped up in my mind and I could of course claim that my brilliant mind extracted these nuggets, but that would be a lie.

Controlling a hot air balloon is simple in principle but a lot harder in practice. The basics are that one is heating air inside an envelope so as to create lift ( hot air rises ) and the amount of lift required depends on the total weight one is lifting and the ambient temperature of the air outside the envelope.

Once one has enough heat in the envelope the balloon can take off and one has to determine at what altitude one wants to fly level. Once at the desired altitude one has to reach an accurate balance with inside and outside temperatures to maintain level flight. Most trainees struggle with this aspect of flying and end up "porpoising", oscillating up and down, while they struggle to maintain some semblance of level flight. 

Easy so far, BUT the outside air temperature changes all the time and the hot air inside the balloon cools down unless more hot air is added. Therefore, what sounds and looks easy is, in fact, quite challenging. 

Now consider what happens when one wants to go higher or lower. One has to adjust the temperature inside the envelope to either ascend ( more heat ) or descend ( less heat ) and one has to be careful as too little heat, could result in an uncontrolled crash landing and too much heat will result in an uncontrolled "lift", hopefully with lesser consequences.

There, now you can go and fly a balloon. Well not really, but what I described are the basics of balloon flight. However what is required to achieve even this simple level of proficiency is a lot more. One has to learn the theory of flight, meteorology, aerostatics and a lot more besides.

Then we have the big BUT - once you have acquired all these skills and knowledge one has to practice, make mistakes, more practice, more mistakes and lots of physical effort.

Part of this one can do in the classroom, but the real stuff must be done in the real world where one also require a well trained crew to launch and retrieve the balloon, as nobody can fly a balloon entirely on their own !

In our daily lives we strive to achieve many things, but compare your business activities to the process I described and ask yourself a few questions.

Determine how much you have learnt, how much you have practiced, have you failed enough, can you 'fly level', how good is your crew, do you have all the required equipment. 

In the end we must be able to pilot our ventures with confidence and that will require, learning, failing, falling down and the occasional crash-landing, but if we stick to it, continue to improve our skills and work with a good crew, we can achieve and maintain level flight at any altitude.


Safe landings



Philip SmithAuthor:Philip Smith
About: Philip specialises in getting projects and businesses that are not performing as well as expected, back on track.
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