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1.30.09 Issue #360 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Nancy Haller
Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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It Wasn’t A Miracle But A Lesson In Possibility

On January 15th, an Airbus A320 crashed into a Manhattan river. No lives were lost. Aviation experts say the accident may be the first time in history that a large commercial airliner made a water crash landing without the loss of life. New York Governor, David Paterson, named it the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

But more than a “miracle,” this stunningly well-executed emergency was a demonstration of what people at their best can do. Here is a wonderful case to study what went right, and the four factors that pertain to the survivability rate. These are lessons for your practice.

Factor 1: The Pilot

The pilot of Flight #1549, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, has spent his life becoming an expert in safety. I’ve read that the ex-Air Force fighter pilot had been studying the psychology of keeping airline crews functioning even in the face of crisis. His awareness of his environment and quest for lifelong learning enabled him to act instantly and to make quick critical decisions. It’s hard to imagine anyone better at the controls. As a leader, he exhibited courage by sticking with the plane. He even walked the aisles twice to make sure everyone was evacuated. Would you have done the same for your staff and patients?

Lesson: In the actions of the pilot we see what is possible when a person is trained and disciplined in advance of facing the unexpected hour. How prepared are you? Strive to be a better dental leader. Hone your leadership skills.

Factor 2: The Crew

Collaboration is a word that describes how people work together in a cohesive team and accomplish what no one person could do by him- or herself. The level of collaboration demonstrated by Flight Crew 1549 doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and practice. Cool in crisis, they prepared the passengers for the hard landing on the river and then directed the exiting from the plane.

And what about the ferryboat captains, the police and the Coast Guard who, within minutes, converged upon the plane and coordinated their efforts to rescue every passenger? Collectively they had hundreds of hours of training. Because they had honed their skills, they were able to improvise in the large-scale rescue operation. They maneuvered around the debris and in shallow water against a three-knot current, and they performed admirably.

Lesson: Most people will perform the way they train. Hire the right people and train them well.

Factor 3: The Plane

Experts speculate that the plane hit the water at a speed of 140 knots. Typically the wings and engine break off on impact but the Airbus 320 remained intact and ended up in one piece.

Engine and aircraft technology played a huge part in averting disaster. The Boeing engineers should get some credit for designing an airplane that could be controlled and landed safely on the water without engine power.

Lesson: Take an inventory of the technology in your practice and update equipment and systems as needed.

Factor 4: The Location

The pilot told investigators he made a point of landing near Manhattan’s ferry terminals to increase the chance of rescue. As soon as the plane hit the water, the doors opened and the passengers breathed a sigh of relief. If this was to happen anywhere, anywhere on earth, this was indeed the perfect place. After 9-11, response teams went through rigorous training.

But really… What are the odds of 155 passengers surviving a plane crash into the Hudson River? Certainly luck played a role in the positive outcome. It was daylight, visibility was good and the pilots had room to maneuver the plane and find a suitable place to land. If this had taken place at night and/or in bad weather, it would have been catastrophic.

Lesson: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” What type of preparation can and should you do in the days ahead?

When you see (or read about) people who reflect this great capacity to collaborate, it brings hope. Whether it’s an athletic team, an orchestra or a dental team, this is how people are meant to work together. This is not everyday stuff but it is what is possible.

Dr. Nancy Haller is ready to help you to increase your opportunity for a more profitable and rewarding practice. Contact her at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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