Stood Down Thanks to Covid-19. Day Eight. By Owen Zupp.


Day Eight. Stood Down. Thanks to Covid-19.

What’s your Plan B?

Every time an airliner taxies out for take-off, the crew have planned for the worst. In the cabin, the flight attendants conduct a silent review of their duties, should the take-off be abandoned. On the flight deck, the pilots have calculated their go/no-go speed and reviewed how they’ll bring the aircraft to a halt if there’s a problem before that speed and how they’ll keep the aircraft flying in the event of an issue beyond it. They’ll have calculated the performance of the aircraft should an engine have failed and considered the surrounding terrain and timeframe for a return landing. Of course, they never want this to happen, but should it take place, they are prepared.
The collapse of Ansett Australia in 2001 was different to the current crisis in that the airline existed and there would inevitably be the opportunity to fly with another airline. Potentially that may mean travelling abroad and generally restarting the career at the bottom of the seniority list. Still, in that time in “limbo”, I investigated what job opportunities may exist in the interim, only to be told by Centrelink that I was, “highly skilled but totally unemployable”. Those words burned.
Therefore, as soon as I was gainfully employed once more, I set about developing some “career insurance”, or a “Plan B”. I ensured that I retained my Grade One Flight Instructor Rating and undertook a Master’s Degree in Management, which led to consulting and technical writing. After a period of contributing to association journals for free, paid articles began to be published in Australian magazines. Soon, I was writing for magazines around the world and my first book hit the shelves in the United Kingdom. From there, it was a regular stream of writing and a self-education in independent publishing – both electronically and in print. And then there were lessons in distribution and marketing to be learned.
The experience and knowledge were acquired over the years and was punctuated with mistakes. Still, with every step, something new was learned and my “Plan B” expanded. In a career sense, my opportunities broadened, on a personal level, I shared experiences that never would’ve occurred had I not sought to venture down the path I’d chosen. And the really big benefit? I slept better as I had a fallback position should another Ansett take place. But it wasn’t another Ansett, was it? It was a Covid-19 pandemic.
Consequently, elements of my “Plan B” were circumvented by fate. Opportunities to teach aviation theory or serve as a flight instructor dried up as schools wound down. Other pilot jobs closed when the borders closed and even long-standing magazines to which I had contributed for decades went into hibernation – although not due to the virus. However, one element of the plan survived, writing about aviation online and in a locked-down world, the online world was the only place to which I could retreat. It was the Plan B that proved to be the fall-back position, it was the diversity of that plan.
The income may not be that of an airline pilot, but it is a very welcome income. And once again, an entirely new world of interesting people has entered my orbit and made my journey richer. I have a reason, in the immediate aftermath of the stand-down, to get up of a morning, get organised and rise to a task. It is as much about a mindset as a skillset.
So once again, I find myself reviewing the situation as pilots are prone to do. My Plan B wasn’t bullet-proof and possibly still wasn’t diversified enough. So, as I consider the future, I can’t help but consider how I can refine my Plan B and that’s exactly what I’m doing. My Plan B+ recognises that this crisis will pass and asks how I can best ensure against future unforeseen circumstances and even transition me into a possible retirement – preferably later rather than sooner. It will need to have an online component and capture my love of writing but reach further than the vulnerabilities of aviation. It’s a tall order but twice in my career, I have been reminded of the necessity to have options and a plan – just as we do in the aircraft as we taxi out for take-off.
This stand-down may now offer up the time to consider Plan B+ and allow me to continue to move forward with confidence. I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, consider, “What’s your Plan B?”

Stay safe everyone and see you tomorrow.

Read Owen’s books here…

Boeing 747 - Aviation Icon and the Queen of the Skies.