"The ZEN Moment ©"

Over the many years that I have been involved with aviation training I have always been curious to understand how the human being learned. This desire to know how we learn has also caused me to learn and, as a result, I have created a variety of training aids and models to assist trainees to understand concepts and to improve their performance in the cockpit environment. One of my training concepts is called “The ZEN Moment ©”


Most human beings “live” in an external, sensory world. They interact with this world using their five sensory organs:


  • Eyes

  • Ears

  • Tongue

  • Nervous System

  • Nose

Whilst there are other sensory systems in the human body, for the purposes of this blog we will focus on the five outlined above.


Through the engagement of these five sensory organs the human being makes sense of the environment they are in at the time.


“Making sense” is achieved through the process of the sensory organs communicating with the brain. The processing power of the brain ultimately provides feedback and causes the “owner” to do something ie. act (e.g smile, deflect, run, etc…).


Most readers will be familiar with the “fight and flight” response that exists in all human beings. Over the hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of years of the evolution of the human being the fight and flight response was developed and it is one of the reasons the species exists to this day.


Unfortunately, one of the very things that has caused the species to survive is also one of the things that can result in an individual’s demise - particularly in the cockpit environment.


In R.O.E training I call the “fight and flight’’ response REACT. I often say that I know the trainee will do something because that is the very nature of a human being. The problem is that the “something” may be completely inappropriate, incorrect or unsafe in the context of an inflight scenario.


An example of an incorrect inflight response by aircrew would be the loss of the Air France Flight 447 Airbus A330 into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.


An example of a correct response by aircrew would be the successful ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus A320 into the Hudson River in 2009.


So what was the difference in the two examples above? In very simplistic yet powerful terms the crew of AF 447 REACTED whereas the crew of US 1549 RESPONDED.


The difference between the human being doing something vs the right thing is in those two words - REACT and RESPOND.


I always make the point to my trainees that they are human beings doing a job of work. The job of work they choose to do is called “pilot”. And, inside every pilot is a human being waiting to REACT.


Pilots must be trained to move away from the innate tendency to REACT (fight or flight) and toward the more powerful and appropriate action of RESPOND.


One of the R.O.E training concepts is called “The ZEN Moment ©” and trainees are taught how to EVOKE this concept.


The diagram below is a pictorial view of where “The ZEN Moment ©” fits in to the human being’s process of taking an action based on what they see.



A simplified illustration of how the human brain processes information.


This illustration shows a very simplified view (it is important to keep concepts simple) of the steps involved from seeing something through to doing something.


Here is the process:


  1. Using the eye (sensory organ) the human (pilot) sees what the aircraft is doing via an indication on the Primary Flight Display;

  2. The eye, via the optic nerve, sends this information to the Visual Cortex for processing (brain making sense and computing);

  3. The Visual Cortex communicates with the Motor Cortex and the Motor Cortex further processes the information; and

  4. The Motor Cortex communicates with the nervous system and causes the human being (pilot) to make inputs as required.

The problem with this “flow” of processing is that if the information that the pilot sees doesn’t make sense with the “mental model” they have in their memory, the pilot will REACT and, in doing so, worsen the visual, aural and vestibular inputs.


Enter “The ZEN Moment ©. Returning to the illustration you will see a step between the Motor Cortex process and the nervous system input. This step is called “The ZEN Moment ©” It is a trained step that causes the pilot to mentally pause and think. They are caused to return to the beginning of the process and confirm that what they are seeing does indeed make sense and the process starts again.


“The ZEN Moment ©” or mental pause moves the human being (pilot) away from REACTING and toward RESPONDING.

But how do you train a person to RESPOND and not REACT? Through a process.


R.O.E Training Solutions uses a proprietary model called the “R.O.E Model ©” to train pilots how to RESPOND and not to REACT. The model is combined with human performance training and the employment of the model results in the outcomes desired by all pilots - a safe and efficient flight.


Contact R.O.E Training Solutions to learn more about the human performance training solutions that can be offered to your aircrew to assist them to enhance their professional development and safety of flight.


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