Getting and Staying on Centerline

August 10, 2020by Kevin Meenaghan1

In my former life as a Navy pilot, landing a plane on an aircraft carrier was no small feat, although it got easier with experience. One crucial facet of the landing is lineup. The landing area on an aircraft carrier is only about 800 feet long and 100 feet wide. The centerline is marked with a yellow and white line. The aircraft must land on the centerline of the landing area. If the aircraft lands to the left or to the right, with the unbelievably limited area on the 4-acre flight deck, the result could be damage to the cable system that stops the aircraft, damage to the aircraft itself, damage to other aircraft on the flight deck, or injury to the flight deck crew. Or worse. Essentially, being on centerline is critical.

While this seems pretty amazing going at 150+ miles per hour, the great thing is that there’s a very capable team of people helping the pilot and aircraft land without incident, and on centerline. There are the Landing Signal Officers, standing on the side of the landing area, who are trained to verbally assist the aircrew by making specific voice calls to keep the aircraft on glideslope and on centerline. There is the ship’s crew, who ensure the centerline is painted for maximum visibility and that the lights are working at night. There are the aircraft and shipboard technicians, who ensure the instrumentation and aircraft arresting gear is working perfectly. And there is the crew on the navigation bridge, making sure there is the correct wind over the deck, in the right direction and keeping the ship as steady as possible.

For a view of this experience, check this out: Aircraft carrier landing or A comparison of day and night landings

Being on centerline, in alignment, is also essential to a well-run, productive, safe, effective organization, with people who are engaged in their work. People work best when they know the organizations mission and how they fit into it; people want – and need – to know that they matter.

On the aircraft carrier, every sailor knows their mission. And when I spoke to them, usually in small groups, if they didn’t know how important they were, I’d spend some time talking to them about it. And every person on that team is able to relate what they do to mission success.

Is your team in alignment with your organization’s mission, vision and guiding principles? Have you seen your team “be on centerline” because they know themselves well and know how their team-mates operate best?

Further, in Naval Aviation, being on centerline and aligned in normal operations helps us when we head into rough waters, stormy seas or less than optimum weather. Or when there’s an aircraft malfunction. Similarly, when we and our team are aligned, it helps us when the situation is “other than normal” and things aren’t going right.

As we continue to face significant challenges in our communities surrounding the pandemic, the impending start to the school year in the U.S., continual working from a home office, and an uncertain economy, there is probably no more important topic than to ensure that everyone on our team knows how important they are to the success of the organization, and by extension, our communities and world.

Do you need help getting and staying “on centerline,” creating alignment and getting on the same page? Feel free to contact me for advice or more.

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#alignment #teamwork #wardroom #aircraftcarrier #missionoriented

One comment

  • Darin Hand

    August 13, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing Kevin! A great analogy here!

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