Flying By the Seat of the Pants

The first ten days of Donald Trump in the White House is reminiscent of early aviation when the only way to learn to fly was to rely on one's own senses:, eyes, balance and seat of the pants. There were no instruments to refer to for altitude, attitude or location. No GPS or weather satellites. No copilot, navigator or crew.

And there were plenty of accidents, injuries and deaths. One reason, allegedly, that so many early general aviation companies sprouted up in Kansas (Cessna, Beech craft, Steearman) was the flatness of the land that made forced landings survivable.

But modern aircraft and modern presidencies cannot be effectively operated by lone flyers, no matter how self confident. Nor can they get to their destination safely by ignoring the reality of clouds, weather and mountains. Yet that is what Donald Trump appears to be attempting.

Take the Inauguration itself. Mr. Trump told a CIAA audience the next day that the sun broke out when he started speaking. and it did not rain on him during his speech. Neither others present or satellite imagery support this fantasy . He called the National Park Service to demand photos showing his inaugural crowds larger than Obama's. They were not. He claims Hillary Clintons popular vote margin was due to fraudulent voting. It was not. Denying reality and being distracted are frequent causes of aircraft accidents. His presidency will face real clouds and real mountains and he ignores them at his peril.

Another danger is flying a complex aircraft solo. He is making decisions, or at least making statements without due deliberation or apparent thought. Did he really believe the Mexican present would visit while being told Mexico would pay for the wall? Did anyone give a moment's reflection before suggesting that a twenty percent duty on Mexican imports be used to pay for the wall. Did someone dare point out that this could result in American consumers picking up the tab?? Can he wing it in his conversations with Mr. Putin and other world leaders without preparation or expert input?

No flight can succeed without a flight plan that tells the route, not just the destination. Yet the hastily signed executive order banning Syrian refugees and visas for seven Muslim countries appears to have had no implementation plan and passengers arrived in the U.S. overnight finding themselves in limbo. and chaos And you cannot follow the route if your compass is swinging wildly. He is in favor of torture but will follow the advice of UK Prime Minister May and Secretary of Defense Mattis - "for now." He is pro choice but then not so much. He supported the Iraq war but now denies it.

One rule all pilots learn that is doubly true in combat, is to keep your ground crew watching your back . Many an accident has been caused by a stray wrench in a jet engine intake or a fuel line not tightened. Yet Mr. Trump has alienated the intelligence community and attempted to gag the civil service while deciding how to gut it. His ship is likely to spring many leaks and face much bureaucratic sabotage. And his cabinet picks, notably Education, Labor, Energy , EPA and HHS are opposed to the basic mission of their departments and will exacerbate the problem.

If President Trump continues to fly by the seat of the pants, and he has demonstrated no capacity for change or self-reflection. the question is not whether he will crash but when.