The idea of an Event is easy to grasp, even if the definition is necessarily long! However, it is fortunately not often in our lives that we personally experience Events, so I was surprised to experience two last year – one in an aeroplane and one in a car. Both could easily have killed me, but obviously they did not and this is because the Outcome was managed into a Null Consequence. You may find them interesting as examples of what the term means in practice.
It helps if you understand flying, but I’ll try to explain this one in lay terms.
I was flying a descending turn, the purpose of which was to line up on the runway for landing. This runway was grass surrounded by grass and the threshold of the runway was invisible until you were down low enough to see the runway numbers, which are all that made the location of the runway evident. There were no markers along the length or the centre line of the runway to define the runway position. Because of this, I had started my turn not really knowing where the runway was on the grass field and hoping to see the threshold at some point. When I did, I could see that I was actually about 50m to the right of the runway and almost subconsciously tightened the turn a little using rudder.
The result of this is very predictable and it is drilled into you during training that one should never do this especially at low speed and low level – which is what I was.
What happens when too much rudder is used is that the into-turn wing slows down and can reach the stall, at which point lift on that wing drops off quickly. If this is left to develop, the plane banks sharply and the nose drops and if there is sufficient height a spin develops. If not, you just hit the ground pretty much vertically and almost certainly destroy the aircraft and yourself.
The wing did drop and thankfully all that training kicked in – I reduced the rudder input and opened the throttle wide. The result was that the incipient spin was halted almost as it began and we started flying again.
The Event here was the point in time when I allowed an unbalanced turn to develop. The energies involved are the kinetic and gravitational potential energies of the plane. Aeroplanes are capable of swapping these – lower your speed and the plane will gain height and vice versa.
In this case the Mechanism was a purposeful (but incorrect) action.
One evening a friend and I were driving on an Australian country road after a day out. It was dusk, just dark enough to have headlights on. We were talking about the day and not paying any special attention to the empty road ahead. As a passenger, I was enjoying the soft evening hues and the gentle curve of the road ahead was attractively delineated by the red reflectors on our side and the white ones on the other side of the road. The reflectors are on the top of road side posts that line the curve to help provide drivers at night with cues about the nature of the curve.
Suddenly I was made curious by the fact that some of these lights were moving in an odd manner – a section of them just did not have the sort of trajectory one would expect as we moved closer to the turn. This now had my full attention and suddenly I saw that some of the lights were actually attached to the side of a sheep carrier road train which was right across both lanes of the road.
I yelled to my friend who came to an emergency stop about 30m from this road train. We could then see the driver was trying to reverse his direction of travel on the road – doing what must have been a 10 point turn making use of a side road!
Curiously (or is it?), the row of lights on the side of the road train was at precisely the same height as the reflectors on the road side posts. They were also the same colour and about the same illuminance.
The Event here was when we approached the obstruction on the road and reached a point at which an emergency response was needed to achieve a Null Outcome – an “Oh Gosh!” moment. The associated energy is, of course, kinetic energy. In collision theory, there comes a time when it is not possible to either turn away or brake to avoid the collision – the collision is then inevitable and the Outcome proceeds down a Consequence path.
Normal driving brings us potential collisions all the time – the car in front slows down, a car enters the road ahead of us etc. We adjust our speed to suit and all is normal. There is no “Oh Gosh!” moment.
In this case, the Mechanism was purposeful progress down the road but unaware of the obstruction ahead.