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  • About

    Bert Botta
    PO Box 803
    Novato, CA 94948


    A Pilot Files An Alternate Flight Plan: Looking For the Lessons in 9//11©

    “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans!” I’m sure all of us had plans that didn’t include the events of September the 11th, 2001.

    I’m sure God wasn’t laughing this time, as those plans dramatically changed the course of our lives.
    The week of 9/11/2001, my wife and I had planned a mini vacation. We were going to choose between flying to our favorite retreat, the beaches of Maui, or the air races at Reno or hiking in Yosemite.

    The first two were taken care of by the ban on air travel subsequent to the terrorist attacks. That left Yosemite.
    We didn’t know it at the time but our trip was a blessing in disguise. We toyed with the idea of staying home and continuing to be “informed” by television reports.

    By day two, I was on information and emotional overload and the intelligence of walking through the healing fields of nature was apparent.

    As it turned out many travelers cancelled their reservations at the Tuolumne Meadows tent cabins that we picked for our destination. Last minute reservations were no problem due to all the cancellations.
    The traffic across California from the San Francisco bay area on highways 580 and 120 was light for an early afternoon, typical midweek commute day. The weather was beautiful.
    After struggling with our choice, we began to think, “Why would we go anywhere else, given the world situation?”

    We both know and treasure the impact of nature on our lives; we spent the last four years before returning to the bay area living in the northern New Mexico mountain town of Taos; remote, extraordinarily beautiful and quietly healing.

    So much so is Taos a healing land that the Tewa people, thought to be descendants of the ancient Anasazi culture who settled this land many centuries before, chose this area for their home. This is the present day home of the Tewa’s descendants, the Taos Pueblo Indians.

    Most, if not all, traditional peoples intuitively choose land for their homes that is energetically powerful, healing and sustainable. That’s what drew us to Taos. Those same land energies drew us to Yosemite for healing during this time of recovery.

    External Noise

    Unless you happen to be a Yogi who has mastered self-awareness by meditating on the cacophonous streets of Bombay or Calcutta, we all need periods of quiet to recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries. And heal our souls.

    We have raised the achievement bar so high in modern day life that we continually foul out in trying to clear it. We have lost the ability to “wash off” the stress of an ever-increasing life pace through quiet reflection.

    Nature oft times seems to be “too much trouble” to disconnect from cyberspace. We have numbed ourselves to an increasingly higher noise threshold so that our psyches and souls are imploding in their quest for reflection time.

    We wonder why we are “losing it” more often than not these days, why there’s more road and air rage now, when just a few years ago, that was unheard of. We have taken for granted that this is the price we must pay for modern day life.

    The Emotional Weight and Balance Sheet

    In another one of my articles, “The Six Secrets of Building Aviator Soul” I suggested tips for establishing your personal CG (center of gravity)

    “What helps to restore balance in your life when you’re whacked out? (What helps to stabilize your life? Tip: it’s not alcohol or drugs. Your breath is a great place to start. Focus on it when you’re afraid or sad or angry and breath deeply)

    Walking in nature, not down a busy street, is another stabilizing influence. (Taking a long, hot bath is good. I’d recommend candlelight also but I’m not so sure that would go over too well with my brothers. It does work wonders for your relationship though, should you decide to include your loved one)

    You wouldn’t attempt a takeoff in an aircraft that was loaded out of CG would you? Yet we often tackle our daily lives “overgross” and out of trim. And when we crash and burn we wonder why.

    Life is Good….Or Does it Suck?

    We all make choices in life. Therefore we all have a choice to see life through “rose colored glasses....” or brown tinted ones. TV weather anchors are notorious for trying to convince us of impending “bad” weather. “Bad” to who? Is rain “bad” for farmers who need it? Is a tornado inherently “bad?” It’s an occurrence of nature. Is a lightning strike a “bad” thing? Only if you happen to be following through with your nine iron when it hits I suppose.

    Step Outside the Emotional Box

    We have been conditioned to place value judgments on things or events that occur in life. This is symptomatic of classic victim behavior, or someone who’s always suffering from something being “done” to them.
    “Life’s not fair!” “I’m always getting the short end of the stick!”

    Of course the events of ten years ago were tragic. I felt the same, full range of emotions as millions of others in the world. A few weeks after the towers were hit, I shared tears at SFO with six hundred other crew members at a memorial service for the United and American airlines flight crews that were lost in the World Trade Center attacks.

    But during the grieving process and while honoring the loss of my fellow aviators, I remembered to suspend judgment on the tragedy of this event. There’s far more emerging from these events than meets the eye.
    I have felt it already in my slower pace, taking the time to be with people in a different way, taking messages into my bones from some of the better movies that are showing these days. Already I have begun to reap the “benefits” of the tragedy, without judgment.

    (One of the actions I decided to take after 9/11, an apparently innocent and unimportant one, was driving slower and being courteous to the other drivers on the road. I knew they were hurting as much as me, so the least I could do is show compassion to them through my actions. That habit has stayed with me to this day, most of the time!)

    Gifts From Death

    I cried at the death of my father from a fall twenty-five years ago. But during the grieving process I was offered many gifts: the people who came up to me at his funeral and told me how he had helped them, how he had touched their lives, the newfound emotional and financial freedom that my mother enjoyed after serving him for the past fifty years, the family bonding that resulted from us coming together in ways we never had before his death; these were some of the results that I allowed into my life, without judgment, of that “tragedy.”

    Normal, Everyday Miracles That Emerge out of Tragedy

    A couple of weeks after 9/11, during my career at Netjets, I finished up a tour in Atlanta on the twenty sixth of September. The company scheduled a limo to pick me up at the PDK (Peachtree, Georgia) Marriott and take me to ATL (Atlanta, Georgia), where I would board a Delta flight for SFO (San Francisco)

    During the ride to ATL, Ronnie the limo driver and I got into a discussion about the meaning of the events that had taken place in the last two weeks. Ronnie’s simple, profound wisdom, his down home common sense and deep perspective on racial healing in coming together to heal ourselves and the racial wars we engage in everyday touched me deeply.

    Something about the events of the past few months allowed him to really hear me and I him. Had these events not taken place, who knows if I wouldn’t have just taken my seat in the back of the limo and submerged myself in the morning paper, wasting another opportunity to connect with another soul.

    When Ronnie dropped me off at ATL, I was supposed to fly to DFW (Dallas Fort Worth), change planes and then go on to SFO on another Delta flight, putting me into SFO late in the evening.

    I asked the lady at the Delta ticket counter if she could change my ticket to a non-stop, leaving an hour and a half earlier than my original flight. She said “no problem” and, not only issued me a ticket on the earlier non stop but put me up in first class without my asking!

    I spread out my computer and my books and reflected on how I had been blessed by these events. I had tears of gratitude, appreciation, and peace in my eyes as I wrote this piece about my post 9/11 experience.

    Would these events have taken place had the tragedy not occurred? Who knows? I do know that I have a renewed sense of life, a slower pace and increased peripheral spiritual vision as a result of what’s happened.
    Since I’ve slowed down from moving through life at Mach One with what little hair I have left on fire, I’m allowing more of life in. I’m seeing more of the world I inhabit. To me, this was all a miracle....but of course, just a normal, everyday one......

    Digging Through the Emotional Rubble to Find Life

    If you haven’t noticed, time and space have been increasingly compressed over the last few years - we are being placed in situations, being forced to be accountable to acknowledge our weaknesses, forced to change our ways - in a much shorter time span than ever before.     

    Things are happening in one year that would have taken five or even ten years before. We’re having to face the real reasons why we’ve been put here in this lifetime and to get on with doing what we do best and for the most good.

    It’s probably not about making as much money as we can, although if that’s a short cut to serving others, then that’s probably a good thing.

    Managing Your Resources: Programming Your INS (Internal Navigation System)

    Those of you who are reading this should remember that you haven’t gotten this far in life without learning something about how to take care of yourself. Most of us in aviation have to be smarter than the average bear or else we would have killed ourselves long ago.

    So use what you’ve learned by taking the time to listen to “that still, small voice inside” that knows what you need. Take the time to shake off the external world madness and make friends with your personal INS, your internal navigation system.

    Once we program ourselves with the coordinates of our present position, which requires not moving the platform for a specific amount of time, we’re then able to go anywhere we want to go.

    Don’t forget, you’re the expert you’ve been waiting for....

    Bert Botta

    Bert recently retired from Netjets as a G200 captain. Before that, he retired from a twenty-six year flying career from TWA. He likes to fly. And he likes to retire. He’s a writer, a blogger, a Transformational Coach for aviators, and a consultant for the aviation industry.

    He’s also been a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in St. Louis, MO. But don’t hold that against him.

    He loves to write about soul in aviation and it’s impact on our personal and professional lives. He likes even more to coach men and women, especially aviators, into the highest and best use of their God given talents.  

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