By Marianela Cartagena*

In previous columns I talked about someone that has a well-developed resourcefulness sense, that being exposed to a series of stimulus or chaotic information situations, will be able to combine elements and generate a structure, among them, to produce a value. We also know that a resourceful leader gets inspired by creative teams when he or she leads them, combining his/her ideas instantly, making accurate decisions, to be successfully in that particular moment.

Resourcefulness is the capacity of recursive optimal use; the mental ability to redefine purposes and usage; the quality to convert a thing into something else; to approach new ideas1.

Micheal Charles Corballis (1936/2021) quotes René Descartes “I think, therefore I am,” as an example of recursive thought, “because the thinker has inserted himself/herself into his/her thought. Recursion enables us to conceive from our own minds and the minds of others. It also gives us the power of mental time travel—the ability to insert past experiences, or imagined future ones, into present consciousness”2.

Flight to Eastern Island, September 1978. In Chile and around the world there are many examples of cabin crew behavior during emergencies on board. I am going to recount my personal experience when I worked as “Cabin Crew C”, after two years of joining Lan Chile as flight attendant. Being close to landing at Eastern Island, Chile, something sort of usual happened in that time of the year: Eastern Island’s meteorology reports to Santiago that the weather was unstable (low clouds and reduced visibility). The flight went from Santiago with a good forecast and enough fuel to go back to Santiago from the point of no return, if the Matavery airport (IATA: IPC, OACI: SCIP) was under minimum conditions for landing, by the estimated time of arrival. The decision was taken when reaching the point of no return, which is the farthest point from Santiago where the airplane can return to its origin with the remains of fuel. The calculation of the point of no return is variable and depends on wind, ground level, fuel on board, weight of the airplane, etc. This is because Eastern Island has no alternative airport if the airplane cannot land, due to unfavorable meteorological conditions.

The rout was normal, our flight continued and very close to the island, Mataveri airport was under minimum landing conditios, with no visibility of the runway. The captain, with the calm that characterizes them, reported the crew member that they would fly over the island, waiting for better meteorological conditions. Considering that the weather did not get any better and there was less fuel, the captain told the crew member to prepare the passengers for a ditching (the controlled emergency landing of an aircraft on water). This procedure is very dangerous and is the last emergency choice, considered as part of the protocol in a situation like we were living at the time. Therefore, with our best smile in front of the passengers, we did the preparation and when the cabin chief reported to the captain that the passengers and the crew members were ready for the ditching, we proceeded with the emergency positions, while the airplane flew over the island, waiting for the weather to get better so that we could land.

Because the conditions were getting worse, we were told by intercom that the captain was trying to make the last approach to the runway; on the contrary the ditching would proceed. To do that the weight of the airplane must be diminished, throwing away the remains of fuel into the air. This time and being a little more afraid, which is normal in every human being, we did the last check of the cabin – especially checking that the seat belts were fastened– calming down the most nervous passengers.

The captain told us later that while the last fly over the island took place and before the ditching, there was a little area cleared up on the runway, enough for the captain to decide to land immediately, reporting to the crew members that he would begin the landing procedure. This is all I remember of that moment. Thanks to seat belt that we and the passengers fastened, we did not stick to the ceiling cabin, after the violent landing. The hit on the runway felt more intense – this is usual because of a bad visibility – and the strong stop left us next to the edge of the runway end after it thereis a cliff and the sea… It was indescribable!

In the end, a happy one I must add, we just had to wait for the airport bus to arrive, because after such a complicated landing procedure, the airplane must be checked for possible damages, like ruptured tire, etc. The applause of the passengers was the award to our team work, to the leadership of the captain, and to the resourcefulness of all the crew members, in which the passengers also participated, having an exemplary behavior for a situation like that.

In conclusion, resourcefulness does not require neither dedication nor methodology like creativity3, but it does require abilities like frustration tolerance, perseverance, flexibility, being proactive, assertiveness, persuasion, credibility, compromise, enthusiasm, and a plus of some omnipresent virtues like wisdom and knowledge, courage and temperance. If you see any of these qualities in someone else is necessary to tell him/her about it, because is neither a well-known concept nor in style, but in my point of view it is well developed by flight attendants, in entrepreneurs and in people that have demanding jobs, usually working against time. A prominent trait in those people is resilience, because when they fail, they stand up again, start from the beginning, without grumbling neither about their past nor the present, as well as they do not fear the future. These people have a dream and go for it, they have it instinctively or thanks to self-knowledge training. Also, they have a clear view of the future they face with a well-defined short, medium and long-term strategic planning.

The good news are everybody is born with the potential (pattern) of resourcefulness, like creativity, which is a very important talent and at times a previous step. We only have to develop it, putting it at work to obtain successful results that will help us “contribute to build a better world”.

  1. Carlos Alberto González “Indicator Creativity”. National Colombian University, 1997.
  2. Michael Charles Corballis – 1936/2021 – Psychologist, New Zealander and Canadian writer, emeritus professor in the Psychology department of the Auckland University (Wikipedia).
  3. Alejandro Schnarch Kirberg, “Creativity for a Better World”.
(*) Marianela Cartagena has a BA in Psychology from the Diego Portales University of Santiago de Chile and currently works as Executive Director of MCMSilva Consultants. She previously had a long career in commercial aviation in her country of origin. She can be contacted at