Bob Lutz On The Nature Of Crisis, Risk & Personality


I have been a long time – decades – subscriber of Road & Track magazine.

I think it is the best car-oriented magazine out there.

Bob Lutz  – now 81 –  is a lifelong car guy – with stints at BMW, Ford of Europe, Chrysler (where he helped save Chrysler with creations like the Viper before the Germans came and screwed  bought it . 

He retired at GM after helping to revitalize them. 

He was a Marine fighter pilot whose success  today got him a number of toys, including a Czech L-39.

He penned some thoughts  on his take on crisis, risk and personality in his column in the current issue of Road & Track Magazine.

The first thing I’ll quote brought me back to what Lex was saying on a night carrier landing – when things are tough – and it is so easy to let panic take over. “You have to put it in a little box and examine it later” was what he said (or something similar).

Some of Lutz’s quotes are, like Lex’s thought – so thought provoking I’ll give you a few here.

1. “I always say, a background in 50s and 60s military aviation really helps in life. Our combat jets were so unreliable you had a hydraulic emergency or fire-warning light every 3rd or 4th flight. That was a time to tell yourself, “Okay, settle down. What’s the procedure? ” You sort of take panic and set it off into a corner and focus on doing the right thing. If you’ve done that for a few years, you become very relaxed about everyday crises.”

2. I can’t stand indecision, inaction. There’s a certain psychological profile of somebody who is going to be a successful military fighter pilot. And it is pattern recognition, pattern analysis, and then rapid decision making. You accept all the inputs, but then you immediately form a judgement you have to act on.”

3. “I believe many people who drive extremely well have that same capability, whether it’s motorcycles or cars. They’re getting all the sensory inputs, which immediately have to be translated into action”.

He has a bunch more beliefs in the current (June 2014) issue of Road & Track.


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2 responses to “Bob Lutz On The Nature Of Crisis, Risk & Personality

  1. “You sort of take panic and set it off into a corner and focus on doing the right thing. If you’ve done that for a few years, you become very relaxed about everyday crises.”
    Wow. Stated so well.
    Years ago as a young Nasal Radiator I was flying a twin turboprop as the right seater, and when things would happen I would be in the GO mode, check the switches, do THIS, do THAT, do SOMETHING right now. We have a PROBLEM!
    After one such event, which turned out to be not much of anything, the Sage and August Left Seater who was tolerating my presence taught me something.
    He simply asked, “Which one of these switches on the overhead will kill you quickly?”
    Much assessment followed, my brain pan was to the limit with choices and options, and finally all the choices and options boiled down to a single answer. “Not any of them.”
    “Good,” the August One replied, “Remember that. Sit back and think about what is going on and what you need to do.”
    He taught me to relax about the everyday things. Stuff happens. Save the energy for the things that really are important.
    Made me a type B in the cockpit instead of a type A. One of the few times in my life that the hindsight thing reveals a correct decision.
    I think I like Mr. Lutz.

    • Bill Brandt

      One of Lex’s posts, one that I saved, has this following gem at the end of the post – where he is talking about the mechanics of landing on a carrier.

      And to him, the most fearful thing he faced in that FA/18 was after the trap – taxing up to the bow – which – on the Hornet with its front gear behind the pilot, put the pilot over the edge of the carrier.

      The other was night landings, at least his first 40 or so.

      The quote I always remember from him:

      When I was new to the job, there would be times at a half mile or so where the panic would try to well up:
      “this isn’t possible,” it would say… “it can’t be done.” Your job at that point is to stuff the demon of doubt into its container, where you could examine it more closely later, usually just as you were falling asleep. At that
      particular moment, on final approach, it’s just not useful. This is called “compartmentalization,” and whether it is a learned skill, or something that the service selects people for, is very much an open question. But it is a
      necessary survival skill.

      Sounds like you had a good teacher too Busbob.

      It’s good advice for life’s challenges.

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