Hatchet begins by introducing Brian as he boards a single-engine plane, piloted by a stranger, to go visit his father in Canada. During the flight, the pilot apparently suffers a heart attack and dies. Brian goes through various stages of panic and recovery, attempts to use the radio, and eventually resigns himself to the fact that the plane is going to run out of fuel and crash.
Brian mentally rehearses what he's going to do when the fuel runs out; the plane won't crash immediately, but will continue moving through the air. If he drops the nose, the plane will gain speed. If he raises the nose, it will slow. He determines that he needs to nose the plane down, gliding as gently as possible toward his target, and then nose up at the last moment, so the plane will stop quickly. He also determines that landing in a lake will be the best possible target, whereas landing in the trees will probably kill him.
Conclusions about Brian we can draw include;
- He is an adaptive person, and he can create and modify plans. This is evidenced by the change from his initial, frantic radio calls, to his calmer and more regulated calls later.
- He is emotional, but can control himself when necessary. He seems to understand, without stating it, that devolving into hysterics will not help his situation; nevertheless he is afraid
- He has had some exposure to, and a decent memory of, survival skills and basic rules of physics. For example, he remembers that he has to turn off the radio microphone in order to hear anyone.