Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas as a Pilot's Wife

                                                   Merry Christmas from Disney!!!!

I will be the first person to say we are extremely lucky this year that dh is home.  That being said there have been many years when he wasn't, and that's the normal.

Let's start with the year that I met dh, he was in upgrade training in Houston (we had moved down there) and we didn't come home for Christmas.  My family was very understanding of this, especially considering I had known dh for 6 months at this time and it included a move across the country with him.  However dh's parents didn't understand this and I was blamed for him missing Christmas.  Great way to make an impression on future in laws right?

Fast forward to a few years later he was actually home for Christmas and his good friend (pilot) had an overnight where we lived at the time.  It was great even though it wasn't a long overnight there is nothing better than helping a pilot have at least have a little bit of home on the holiday.

Then there were the Allegiant years.  Which brought a whole other level of crap to the holidays.  My absolute favorite was the year they let him trip trade off Christmas, which was great we were so excited!  Until two weeks later, after we had already bought our tickets home it "magically" appeared back on his schedule, a lot of screaming ensued which resulted in the company (basically) telling us "too bad so sad it's on your schedule now."   The joke was ultimately on them though, due to their fantastic maintenance program dh had super scary emergency landing.  This in turn gave him Christmas off, even though he had to sleep in the airport after his flight and told the schedulers to go pound sand.  Communication was stellar the chief pilot gave him and the CA  (coincidentally one our best friends these days) and dh the time off because of the nature of the emergency, but didn't tell scheduling.  So scheduling kept calling dh asking where he was, he finally turned off the phone.  I picked him up at the airport Christmas Eve morning and the only thing he wanted was breakfast somewhere with a bar, it was bad.  Then there were the years I drove from ABQ-ORD by myself in the truck with the cats and dogs because dh couldn't any time off around Christmas (or Christmas).  Every Christmas has a story it seems in those Allegiant years.

Then there was last year, dh had just switched companies, which in and of itself was a fantastic Christmas present.  But we also knew that because of that he would be working.  Dh was home on Christmas Eve and I dropped him at the airport Christmas Day morning at 6am.  And my day went on from there, Christmas with his parents, and later in the day my family.  While dh got a nice turn to LGA.  Every year we make it work, some years are better than others no doubt, so I will leave you with a poem I wrote one year.  I was supposed to drove to Chicago but I got a hundred miles away and something was wrong with the truck so I flew at the last minute with a giant box of presents and a cat in a snow storm, it was fun...or something....also VERY expensive!

Christmas Time Pilot Wife Style (Night before Christmas)

T'was the trip before Christmas and all through the house
 everyone was stirring perhaps even a mouse.
The truck had been packed with less than a care
in the hopes that I would soon get the hell outta there.

The animals were snuggled all safe in the back
while visions of sugar plums danced while they yacked.
While me in the front along with puma the cat
had just settled down to drive forever at that.

When out on the road there was such a shudder
I turned back home before the truck went a flutter.
Back to the computer I ran in a dash
hoping to book tickets that wouldn't cost me much cash.

Success with free tickets, send me away
only to turn out at the airport I must stay.
And to what did my tired ass eyes  appear?
the snow of the century that all airport passengers fear.

When I spy a poor old F9 driver so sad and quick
I knew in a moment he must work for the "Revered  St Dick."
More rapid than a hare he said they went missed 4 times
and this will no doubt cost you another dime.

On Delta on Airways, American, and Continental
and whoever we could ride on without being judgmental.
 Into the line you must rush
to see how to get out of all this fuss.
So I call my pilot who flies in the sky
to shout about what is happening and why.
 Up to the front of the line I flew
to find out my ticket was book on American anew.
Then in a twinkling I heard on my phone
my husband calling to let it be known.
That I would be staying the night in a hotel,
because the roads to my house had closed...what hell!

 I schlepped all my bags, boxes, and cat
onto the hotel with all of my crap.
 In the morning I got free breakfast for my trouble,
and back to the airport where American charged me double.

By the time I arrived in Chicago I'm not merry
and want to beat the shit out of the Christmas fairy.
Little did I realize my fun was just beginning
back to the airport I drove to pick up my husband who was grinning.
Two days I got to see my husband before
he flew off to Ft Lauderdale once more.
Then quick as flash back  to the airport I drove to get him
and on Christmas Eve even by now I'm quite grim.

But my fun was not over, because I got sick myself
what better to visit an ER on Christmas day...when else?
After receiving two shots which I dread
the rest of the day passed in my happy floatly head.

Lucky for me I had a few days to shirk
before following dh to Ft. Lauderdale for work.
Could barely stay awake till midnight on New Year's Eve
then my one day at the beach it was 30 I was  peeved!

Then back to ORD I went like a missile
and waited for Dh to appear looking official.
The next morning again to the airport for our O'Dark thirty flight
And we finally made it back home before midnight!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Great Expectations

I don't know if it's the Christmas season or what but recently I have talked to, and heard of pilots bemoaning the fact that they have been at their regional for X number of years.  Depending on what X is depends on whether I want to tell them to grow up and welcome to the real world or not.  Here's the truth, in the regional world there is no magic number of years to be there before you can go to a major.  Some in the military go straight to a major, some go to a regional and then move up, but there is no hard fast rule about how long one can plan on being at a regional.

A bit of background here might help.  Dh started flight instructing, worked charter for 2 years, was at his regional for 10 (and furloughed for 2 of those 10 years) worked corporate while he was furloughed.  Then he went to a LCC, he was there for a three years, of which we mostly wish he had never left his regional as it was far superior to the LCC.  And now he's at Spirit.  While we are extremely happy to be at Spirit and  it's worked out better than we could have ever planned, this wasn't how things were suppose to go when he started.

You see when he started at Continental Express (yes it was still owned by Continental) and they had a flow through, he was going to be at Continental in 5 years flying across the pond.  But what? What's that? 9/11 happened and the Continental guys flowed back to the Express side which pushed dh into a furlough.   So you think this is just the way the game is played right?  He got furloughed but will then sometime flow up to Continental right? Wrong. Continental then sold Express to pay for their pensions and killed the flow through in the process.  So pretty much there went his thoughts of going to Continental.

Now I'm not saying all this to be sad and upset, it is what it is, it's the airline industry and quite frankly it sucks.  If you expect anything out of this industry you are in for a rude awakening.  Sure everyone knows someone, who knows someone, who got hired at Delta as an FO, but it's so infrequent you are probably better off playing the lottery.  It makes me laugh (if I didn't want to hit them) when I hear guys say "I've been at my regional for 3 years I wasn't supposed to be here this long, I should be at Delta/AA/ect.  I'm not sure why they haven't called me."  This annoys the crap out of me, I'm sorry that someone somewhere told you that you were special and you wouldn't be there for more than three years, but there are a lot of guys worse off than you.

The guys I have met that seem to have every reason to legitimately complain about the airline industry (but don't) are the 50+ year olds who are in new hire classes.  Some of these guys have had the absolutely crap beaten out of them.  Case in point one guy in dhs new hire class was at DHL then went to World/North American and was furloughed when he was over 50.  You want to start complaining about your three years at a regional when you're 28, get a life.  I give these older guys a lot of credit most of them have an upbeat view on life and are happy to be anywhere that there paycheck doesn't bounce.  Maybe it's a generational issue more of a "me" generation vs. boomer and generation X (though I have met a few younger guys who were furloughed from Comair who are very nice and down to earth).  Regardless of the case I would ask you take a minute and think before you start complaining, not only because it makes you sound spoiled but also people are less likely to help someone and write them a rec, when they are complaining.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Being a Pilots Wife

There are a lot of things non-aviation folks just don't understand, after all how could they? Here is a list of my top "misunderstandings."

1) Holidays - At some point in their aviation career your pilot will not be home for the holidays.  This means any holiday Birthday, Anniversary, Christmas etc...And it won't be just one year they will miss these, it will be many years of missed holidays.  Last year when dh started his new job he worked every holiday, even the hallmark ones (Valentines day, St Pattys day, etc...) and this year he is working New Years Eve but that's ok we knew that would happen when he took the new job. The family though...lets just say over the last 10 years they have gotten used to it.

2) Free Flights! Those "free flights" you get when you marry a pilot will at some point allow you to sleep in a crappy airport.  I'm not talking a nice airport like DEN I'm talking crappy like CLE. Those free flights are great, if there are empty seats on the plane, but these days its harder and harder to find a plane that isn't stuffed to the gills. So while it's not impossible to fly standby these days, its a far cry from what ever your friends and family think you do.

3) Day Tripper - Along with #2 is that your relatives may not understand going to Disney World for the day.  To people who don't fly a lot it seems like a big effort to go for just one day, but for you the well seasoned nonrev it's just another adventure.  Hell I've driven to the airport just to meet dh for dinner if he had a few hours sit, fyi DEN is great for this as they have a lot of stuff outside security.

4)Scheduling - your relatives won't understand this, especially to start with.  For me after all these years in the in industry it's second nature and I forget that people have no idea that words I'm using sound foreign. For some reason I am having a difficult time describing reserve lines right now (you would think it would be self explanatory right?) I think it is confusing people that sometimes he flys and sometimes he doesn't on reserve.  I keep getting questions of when is his next trip? And do you really have to fly on reserve days or will you be around?

5) Loneliness - Here is one of the most undeniable truths about being a pilots wife, you WILL be lonely.  I'm not saying all the time, or every time he is on a trip, but there will be times when you're sick, or when you want to go out that you will be lonely.  This is not meant to be a "poor me" cop out, but it will happen, and probably more than once.

6) Being by yourself - This goes hand in hand with #5 you will get used to going places/doing thing by yourself.  This can mean anything from going out to dinner, going to the zoo, going to a wedding, or going to family Christmas by yourself.  You will get used to this, and hopefully after a few years your relatives will either understand your pilot is at work or at least stop asking about it.

7)  Pilot Wife the Great Fixer - In the spirit of #5 and #6 you will get very good at fixing things yourself.  It never fails the minute the pilot walks out the door something breaks.  Oh and it's almost always after normal "business hours" so you can forget having someone come fix it!

8)  Training - The world stops for training.  Training is critically important every year its "you bet your job" in the simulator. I can't count the number of things I haven't told dh while he has been in training; dogs sick, dog died, I'm sick, somethings broken, I say nothing when he is in training. Training is so stressful to start with I won't add to that unless absolutely necessary.

9) Unions -  Depending on your relatives they may or may not understand Unions.  Some people love them, some people hate them, but they are very present in the airline industry.  Usually if some starts bashing on them we stay quiet, its hard for folks outside the industry to understand how important they are in the industry.  Having been at both a union and a non-union airline, we (well dh) will NEVER fly at a non-union airline again if he has a choice.

10) Rich Pilot - The best for last, all your relatives who think that dh is a pilot and is rich. I know many a pilot families who qualify for state aid us included when dh was on first year pay. Yes, if your pilot is a mainline widebody captain he's making a decent living, other than that he's probably not rich, unless he made his money somewhere else.