Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Pilot's Wife (the last of the Lost Posts)

A recent lost post, and the most acceptable of those that remain unpublished - they're still in the draft box for a reason...

Before I married a pilot I had this vision of what life as a pilot must be like. I had grand ideas of high salaries and layovers in all sorts of glamorous locations. This may have been true once but it's far from reality now, or at least far from ours. When I met my husband he had just been informed that his airline had gone into liquidation, and he was unemployed. He'd also recently broken up with his girlfriend, and he was homeless and sleeping on a mate's couch. He was undeniably "a catch" and I was instantly smitten. I guess, despite the setbacks, I still had a vision (a cross between Tom Cruise in Top Gun and Rob Lowe in View From the Top) of what a pilot was, and I saw the potential. D was gainfully employed again by the time we hooked up officially, but glamorous it was not. A regional airline based in Sydney, which shall remain nameless, paid him a pittance to fly around NSW in very small planes. For his 30th birthday he was rostered to fly to Dubbo and I went along, not wanting him to be alone. It was one of the bleakest, coldest nights of my life, and will go down in history as one of the crappiest birthdays ever.

When a certain Hong Kong based airline came calling a few years later, it was still a tough call. We had a good life in Sydney, we were happy, we were settled, we had a garden and a dog. But my husband had the "sky in his eye" as his Aunty N would say, and his dream of flying a big plane (aka a jet) was within reach. We were also being offered the chance to actually make some money and live overseas; not something to sniff at. We took a chance and packed our bags (and the dog came too). And four years later, here we are, still searching for that high-flying lifestyle. Don't get me wrong, life here is awesome, and we wouldn't be here if it weren't for my husband's job. I want to state for the record that I know how INCREDIBLY lucky we are, and this (despite appearances) isn't intended to be a "poor me" post. It's more of a "let's get a few things straight" post, because I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who have that same vision of piloting that I did all those years ago. We've met some really interesting and worldly people in our travels but as soon as my husband mentions that he's a pilot, that's all they want to talk about. So for my readers who aren't married to pilots (or related to one), I want to dispel a few myths, hopefully without shattering any illusions for those of you who aren't aware that the guys in charge of the plane are just regular husbands/dads/brothers etc (a fact which still freaks me out sometimes).

Firstly, while destinations like New York and Milan are a really long way from Dubbo and Bathurst (on so many levels), a lot of the time the guys are only there for 24 hours and then they have to turn around and come home. My hubby tries to get out and see as much as he can when he's away, but it's usually on the wrong side of his body clock, so he comes home shattered and takes 2-3 days to recover from the jetlag. Secondly, while it sounds really cool to say "we're off to Paris for the weekend," the reality is that a 12 hour flight for 30 hours in Europe followed by another 12 hour flight is more exhausting than the first few weeks with a newborn. And you can forget about it when you have kids.

Contrary to popular belief pilots and their families don't fly for free. It's ridiculously cheap I'll admit, but you're always on standby. Yes, I'm that crazy lady hurtling through the airport trying to make it to the plane at the last minute. But only because the dear people at check-in wouldn't give me my boarding pass until after the flight closed, and not because I couldn't be bothered to check in on time (chances are I was there several hours before you). My sister-in-law had travel benefits with us one year and she went to the airport 6 days in a row trying to get home to Brisbane. Not fun. We do, correction did, have business class privileges when D first joined the company, but that only meant we could fly business class IF there was a seat available. Imagine turning up, dressed the part, ready for a 16 hour flight to New York, and being told the only seat left on the plane was the one right down the back between the toilet and the overweight snoring man. Children of staff are not allowed in business class either, so once J arrived we were sent back to economy with the rest of the punters. A sad day indeed. I wouldn't mind so much if I didn't know what I was missing. As one friend puts it; "business class isn't just a better seat, it's a better life." The idea that pilots make truckloads of money is also ludicrous. We're not destitute by any means but you've all seen my kitchen, right? And my husband may get a lot of time off in between trips, but when he's away, he's a long long way away, for days at a time. He's so tired and incoherent when he does get back that sometimes I feel like I have two kids. His job might be a hot topic of conversation at get togethers, but to me he's still the guy that forgets to take the garbage out.

At the end of the day being a pilot is just like any other job. You work your butt off for someone else (although watching movies and eating first-class meals enroute to London isn't my idea of hard work), you get paid and you look forward to the weekend, when you may or may not be flying to Paris. Just a regular day at the office really.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for sharing ... i'll be back ... {pilot} husband mentioned something about a move to hongkong as a portion of a job application ... and i freaked a little ... glad i found you to read up on!