Author: Chip Wright (page 2 of 31)

Periodic fleet changes

Every 15 to 20 years, it seems, the aviation world undergoes what amounts to a seismic shift in fleets based on real-time events, changes in technology, and, if we’re being honest, hope.

The year that was 2020 helped accelerate some of those changes, as the Boeing 747 faded away from all but a few passenger flights and migrated more toward cargo, where it is likely to earn its keep for at least another decade or more. But the Airbus 380 has sustained a far less glamorous fate. Long hyped as the replacement for the 747 on long-haul, high-density routes, it was never able to live up to its promise. In fact, it never even came close.

The fact that no North American carriers took a bite on the 380 probably contributed to its early demise. Some airports didn’t want to spend the money to beef up runways, taxiways, ramps and gates on a “maybe.” In the end, flying any airplane seats with no passengers in them is expensive, but when the airplane is designed to carry upwards of 500 people, those empty seats get expensive in a hurry, especially when factoring in the cost of operating and maintaining four large jet engines.

As if the B-777 replacing a lot of 747s wasn’t enough, Airbus came out with the A-350 while Boeing added the 787 and larger 777s to the line. For the airlines, these were obvious choices in an industry where the bottom dollar dictates everything. In the current environment in which airplanes are being parked by the hundreds, the twin-engine, long-range jets offer a lot of flexibility and a more nimble response to constantly changing market demands.

On the other end of the spectrum, the old puddle jumpers were replaced by a tsunami of Bombardier CRJs and Embraer 145s. As quickly as the new jets gained in popularity, they wore out their welcome due to high operating costs, uncomfortable seats, and a lack of overhead bin space that required planeside bag checking. They have since been replaced with Embraer’s E-JET series, which are more comfortable, have more storage space, carry more passengers (for a lower per-seat-mile cost) and offer greater range.

In the middle of pack is the line of new engines attached to old airframe designs. The Airbus 320/321 NEOs and the 737 MAX series are designed to launch service on short transatlantic routes while also introducing quantifiable cost savings on routes that historically would have been tough for these airplanes to leverage. It feels like the 727, once the backbone of domestic fleets, has been out of service for far longer than it has been.

Changing fleets on any kind of scale brings a cost to the manufacturers and the airlines that is almost impossible to fathom. Decisions have to be made a decade in advance in an industry where solid information more than six weeks in advance is considered as rare as water in the desert. Rest assured that Boeing, Airbus and Embraer are already working on trying to figure out what those potential needs will be, and what technology will be necessary to bring them to market. Getting it right could mean striking proverbial gold, and getting it wrong…well, that would be like finding yourself stranded in the desert with no water.—Chip Wright быстрый займ в домодедовозайм онлайн на карту безработнымзайм чебоксары

What's next?

As I write this, the ink is still drying on the CARES 2.0 legislation that Congress passed in order to offer relief to individuals and businesses as the pandemic rages on. What does it mean for aviation and the airlines?

In short, it’s a Band-aid, and not much else. Last spring, as the full extent of the virus became known, airlines (and the rest of the travel industry) spoke of three possible outcomes. A “V” shaped recovery curve would have meant a severe decrease in travel, followed by a fairly rapid return to levels seen pre-COVID. A “U” shape was described as a severe drop, followed by an extended stay at a decreased level, and then a rapid return to normal. The worst-case scenario is the “L” shaped curve, with traffic and demand bottoming out and not returning to anything remotely resembling normal until a vaccine or an effective therapeutic was available; herd immunity would also help.

The reality has been somewhere between the U and the L curves. Despite the uptick in holiday travel, demand is still way down. At my carrier, the schedule is still less than 50 percent of what it was in 2019, but certain routes are showing hope. Cargo flights are currently doing very well as passenger jets are used to supplement FedEx and UPS to cover transport of the vaccines and personal protective equipment.

With fears of another surge in the first quarter of 2021, it’s too hard to predict any timelines for a return to normalcy. The uneven rollout of the vaccine isn’t helping, but there is hope that we may finally be turning the corner. Airports have more people, and flights are slowly being added to the schedule. At the carriers scheduled to resume or being service with the 737 MAX, the hope is that the fuel efficiency offered by the airplane will allow for some schedule growth.

A friend of mine has a son who is a recent graduate of a major aviation university, and what had been expected to be a fairly quick entry into the airline world was instead replaced by chaos and upheaval. The expected August 2020 class was pushed back indefinitely, but has since been moved to February 2021—good news indeed if it holds, but that’s no sure thing right now. But if it transpires, then it means service to and from smaller regional airline-centric cities is beginning to show some signs of life.

The first big test will be demand for travel over spring break. A number of colleges have pre-emptively cancelled their traditional spring break in an effort to keep the academic calendar on track. But elementary, middle, and high schools are not all taking such a drastic step, and parents who decide to book a trip this year aren’t likely to change their minds after 14 months of being cooped up.

Following spring break, the next time period to watch will be the summer months. The Olympics have been rescheduled, as have all of the qualifying competitions, and if the vaccine rollout picks up steam, people will be more and more ready to travel, and cities and states will be more and more ready to open. Little things will (hopefully) begin to add up: weddings (and subsequent honeymoons) will begin to pepper the calendar, as will the gradual return of major trade shows, conventions, and big business events (including AirVenture, if not Sun ‘n Fun). Families will travel for vacations, to watch their favorite baseball team play, to visit colleges…the list goes on.

If you’re a potential airline pilot, all of this is good news, as is the continuation of retirements because of  the Age 65 rule. It will pay to keep abreast of what all of your preferred employers are planning on doing with respect to staffing. One question that has already cropped up is whether the vaccine will be mandatory. Right now, most carriers are keeping mum on any plans to mandate getting the shots, but it’s possible—maybe even likely—that certain countries will require proof of vaccination in order to enter the country. As a pilot, that basically means that the shots will be a requirement. No such mandates are in place yet, but it’s reasonable to expect that they will be coming. It’s also possible that some states will require it.

While 2020 has been a year to forget, it has also been an unforgettable year. But COVID is in our collective crosshairs, and we will find a way to control it and get our lives back. And when that happens, air travel—along with hotels, restaurants, theme parks, and more—will reap the benefits.—Chip Wright займ онлайн самарабыстрый займ сбербанквзять займ новосибирск

Customer service and COVID

“Customer service,” unfortunately, is not usually synonymous with the airlines. We’ve all heard or experienced the horror stories of lost bags, exorbitant fees, lost kids, and heaven knows what else. But in this era of COVID, customer service is taking on new meanings and new challenges.

In the post-9/11 world, it is all but impossible for a pilot to leave the flight deck to deal with an unruly passenger, yet more passengers seem to be more aggravated and aggressive than before.

With the proliferation of masks, there has been a rise in cases of people who don’t seem to be willing to fully comply with the new rules, though the rapid spread of the virus has helped to some degree. In my recent travels, I’ve seen a number of confrontations that could—and should—have been avoided, and in this case, most of the blame falls on the customers, not the airline.

Every airline is now not only requiring a mask, but also requiring passengers to acknowledge the new rules when a ticket is purchased and/or during the check-in process. There are also numerous announcements made at the airports (which have their own rules), as well as on board the airplanes.

Flight attendants routinely remind everyone of the requirements for a mask, usually as a part of the first public announcement, and then regularly thereafter. On top of that, most captains are also emphasizing the need for a face covering, with reminders that noncompliance will not be tolerated.

In my 20-plus years in the airlines, I’ve never seen such a universal effort to ensure compliance using such harsh measures. Instead of just offering a verbal warning, noncompliant passengers are being escorted off the airplane, and are quickly finding themselves on a list of passengers who are banned from that carrier until at least the end of the pandemic, and maybe longer.

Pilots can still help defuse some situations on the ground, but in flight, they are relying on the cabin crew and potentially any crew members riding along on the flight. There have been several cases of pilots witnessing a disruptive situation from afar, and stepping in to offer support of the employees on the ground (usually the gate agents).

Because the overwhelming number of passengers are folks who fly only once or twice a year, they may be dealing with situations where they have to keep the mask on for longer stretches of time than they are used to. This may make them uncomfortable or just frustrated. That’s understandable. But there are also other folks who are not totally sold on the stated efficiency of aircraft cabin filters, and those are passengers that we can’t afford to lose. Just about every flight in the air these days is losing money. Tickets are cheap and seats are empty.

It is imperative that we all be sensitive to one another, but it is also imperative that we understand that we tacitly agree to abide by certain rules when we go to certain places. That includes, for now, the masks. Speaking up so as to be heard, as well as speaking slowly and clearly, also help. Sometimes someone just needs to be vent and be heard. Often, if they feel some validation when they need to talk, they will readily go back to full compliance. Give eye contact and a genuine ear.

This new norm is going to be with us for a while, and we all need to work together to get to the other side of the pandemic. In the meantime, we all need to use our best “customer service” in all facets of our lives.—Chip Wright

Packing for more than just the trip

The reliability of modern air travel is really quite remarkable. Airlines routinely report a success rate of well over ninety-eight percent. Even a drop of a tenth of a percentage point can get the attention of the bean-counters and managers. If a carrier operates 5,000 flights a day, and only one percent cancel, that’s still 50 flights that didn’t go—and hundreds of passengers can be affected. Bump that to 1.1 percent, and you’re up to 55 flights and more stranded passengers. And since the cancellation of one flight often leads to the cancellation of another, you can quickly see the domino effect.

That said, as pilots, we need to be ready for all eventualities. This is especially true if you are a commuter, but applies even if you’re not. When I pack for a trip, I never pack for less than the length of the trip plus one day. I always have at least one extra pair of underwear, socks and a tee shirt just…in…case. In all of my career, I’ve rarely needed it, but I’ve been grateful to have it when I did. In my case, winter weather has almost always been the culprit. Snow and ice slow everything down, and taxiways, ramps and runways may be slowed to a crawl or even a stop. Deicing fluid runs out. Trucks break down. It takes at least 20 minutes to get the fluid heated up. All of this is in direct competition with crew duty times.

I’ve been snowed into various cities for anywhere from one to three days. Sometimes I can see it coming, and prepare accordingly. Other times, not so much. Summers are easier because you can pretty much count on a pair of shorts and shirt to do the trick. Winters are tougher to pack for, because you don’t always know what kind of clothes to take or where you will end up. And even south Florida in the winter can be downright cold.

In addition to having a suitcase that is properly packed without turning into a rolling brick, you also need to have enough cash in your wallet for any contingencies. In cold climates, an ice storm can knock out power grids, rendering credit cards unusable. A power pack to charge your phone is handy as well in case of a power failure. Do you take prescription medication that may not be refillable out of state? Take enough for two weeks just in case.

As the winter weather digs in, my bag always gets a bit heavier—jeans instead of shorts, maybe a winter jacket as well. Doing laundry on trips is never fun, and doing it in the sink or the tub is even less so. But getting stuck somewhere can also be a lot of fun and a chance from some great camaraderie, and will undoubtedly lead to some of your best stories. My all-time favorite was an unexpected 4 day vacation in St. Maarten, which I know will never happen again. But you can bet that if it does, I will be adequately prepared!

First look versus train to proficiency

In airline training, there are several kinds of actual training. Ground school, the simulator, emergency procedures, aircraft doors, et cetera, are all unique, with specific requirements.

In the simulator, training usually concludes with a checkride of some sort. Sometimes the checking event is a routine flight from A to B with a few minor mechanical issues thrown in to test your problem-solving skills. Other times it consists of items called “first look events.”

First-look events are items that a pilot is expected to perform such that they meet or exceed the established standards on the first try. A classic example is the V1 cut, which is the failure of an engine at the most critical part of the takeoff. It’s critical because an abort or a rejected takeoff is no longer an option; the crew must fly the airplane off the ground on one engine following very specific procedures.

There are a number of other first look items, such as certain approaches and maneuvers. They are called “first look” because the crew is not allowed to practice or rehearse the item during the training event, and the instructor is not allowed to help or coach.

As you might imagine, these events tend to be fairly critical skills, skills that need to be embedded in the memory and the muscle memory. A pilot is expected to have reviewed these items before showing up to the training center. There is a little wiggle room for error, and if the performance is not up to standards, there may be a way to train it again before a final evaluation is recorded—but the less-than-stellar performance will still be recorded for record-keeping and tracking by both the FAA and the airline (if the crew crashes, the ride is over). Most often, however, the expectation is that the minimum standard will be met. If it is, then a few more practice runs may be allowed just to sharpen the responses and the skill set.

Another set of maneuvers is the “train to proficiency” (TTP) maneuver. This is just what it sounds like: the pilots are given a thorough briefing on the maneuver, and they are allowed multiple efforts to show mastery. The idea is simply to gain proficiency on something new or on something that has not been emphasized in the recent training cycles. In the last couple of years, every airline has been required to put their pilots through upset recovery training. This been a global push, not just a U.S. one, and it has been brought to the fore by actual events throughout the world.

Data indicate that pilots of large transport equipment were using inappropriate or incorrect control inputs, so we all got a chance to recovery from a wide array of unusual attitudes at all altitudes. Because it was a new series of events, it was introduced as a TTP event. The goal was not to subject the pilots to the stress of a pass/fail event, but to introduce a new set of skills, a greater understanding of swept wing aerodynamics, and a new confidence in the humans as well as the machines.

TTP events are definitely more relaxed and more enjoyable, though no less intense. First-look items are a chance to show off your stellar airmanship. There are pros and cons to both. Both require study and preparation. Both ingrain and enhance skills. And both can save your life.-–Chip Wright  female wrestling

Paper alternates

If you’re reading this, chances are you are an instrument-rated pilot, or at least considering becoming one. Under instrument flight rules, if the weather, plus or minus an hour of your ETA, is expected to be worse than a 2,000 feet ceiling and visibility of less than 3 miles, you need to file an alternate (this is known as the 1-2-3 rule).

The airlines use the same criteria, though there are several exemptions that the FAA will grant that allow for different alternate determination rules and alternate selection rules. It depends on the airline, its equipment, safety record, et cetera. But even then, everything starts with the 1-2-3 rule. And often the alternate that is given is not always the best choice.

Nobody ever wants to divert. Diversions are inconvenient, and whether you are a general aviation guy in a Cessna 172 or an airline, diversions also cost money. When the fuel is Jet A at a relatively low altitude, the costs add up quickly. Further, carrying any extra fuel also costs money. Therefore, it stands to reason that when an alternate is listed, it should be as close to the destination as possible, right? Not necessarily.

Back in my regional days, I was based in Cincinnati (CVG), and when the weather was low enough to require an alternate, the company would frequently use the nearby Lunken airport (LUK). This was a “paper” alternate, in that it satisfied all of the regulatory requirements.

However, there was never any intention that we were going to land at LUK. The point of listing it was to minimize the cost of carrying alternate fuel for a more realistic station (in our case, typically Dayton, Indianapolis, Louisville or Lexington). We didn’t serve LUK, and the airport had no TSA presence, so deplaning passengers would have created a nightmare. We also didn’t have a fuel contract there, so getting fuel would have been expensive.

I’ve seen this issue in more than one metro area. Airlines going to New York will use another airport in the New York area—Islip, White Plains, Stewart, to say nothing of the more common JFK/LGA/EWR trio—that they don’t serve just to minimize costs. And most of the time, this works. Dispatchers don’t typically use one of these paper alternates unless they a) have to, and b) are confident that the weather won’t go much lower than the 2,000 and 3 that requires an alternate in the first place. But still…things can happen.

When you see one of these scenarios develop, you have to decide whether to go along with the eternal optimism of the dispatchers that things will work out as planned, or call them and discuss a more realistic option. Since the captain and dispatcher both have to sign off on the flight, you do have some leverage. Or, you can take your chances and land at a small podunk airport and watch the show as everything unravels—for which you will be blamed in some way, shape, or form.

Know the rules. But also know the options, and don’t be afraid to exercise them.—Chip Wright

Short-notice emergencies

Pilots don’t deal with emergencies nearly as much as the people in Hollywood would have you believe. The majority of flights are uneventful, and most of the ones that are eventful fall that way because of the weather, not because of an engine fire or a hijacking.

In my career, I’ve had a number of issues both mechanical and human to handle in flight. Mechanical ones are usually pretty straightforward, as there is a checklist for just about everything (“just about” being the caveat). A few of the more challenging scenarios have involved medical issues with passengers, and the most challenging have been those that occur with relatively short notice before either a descent to the destination or the landing.

Three stand out. One was a pregnant lady who went into labor as we were turning final, and two were passengers who got sick in flight (different people, different flights, same day—you can’t make this stuff up). It’s often said that the holy trinity of flying is aviate, navigate, communicate, and never is that more true than when dealing with a compressed time frame and a medical scenario that may require immediate help. No matter what it is, you need to ensure that safety of all passengers, and you can best do that by actually flying the airplane. Sounds obvious, right? But it sometimes gets lost in our innate desire to help someone.

The first task is to figure out if a diversion is even an option or necessary. The captain and the first officer may disagree on this, but the FO has an obligation to respectfully assert an opinion, and the captain has an obligation to respectfully listen and consider that input.

If a diversion is not in the cards, then it is imperative to split the workload in such a way as to ensure continued safety while addressing the problem. On the second of my two medical emergencies in one day, the passenger was deteriorating rapidly, and the captain had me take over all of the flying duties while he coordinated with the cabin crew and the folks on the ground. This particular event began below 18,000 feet on our descent, so things happened quickly.

Normally, sterile cockpit procedures would apply, but there was reason to believe that this person might not survive, and time was of the essence. While I flew, the captain got as much information as possible from the flight attendants and passed that on to our station on the ground, so that they could pass it on the EMTs on the airport. We did the checklists together, but in between, he was getting updates from the cabin.

When we checked in with the tower, they had to be told what was going on, as preparations were still coming together on the ground. ATC had some idea of what was going on, but they didn’t know the full extent of it. Once we told them, they gave us a better runway and promised us an expedited taxi to the gate. This conversation went on until just a short distance from the runway.

On the ground, the captain taxied the airplane as quickly as he safely could while I took over ATC duties, and when we got to the gate, the paramedics were on the jetway with a stretcher waiting to remove our sick passenger.

Unforeseen emergencies like this don’t happen often, but when they do, it seems to be at the worst possible time. The workload and the stress increase, but the obligation to stay professional and on task never changes. This passenger survived, and part of that was the coordination that took place to make sure that emergency personnel were in position and had the information they needed. But that would not have mattered if we had not aviated first, navigated second, and communicated third.—Chip Wright female wrestling

Hotel issues

When you are making a living by living on the road, you will become an expert on certain issues that can arise. In our case, we don’t often rent cars, so most of our problems will be with hotels.

There are several things that stand out as common areas of distress when it comes to hotels. While everyone might have a few other things on their list, and may order them differently, this is mine, and I’m willing to bet that most would easily agree on it.

Transportation. This is less of an issue for me than it used to be. At the regionals, we almost always stayed in a hotel that provided the transportation to and from the airport, and getting the vans to show on time seemed to be a never-ending challenge. Many of them claim to run on a schedule, but unless that schedule is whenever-we-want-to-o’clock, it isn’t one you will recognize. Somehow, every time I would call for a van, I would be told that “it just left the airport.” At some point you realize that this is code for “we don’t really know where it is.” The wait and frustration were always at their worst when it was cold, late, or the end of a long day with a short night ahead.

Transportation companies tend to be more reliable, and hotels themselves are better than they used to be thanks to the proliferation of the smart phone and apps that they can use to know exactly when you’ve arrived. This is a major consideration when you are unusually early or late.

Temperature control. Hotels are a constant source of complaint when it comes to getting the room temps to be comfortable. A few—not many, but a few—still only have a central control for the entire hotel, which means that they might have the heat on when the temps are just starting to drop, and that can lead to an uncomfortably warm room. Malfunctioning air conditioners are by far the most common reason I’ve ever had to call the front desk, and they’ve also led to me changing rooms more times than I care to remember. I have a couple of hotels on my personal list that I dread staying in because the A/C is just unable to produce a comfortable room temperature. Some pilots will just go to another hotel altogether, but while I’ve come close to this, I haven’t actually done it.

A few hotels have a certain A/C system that you can override to set a lower temperature. It’s called a VIP setting, and it will let you turn the room into an icebox if you want to. It will hold that setting for up to three days. But you didn’t hear that here.

Food. The biggest issue here is usually a lack of options or price. Or both. This is usually only an issue late at night or in the time between breakfast and lunch if you got in late and need to sleep. It can also be an issue when the restaurant is closed for a renovation. These days, it’s an issue because of COVID. My company has been forced to change a number of our hotels because of a lack of dining options. What helps these days are services such as Uber Eats, Grub Hub, et cetera.

Noise. This isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be, but noise can still be a major problem, especially during holidays or festive occasions when people tend to get drunk and act like idiots. Large events with kids—sports tournaments, kid-centric conventions, et cetera—can also be a problem. A number of hotels try to put crews on the same floor or floors in order to keep the noise at bay, but they can’t always do that. Not everyone can sleep through noise or fall asleep after having been jarred awake. This may require calling in fatigued, but most pilots don’t resort to that.

Noise outside the hotel, such as fireworks or sirens, usually isn’t something the hotel can do anything about, and you can’t do but so much complaining. But if it is on the hotel property, then you should by all means complain if necessary. Live music or a loud deejay is a pretty common complaint. In time, you get pretty adept at figuring out which rooms are noise-sensitive: overlooking pools, near elevators and ice machines, stairwells, fitness rooms or supply closets.

There are myriad other common items that come up in hotels, such as keys that don’t work, fire alarms in the middle of the night, or a lack of hot water, but these are the biggest issues that you will face on a regular basis. And the truth is, 99 percent of hotels do everything they can to minimize the issues, because they don’t want to lose the contract or disrupt your rest. A hotel is a home away from home, so you should be (and deserve to be) comfortable.—Chip Wright

Sick at work

We are well into the COVID-19 pandemic, and my airline just sent out a memo reminding everyone that flu season is coming while imploring us not to come to work if we are sick.

In the past, this would only happen if the flu was running rampant, but this year there is an added sense of urgency. And, because we have to have our temperature checked every day, it begs the question of how to handle an illness of any sort while on a trip.

Nobody wants to be “the reason” for a cancellation or stranding a planeload of passengers somewhere. But that said, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. I was on a trip once many years ago, and I woke up in the middle of the night with a case of food poisoning that was so bad that the flu would have been a welcome improvement. The vomiting and diarrhea were so bad that I quickly became dehydrated and it was at least an hour before I could stay on the phone long enough to call the company and my crew. I felt awful for nixing the flight, but I was just in no shape to fly.

So, what do you do if you do get sick? Or if someone in your crew is sick? First is to let someone know: the front desk, the company, a fellow crew member. You don’t need to offer drastic details, but you need to tell someone. A crew member can call Scheduling for you and can work with the front desk to arrange for you to keep your room. If you decide to call the company, don’t commit to anything with respect to when you will be ready to return to work, and don’t try to self-diagnose anything. Just tell them that you’re too ill to fly, and get off the phone.

If you’re the healthy member of the crew, you can call the company on behalf of your partner and explain that they are sick, and even if they wanted to fly, you’re not going to let them.

Once you call in sick, you’re sick. You can’t allow yourself to be talked back into going to work. The FAA will have you for lunch. If your partner is clearly ill, you need to help them determine if they need to get to a hospital. Most of the time, the answer will be no, but if you aren’t convinced that they are doing well, then you should make arrangements to get them to an emergency room. Going to the ER in the middle of the night is never any fun, but I can tell you from too many experiences that it is the best time of day to go, since it will be pretty quiet and slow. You can be in and out fairly quickly, or quickly attended to and admitted. If it is your crew member, somebody from the crew should try to accompany them.

In addition to the company, it’s also critical that you notify the spouse of the ill person, because the company might try to beat you to the punch. You also need to get word to the rest of the crew, though company policy might dictate that Scheduling handle that. If everyone is on the same floor at the hotel, you can slide notes under the doors. You might also need to coordinate with the front desk on keeping the rooms. If the hotel is in a busy period such as a convention or a trade show, then you need to get on this lickety split and be prepared to change hotels if they are sold out.

Getting sick on the road is no fun, but if you do this long enough, it will happen to either you or someone on your crew. Be ready so that you can minimize the disruption and keep the sick person comfortable.—Chip Wright

Family time

My kids have only known the airline life, with Daddy being gone a good portion of most months. My wife grew up in a more traditional household, but her father worked at least 70 hours a week. Still, he was home every night, whereas I am not.

As you can imagine, this can create some tension at times. But, when I am home, I am truly home, and I have plenty of free time to live and handle life.

When my kids were younger, they would try to fight over who got to spend more time with me when I was home. One of their favorite things was for me to come to school to eat lunch with them, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were going to be days when I’d be eating two lunches, and for a while, in different schools. I got pretty adept at packing two smaller snacks, because they didn’t like to think that I had the “better” lunch with the other one. Kids are funny like that.

The monthly juggling act for years was to try figure out how to be home for as many of the kids’ activities as I could, without making one of them feel slighted. It wasn’t always easy, and it often took some planning. One of the most effective ways to deal with it (at least in my house) was to sit everyone down when I was working on my schedule for the following month, and asking who really wanted me around for something. If they had multiple events, they had to tell me the order of importance. I never promised more than I could give, and a couple of events required some help from another pilot or from the chief pilot’s office. And, if I’m being honest, there were one or two sick calls that had to be used in order to be the best parent that I could be.

My kids got pretty good at giving me a heads up about major events that might be anywhere from two to four months or more down the road. I learned to figure out how to interpret the tone of their voices, so I knew which ones were critical and which ones would just be nice. And there were some things that they didn’t place as much importance on as I did, and that’s OK, too.

Birthdays were always a challenge, because birthday parties almost always took place on a weekend, even if the bid day was on a Wednesday. Because they had sleepovers for years, I always made sure that I was home for those so that my wife wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. But as they got older, I’d ask them if they wanted me home for the party or the actual birthday.

Like any other pilot or flight attendant, there were some things that I’ve just had to miss, and that’s just the breaks. But I’ve always tried to prioritize my family, and I dare say that I’ve done well, but it isn’t always easy, especially if someone is sick. But when they look back, I think my kids will be able to say that, when it was really important, Daddy was there. It takes a team effort, and it takes work, but if you want to do it, you can. Even if you have get…creative.—Chip Wright

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