05 June 2013


Blessed does not begin to describe the life I have been afforded. I am more than blessed to have a great marriage, my perfect complement in my husband, the ability to live abroad, the opportunity to travel and the means to not stress about establishing myself in a well-paying career path.

The life of a pilot’s wife is one of strength, trust, flexibility, disappointment, understanding, unknowing, hair-pulling, complication and bliss. Every wife’s experience is different but there are some similarities based on the field.

It is important for any non-aviation members to know that the aviation industry is the most backwards industry on the planet and it takes a bit of time to get where we are. Take everything you know about business, people skills, education, best practices, human resource management and productivity levels, see where they are on a circle in your mind, then flip them 180 degrees, stomp on them and you will have the career path of a pilot.

Examples: A pilot must first teach others to fly before he or she can actually be paid to fly people. When a pilot is hired at any company, at any point in his or her career – no matter the age, experience level or aptitude – he or she is paid the lowest wage, is awarded the worst schedule and usually ends up commuting from another state. If a company realizes they have too many pilots, instead of evaluating employees on an individual basis, they lay off those who were most recently hired, with the intent on bringing back those pilots when the time is right, even if it takes 15 years. If a company is short on pilots, they lower the qualifications to bring in more inexperienced people.

From my experience with my husband and his friends, after spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours gaining experience and teaching others to fly, they aspire to be hired with a commercial carrier where they will be able to fly more hours, which is a qualifier in any pilot position. Since they will not have enough hours to qualify at a mainline company such as United or Delta, many young pilots begin flying with regional aircraft (a.k.a. the tiny planes with no overhead space and no more in-flight snacks and beverages).

When the hours are stacked and a position becomes available, some will choose to move on to larger aircraft at the parent companies or mainline carriers (a.k.a. the really big planes with not enough overhead space and no more free in-flight snacks and beverages). Some choose to fly corporate jets; others aspire to fly cargo aircraft, large and small. Paul’s dream job is flying for FedEx.

Paul taught, mentored, flew the regional commercial aircraft and then moved into private aviation. He was home every day when he instructed, he was home twoish days a week when he was flying commercially and he was home all the time as a corporate pilot. Paul has now moved from small cabin corporate jets into large cabin government flying. His first official flight is next week and today Paul began his journey back east.

In the last 64 days, I have seen my husband only 35 days and, at this time, I do not anticipate seeing him for at least another 45 days, but is just a guess. Since Paul’s job is traveling, he has left me many times before. He has left for hours or days at a time; on a rare occasion he has left for two or three weeks. This is the first time he has left me for such a long period of time.

Last night I was incredibly tired but, when it came time to call it a night, shut out the lights and go to sleep, I had an urge to not sleep. All I wanted to do was snuggle against Paul, talk to him, hold his hand, wrap his arms around me. I wanted to be awake so that I could experience his presence just a little longer. We awoke before the alarms and continued to talk and hold onto each other until the familiar annoyance sounded.

I drove Paul the short drive from our hotel to the airport at the dark hour of 4:30 a.m. I think I made him hug me three times and the last time was extra long. When Paul walked away from the vehicle and into the airport terminal this morning, I watched him with sadness because I realized I was saying good-bye indefinitely. My heart physically ached and my eyes welled with tears because it was almost as if I was watching Paul walk out of my life. I knew that I wasn't but it really felt like I was.

As I drove back to the hotel alone, in the dark, without an urge to actually figure out where I was going, I considered what it would feel like to be a military wife. If my heart ached in my chest and nearly caused me to stop breathing at the thought of not seeing my husband for up to two months, how much worse would it feel to know that my husband would be away for six months, a year or more, fighting for his life daily? How would it feel to know that I would be alone in my daily life events without even a chance of my husband being able to be there with me, no matter the circumstances?

Then I had a bit of a selfish thought as well. In the last few days, a lot of prayers and well wishes have been sent Paul’s way. Before we left town, Paul’s family prayed a blessing upon him. I had said a number of prayers throughout the last 48 hours, all for Paul’s safety, well-being, protection, adjustment to the new climate and time zone, ease of relationships in his new work environment, wisdom and knowledge upon him in the new aircraft – not once had I thought to pray for myself or have anyone else pray for me. This day was going to be a tough day and I needed all the help I could get.

Thankfully, I had a conversation with my friend, Megan, who agreed to send some prayers my direction. I had a bit of a down day and did not fulfill all of the things I set out to do, but I did survive, I did not cry more than five minutes at any of the 20 or so times tears appeared in my eyes and I did, somehow, manage to stay awake.

I am now in bed – alone. Sleeping for one is not as fun, nor is it comfortable…unless your name is Paul and you are flying Singapore Airlines’ business class. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts on military wives brought tears to my eyes....being one myself I have felt this more than once. It's like watching a piece of your heart dressed in digital acu print walk out of your body. Keep yourself busy, pray when you need to, cry when you need to and remember your both smiling under the same sun and sleeping under the same moon.

Hope to see you again soon!