Looking back over my posts this week, you probably think all we do is watch movies. Granted, this week has been a bit different because J had a stretch of 8 whole days off. Pretty unusual for him. He goes back to work tomorrow for a 3 day trip. Yep - right over Thanksgiving. Again. You'd think after 5 years he might get Thanksgiving off. Good thing it's not a holiday with a lot of emotion invested for me!
At any rate, being the wife of an airline pilot, I often get hit with people's myths about the profession. I thought I'd start by debunking the ones that I hear most often. If anyone has any other things they've "heard" about the life of a pilot, leave a comment and I'll see how many other myths I can shoot down.
The longtime stereotype of airline pilots is that they are male, fearless, perfectly fit, good at math, trained in the military, blessed with perfect vision, all paid like super senior 747 captains (regardless of what they really fly) and only at work three days every other month.
Myth #1: Airline pilots make lots of money
This is my favorite! This is probably true for a captain in the majors (ie Delta, Continental) flying transatlantic routes or ones who've been there 30 years. It is definitely not true in the "regionals" (the small aircraft feeder airlines to the majors) where J works. A person just starting out flying here is eligible for food stamps in most states. Think about that the next time you step on an airplane!
Myth #2: The life of an airline pilot is a glamorous one
John Wayne personified this myth in The High and Mighty which glorified airline travel in the mid 1950s. Pilots then were seen as debonair young gentleman who took a measure of risk up in the cockpit but always managed to look great in the coat and hat. They jetted from city to city and had friends everywhere. The reality of J's life is that he sleeps in a different, cheap hotel room every night and is lucky to have time for one decent meal in any given day. The FAA requires that he get 8 hours of "rest" per day but the reality is that rest starts when you leave the airplane and stops when you get back to the airplane resulting in considerably less sleep than the recommended daily allowance.
Myth #3: Pilots have to have perfect vision
This is a minor one but people still tend to buy into it. The only requirement nowadays is that a pilot's vision is correctable to 20/20.
Myth #4: Most pilots trained in the military
That was true at one time but nowadays many pilots come through a general aviation career. J started flying small planes, then started instructing in them. He/We paid for every single hour of flying that got him into his job.
This post may sound like I'm complaining about the life of an airline pilot. Granted, it is a very different one. J is usually gone for 3-4-5 days at a time and home for 2-3 (or sometimes more) days at a time. I figured up just recently that he was gone for almost 60% of the hours in October. The flip side is that when he is home, we get to enjoy a lot of quality time together as a family. Plus he absolutely loves to fly so he loves his job. I think that sums up what's important in life: loving what you do with the majority of your time and having time left over to love your family.
Myth #5: Infidelity is the name of the game
Here's one I hope you can shoot down!
My FIL was an F-14 instructor in the Navy (Vietnam era). He knew many pilots who went on to commercial careers, and he said that once that happened he didn't want to join them because he didn't know one who was faithful to the wife back home.
I don't know if this was the era, the lifestyle back then or the guys he knew, but I hope that this supposedly rampant infidelity is not as common anymore.
Well, I was trying to avoid this one but since you asked..... I think this is a "myth" that grew out of reality and is still somewhat true. I wouldn't go so far as to say that every pilot is unfaithful (I am trusting here that J is at least one exception!) but I have heard too many stories about ones that are. A commercial pilot who hasn't had at least one divorce is rare. Sadly, the lifestyle makes it very easy to be unfaithful; not to mention that the lifestyle puts a lot of stress on a relationship. You really have to actively work at maintaining open communication and trust. It bothers J a lot that so many of his coworkers take their marriage vows so lightly. I wish it bothered more people.