Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Training pays off

Last Sunday we ran our first 5k. It was a great experience for both Kidzilla and me. Kidzilla was the youngest runner in the race and came in first in his age group. He beat me by about 25 seconds, with a time of 36:50.

Prepping for the race.

Approaching mile 3

At the finish line

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unpacking my overhead compartment

I haven't blogged much lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about blogging and aviation in general. Someone has to post non-technical aviation stuff of interest to wive don't they?

The bill making it's way through Congress to require all airline pilots to have an ATP rating and 1500 hours, for instance. With all of the aviation blogs I follow (about 12 pilots and 28 wives- I use google reader, I don't actually have to check all these every day...), only one mentioned the bill and that was only a one line reference. It's kind of a knee jerk reaction to the very publicized accidents this past year. This bill is going to have a major impact on upcoming new pilots and the pilot mills that crank them out. As well as the costs to the airlines of having to get their guys trained. It has the potential to effect A if he is not able to return to work for another year. What happens if he doesn't meet the hours or training requirement in time because he's been disabled? Does he lose his job because the airlines have to have everyone trained by a certain date? It remains to be seen if the bill will pass.

There were two WTF incidents this week. The well publicized missing the airport by 150 miles incident (funny post here re that one) and also a DAL plane that landed on the taxiway instead of the runway in ATL. Seriously? I could see this happening at a new outstation, but at the hub? The airport they probably fly in and out of most frequently? How do you explain that one? Way to enhance the dependable, professional, well-trained image.

On a positive note, I've been in contact with the committee chair of our company Critical Incident Response Program (henceforth known as CIRP). I asked two questions that have been pestering me for a while and got responses to both.

My first question was whether there was a role for wives to volunteer with any of the committees within the pilot group. I have an interest in the CIRP group and also having wrangled my way though the long term disability issues, the LTD committee. I was told that wives were welcome to attend the CIRP training (that conveniently was held the week prior to my asking about it, damn) and that currently there was one spouse certified. Hopefully I'll be able to join that committee in the future.

My second question has been burning since A's own technical malfunction a few years ago. What gets communicated to a spouse if there has been a major incident? How does she find out? What happens next? I was told that the airline notifies the wife and then the CIRP committee steps in. They have a checklist of things to be done in the week following an incident. There is no manual or anything though. I had asked the gentleman if the CIRP committee had ever considered putting out a flyer or electronic resource for wives about what would happen in the event of an accident. I even volunteered to help make it. My request was based not only on my own experience but also on the fact that when I asked everyone I knew what was supposed to happen, not a single person knew beyond a vague "well I guess the company would notify me...". Wouldn't all wives feel a touch more relaxed knowing what to expect in the event of an emergency? And hasn't research shown that the happier a wife is leads to less stress a pilot has which leads to being more able to concentrate on flying (hint, the answer is yes, I have the research to prove it...). And really? How hard is it to make a flyer? I even told him (which may not have been well received since I have yet to hear back from him) that the next time he was in the crewroom he should take an informal pool of how many pilots knew who would notify their wives and what would happen during a critical incident and how many of their spouses also knew that info. I'm betting the percentage is low. Do you know what would happen in the event of an accident? Does your spouse/partner? We'll see where this all leads.

I'm also working up an email to ALPA (the largest pilot union) to request that they do an article on pilots, depression, and the FAA access to medical and mental health records. Based on some of the responses to my post about pilots and depression, there needs to be some clarification around those issues. Hopefully I'll get around to that this week. It's on my endless to do list...

For those of you who are academically inclined, I found two books about pilots that might be interesting. Both have small bits of info about wives and families as well. Anxiety At 35,000 Feet by Robert Bor is about clinical aerospace psychology and the mental health of pilots. Pilots Under Stress by Stephan Sloan and CL Cooper is a comprehensive write up of an extensive survey done of British pilots in the mid eighties. The pilot wives article I wrote about was actually piece of this study. It covers spouses and family lives a bit more in depth. I'm working on reading both of these in my "free time".

I think that's all the aviation news I've stored up to comment about.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Research updates

Research updates- I spoke with my research professor yesterday and he gave me the green light to go ahead and do a research project on my own. I don't have to do it under the auspices of a class. My next step is to define exactly WHAT to measure and how to measure it. I've already got the who, how, what parts down. So I'll be working on that side project when I have time. I realized that if I didn't take advantage of being at a university and doing some research I would kick myself later when I didn't have the resources. Given the opportunity, what would you want to study or know about pilot families?

After an exhaustive search, here are the few journal articles I could find about pilot-family interactions:

Sources of Stress on the Wives of Commercial Airline Pilots- 1985, Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine

The Spousal Factor in Pilot Stress- 1989, Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine

Aircrew Wives and Intermittent Husband Syndrome- 1994, Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine

Psycho-social Family Factors and Marital Gratification of Pilots- 2001, Chinese Mental Health Journal

And that's it. Four articles. I'm trying to find info about how families deal with the constant, short term separations, but there isn't much on that out there either.

On another note, I was referred to a new blog-, written by a charter pilot who lost his medical due to depression. He got off to a good start by contacting AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) about new laws regarding depression medications, but hasn't gone any further than that.

Now, back to studying for the midterms I have coming up on Thursday, Monday and Tuesday. Followed by Kidzilla and I training for a 5k run coming up at the end of the month. Hopefully the heat index will drop by then, otherwise I'll have to think twice about posting pictures of me at the end of the race.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I've finally had a free moment to do a bit of research of my own. Or really, I finally MADE the time to do it. I've been using my student access to our vast computing and research databases (or so they proclaim on our school website) to search out research done on aviation families. And while I have found such interesting tidbits as "Smoking Behavior Among Female Airline Cabin Crew From 10 Asian Countries", it seems as though there have been exactly three studies written that include any reference to wives. The first was the Sources of Stress on the Wives of Commercial Air Line Pilots (from 1985!)that I posted about earlier. I found one about Aircrew Wives (publish date 1994) that looks marginally applicable and one titled The Spousal Factor in Pilot Stress (publish date 1989). Tomorrow I'll head over to the library to get copies. I guess no one has cared enough to study pilot families in the last 10 years.

I'm not yet done with my search, but so far I've run 14 different word combinations (all variations of airline/aviation/pilot and family/spouse/wife/wives/separation/stress/divorce) in 5 different databases (Social Work, Sociology, Psychology, Family Studies and Health/Medical). I've still got another few word combination to run but at this point I think it's highly unlikely that anything new will pop up.

Next up is bring in the big guns- asking my professor for some help in the search.

Oh yeah, and I missed it. Sept. 1st was my 3 year blogiversary.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


A has been gone for the previous two weekends, is gone thurs-sun this weekend and will be gone again next weekend. I feel like we are back to living an aviation dominated life. But at least his absences are mostly his choice and aren't company dictated.

I think that spending so long at home with us helped cement with in how much he misses when he is gone. The project he is working on now, he says he's only doing in order to have something left behind to take care of us when he's gone (a little obsessed with the 20 year mortality thing already) and that he wouldn't be away from us so much if he didn't feel he needed to do that. It's a sweet sentiment; I think he needs some time away from us anyway.

In class the other day, we were shown a training video about cognitive-behavioral therapy in a marriage counseling situation (it doesn't matter if you didn't get that, it's not pertinent). It was a couple who were in for marriage counseling. The woman worked part time and the man was a traveling pharmaceutical rep. It was strange because every problem and episode that they showed in the video seemed like something we had been through in our relationship- the "you're never there", "you never do stuff", "when is my free time", it was all in there. All of the young 20somethings in my class thought the woman was a nag and was controlling. But I stood up for her. I said "until you have a traveling husband, you have no idea what it's like". When he's gone, you literally have to handle everything and then *poof* suddenly he's there again and you aren't alone and then *poof* again and he's gone. He only has limited time at home and a long list of things you need him to accomplish. And that has to be combined with some free time for each of you and you as a couple. No wonder she nags him to get stuff done, she's got a lot riding on his accomplishing his tasks. I think even the instructor was surprised at my conviction. Even though the video had nothing to do with traveling spouses, they all got a good lesson. And they'll probably choose never to marry one now.