Monday, August 30, 2010

The day that finally came

It's here. It happened. The day we knew would eventually come but blithely thought we could avoid forever. A went back to work. After 30 months off. I'm thankful that he's able to go back to the career he reached for for so long. But a bit wistful as well.

It's a strange transition. I know what it's like to live this life, it's what I lived most of the time that we've been together. But now I know the other life too. I wish I could find a compromise of the two. At least with both Kidzilla and me in school, we are occupied. I've been trying to outline some sort of routine for us to keep things organized, it will come with time.

After having spent the past 7 weeks joined at the hip while I've been on summer break, this is probably the best possible time for him to be away for a while. Since we had two weeks notice of his upcoming retraining, we were able to mentally prepare ourselves. But still, yesterday there were tears at the airport. Not the big bawling kind there were the first time I dropped him off for training, but a few. There was also the morning packing episode where A finally showed his stress about going. But together we finally got all of his things correctly and compactly packed. He left us with last minute instructions about the best place to park our car in the complex, instructions on proper dishwashing techniques and a request to please not spend too much money at the grocery store- all signature A worries when he's not here to supervise. I was touched that he was so concerned about us being on our own, sometimes we all forget to tell people how much we care about them.

The most difficult part of this training, for Kidzilla and me, (aside from having to have Kidzilla at the bus stop at 6:40am daily) is that due to the limited flight schedule at our local regional airport, for most of A's time off between training sessions, we are going to have to rondevu in Jacksonville, three hours away. A simply CAN'T get home to our local airport and have any reasonable amount of time home before he has to go back. Thankfully we have a place to stay in Jacksonville, because we'll be headed there for at least the next three consecutive weekends. Incidentally, I think we finally found the one positive thing about working for Gulfstream Airlines- they don't fly on Saturdays. At all. Not enough to outweigh the negatives, but at least it's something.

This going back to work process has been interesting. There was recently a round of recalls for furloughed pilots as well and the training center seemed to have difficulty with the fact that A was a return to work off disability and NOT a furloughee. I was able to connect with another pilot wife from the company who's husband was also returning to work off disability and we were able to bounce experiences off of each other. It was a sanity saver because we were both being told different things at different times. Our husbands ended up in training together. Hopefully it's the start of a long friendship for us all.

It was so frustrating knowing that different people were being told different things. As a "helper" type person (I'm a social worker after all), I want so bad to sit down with the heads of HR and training and say "hey, this was our experience and I know you can do better. Here's my suggestions". If I were in charge of HR I would want to know so I could make everything the most streamlined and efficient as possible. But in large companies, it just doesn't seem to happen that way. At this point though, any effect I did have would be negated by the fact that the company was bought out and is merging with another a year or so down the road anyway.

For now, I'll just concentrate on getting through my last semester of classes (already!) and finding time to enjoy what I have instead of finding all the ways that everyone else could be doing a better job of things.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Trip report

While shopping online for something else recently, I came across a write up for a "Child Avaiation Restrain System" . I had to chuckle when I read that it "is FAA certified for all phases of flight " taxiing, take off, turbulence and landing." Since when did turbulence replace cruise as a phase of flight? I guess I didn't realize that turbulence was a given during a flight. I'll reserve my judgment on the actual equipment for another time.

I recently took a quick trip out to California, my first trip there in 2.5 years. Thanks to pricing, I got to fly on American Airlines, whom I've never flown with before, and Delta, whom I haven't flow with for years. A survey of good and bad experiences during the trips:

Departing from JAX, I made it from the curbside drop off, through check in and security, to my gate (at the far end of the terminal) in just 17 minutes. A wasn't even off the airport property yet.

The Pilots for the flight arrived from their hotel about 10 minutes after we were due to begin boarding. The Flight Attendants arrived from the hotel about 10 minutes AFTER we were due to take off.

American Airlines was too cheap to through any blankets or peanuts at us during the flight, even after the crew caused (and probably preventable) delay, but I did get several free drinks and was impressed with cool gel/foam headrests on the seats.

We made up most of the delay in flight, I made my connection to SFO and other than being fantastically hungry, all was well.

For the return flight on Delta, it took Kidzilla and I about 35 minutes to make it to our gate, mainly because we got shuttled into the "family" line at security and had to wait for all of the parents who couldn't figure out what they were supposed to do. We could have made it through the regular line just fine, but at that point I just let it go.

We boarded the plane behind a tourist family with 4 daughters. Who then proceeded to back up the boarding line by having to discuss who was going to sit where and next to whom while we all had to stand there waiting for them. Finally, I snarled at them "do you think you could let us by and then continue this?" They all promptly sat down quietly. The gentleman who was seated in the row with Kidzilla and I seemed a little afraid of me after that. Hopefully next time, the family will hash out who sits where BEFORE they get on the plane; to me that seems like the common sense, polite thing to do.

Foresight led me to purchase two bagels and a water prior to leaving SFO. It was a good decision because it took 2.5 hours for the FA's to get our drinks out to us. And we only got one round of drinks during the entire 4+ hour flight. The delay wasn't due to turbulence or anything I could identify; I guess I should have just been happy they made it to the flight on time. Or not, because then maybe they would have given us better service to make up for the delay. But at least we got free peanuts and blankets on this trip. And some free TV.

When we arrived in ATL, we sat on the tarmac through a 1.5 hour weather delay groundstop. It really sucked. Although our outbound plane was delayed, giving us enough time to eat, all of the airport food vendors were closed due to the late hour. Ironically, the FA's were late for this flight as well, although it was excusable because the plane they were on was also held on the tarmac due to the groundstop. We finally made it in to JAX at 1:50am. To find that our one checked bag had been left in ATL.

Due to our start and end locations our trip involved driving 3 hours west to fly 7 hours east to drive 3 hours west again. Isn't that the way life goes?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What the future holds

I had this great post outlined talking about some general things about the aviation industry. Then something more personal and pressing came up.

A got his clearance to return to work last Friday. As expected, it evoked mixed feelings but overall, we viewed it as a good thing. He called the Chief Pilot on Tuesday to work things out, made arrangements to fly to Houston for the day to sign some papers and pee in a cup, and generally was gearing up to go back to work. Irritatingly (although understandably) he has to resubmit the same paperwork he did as a new hire- updated list of previous addresses, list of previous employers, all that good stuff again.

Then we woke up to a text message from a friend on Wednesday morning saying that the company had been sold. Sure enough, major changes in the works. Potential changes in bases, equipment flown, benefits; it's all up in the air now. What we do know is that when they integrate the seniority lists, we are going to get hard. Because they will deduct all but the first 90 days of A's disability leave as time not worked. Meaning he'll come in at nearly 2.5 years less in seniority then his date of hire would indicate. Which means he'll get crappier schedules and be closer to any potential furloughs. Just because he had cancer. It's like the gift that keeps on giving.

Currently, when he goes back, he'll be starting at 2nd year pay, despite being hired over 3 years ago. And he'll have to start over on vacation accrual and his 1 year probationary period with the company. At least that's what we can figure after reading over the pilot contract. But at least at his old company, he'd keep his seniority meaning that coveted captain upgrade would come that much sooner.

It feels like one of those two steps forward, three steps back kind of situations. It wasn't supposed to be like this.