Your Guide To Sleeping In An Airport

sleeping in the airport terminalOnce upon a time, my blog had a very strong focus – pilot wifestyle. My husband was a newly minted airline pilot, and it took a while to get used to the lifestyle. For a while, there were very few pilot wife bloggers, and we were a pretty tight knit group. Because pay was so low in the first years, the main benefit of being married to a pilot was flight benefits. Even though I was at the very bottom of the standby list, I loved to take every opportunity possible to get out of town. And often that meant getting stuck in airports.

But over the years, I got a little tired of writing all the blog posts about airports, flights, delays, mergers, FAA rulings, non-rev nightmares, and long-distance relationships. I switched the focus of the blog back to me, and the things that interest me…namely health, music, pop culture,  blogging and social media. I still travel more often than the average person, but I haven’t had to sleep in an airport for a long time. When I came across this infographic by TravelSupermarket,  it reminded me of all the times in 2007-2009 I was perpetually stuck at the airport.

To see the full graphic, click here.

About 2 years ago, I presented at Ignite Salt Lake, with a presentation called “Enjoy Your Time At The Airport, Whether Or Not Your Junk Is Touched.” Please don’t mind how unprofessional my performance is…I was really nervous, felt awful, was short of breath and I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia the next day.

CPAP machine airportIt was at the height of the controversy over airports in the US installing the backscatter image security scanners, so the presentation does focus on that. However, I talk about sleeping in the airport, especially at Salt Lake City airport. I no longer travel with my CPAP machine (because my sleep apnea has improved greatly after losing over 120 pounds), but back when I slept in airports often, my CPAP machine took up a large portion of my carry-on suitcase.

Have you ever had to sleep in the airport?

Wordlesss Wednesday: The Detroit Funky Tunnel

DTW Funky Tunnel

Airline Mergers and Acquisitions

I can hardly keep up with all of the recent airline mergers and acquisitions. Aviation tends to be in the news fairly frequently, last year being particularly eventful.  I’m not sure if more is going on than in past years, or if I’m just paying more attention. Twitter keeps me pretty connected to the latest headlines. In response to the crash in Buffalo last year, the FAA has been revising crew fatigue and rest requirements. Airlines are beginning to hire again, and furloughees are being called back. United is in the process of merging with Continental.  Pinnacle is buying Mesaba. TransStates is buying Compass. SkyWest is acquiring ExpressJet and merging it with ASA. ComAir announced drastic fleet reductions. Today,  Southwest Airlines announced its plans to purchase AirTran.

I remember being floored when I started hearing rumors of Delta and Northwest merging in 2008. My husband was in his first year with his regional airline, we’d just relocated to Detroit, and the national economy was taking a nosedive. Between Delta and NWA, there were approximately 10 regional airline contracts. I knew at some point, many of those airlines would either fold or get sold. Sky-high fuel prices have made many companies reconsider renewing contracts on fuel-inefficient aircraft. Tickets are getting more expensive to keep up with costs, and more planes are taking off full.

I have learned that being married to someone in the aviation industry is unpredictable. When Taylor was hired, regionals were recruiting like crazy. Had the economy not tanked, he might be a captain right now. It’s exciting to see things moving again, but it’s worrisome to know how it will affect other families like us. It’s been tough living apart, and the commute is so hard on him.  We are constantly scheming ways to live together and make it financially. We’ve lived in the same place for 14 months, but I honestly don’t know when or where we’ll be next. It’s hard to feel a sense of security when life has so much uncertainty.

I can only hope that all this change will bring about good things.

When He Leaves

Sometimes it’s really hard to be married to a man who spends more time away from you than with you.

Every month around the 22nd, he gets his schedule for the next month. It’s usually a celebration of a good amount of time off, or cursing the work rules that make commuting a near impossibility.

When he’s on his way home, I get so excited. I track his flight progress online. I try to straighten up the house. I shave my legs. I attack him with a gigantic hug and kiss when he walks in the door.

But his time at home is never long enough, usually 2-3 days before he gets ready to leave again. He has his pre-trip routine. He showers, packs, and does the mental checklist: shoes, pants, pilot shirt, underwear, badge, passport, wallet, keys, iPhone charger, Zune, and snacks. He checks flight loads, and details of his upcoming work trip. He gives me a goodbye kiss that never seems long enough. The door closes, and our home feels like just a house again.

It’s usually not too long before I send him a text saying “Miss you already.” I walk into the bathroom, and the counter is missing his toiletry bag. I can still smell the faint scent of his deodorant that drives me wild. I go around the house and find all the cups that he drank out of. I fold the rest of the laundry from the load he threw in a few hours before leaving.  I mentally plan out the things I need to accomplish before he returns home next. I hug my daughter tightly, and we give each other the usual bittersweet crooked smile.  She says, “I miss daddy.” We talk about how long it will be until he comes home again. Sometimes we let each other fall apart a little bit. And then we put ourselves back together and get back to ‘normal life.’

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a husband who worked regular business hours, and could plan on legal holidays off. The 4th of July was a special day while we were dating, and I’m feeling particularly melancholy about him being gone on a trip over the holiday weekend. But I take comfort in the fact that he has a nice stretch of days off next week, and we’re tentatively planning to do something fun alone together.

I love him so much. I miss him so much.

The Graduate: Aviation Professional Pilot

After years of effort, three schools, several majors, student loans, and the blasted algebra class that would never end….Taylor did it! He graduated from Utah Valley University’s Global Aviation Program. He achieved the much-desired Bachelor of Science degree, Aviation Professional Pilot.

It was a little strange to be on UVU’s campus, as Taylor’s program was entirely online (or in the air, if you will). It was a strange feeling. I’m grateful that Taylor was able to obtain this degree so flexibly…completing coursework in Utah, California, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, and Georgia. Despite hundreds of drivebys of the UVU campus, we didn’t know where anything besides the McKay Events Center.  The day before graduation we drove around to look for the Alumni Center where caps and gowns were being distributed…and had to ask a few people where to go.

I’m so proud of Taylor’s accomplishments and drive to complete his degree. He is one of the lucky ones of his fellow aviation graduates to be lucky enough to be working the “dream job” (if you can call being a regional FO a dream). He’s had aviation in his blood, wanted to be a jet pilot since he was 3 years old, and he made it happen.

The Bachelor: Jake’s an Okay Guy

The Bachlor, Jake Pavelka, Pilot Bachlor, On the Wings of Love
The Reality Show I Love to Hate

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Jake Pavelka, AKA “The Bachelor.” I’ve only watched a handful of seasons of The Bachelor, so I knew the basic premise, the cattiness of the girls who “really think they’ve fallen in love,” and the awkward situations that ensue when 25 hot ladies go after one man. With this background, I was really dreading the outcome of the season with Jake as “The Bachelor.”  Now that the season is drawing near a resolution (and yes, I do know who ultimately “wins” Jake’s heart), I thought I’ve give an update on my impressions of America’s favorite regional pilot.jake Pavelka, jacob lynn pavelka, The Bachelor

I actually think Jake is an okay guy! He is charming,  sensitive,  and I honestly believe he has integrity. I like that he doesn’t string along the girls he knows he doesn’t have a future with.  My gut instinct is that he is proud of his body, and he normally wouldn’t be parading it around like this:

But honestly….I don’t mind looking (and don’t tell my husband!) ABC knows how to get viewers hooked! Now when I hear “On the Wings of Love,” like I did at the grocery store on my birthday, my mind immediately wanders to the above image.

There’s a big of a disconnect between his career as a regional pilot and the glitzy “rich and successful” career that ABC makes him out to have. Actually, my sources at ASA (his regional airline) have told me he hasn’t been flying on the line for quite some time, and he’s awaiting an interview date with Southwest Airlines in March. He flies the CRJ-200 (same as my husband) but most of the shots on the series show the 737 that Jake hopes to fly soon.

My biggest beef of the show continues to be the lack of emphasis Jake’s future partner will experience with his career. He hasn’t said a word about the realities of his time away from home. A pilot’s partner will always have to share their man with Crew Scheduling. He will deal with delays, reserve, domicile changes, and possibly even furloughs. He may be comfortable with his current salary with ASA, but it’s always a paycut to go back to First Officer pay.

Jake Pavelka, The Bachelor, Jake Shirtless

But in the meantime, I’m just going to forget about all the IMPORTANT stuff, and focus on the reality TV drama!

Flying Cheap …The Regional Lifestyle?

The CRJ-200 – My husband’s birdie

My pilot wife friend Melissa tipped me off on this upcoming Frontline special: Flying Cheap

Quoting the Frontline website:

From producer Rick Young —

The crash of Continental 3407 outside Buffalo last year, killing all on board, was big news, as any commercial crash is. But like many who were fortunate enough not to be touched personally by the tragedy, what most caught my attention was the news that followed. The co-pilot had been making less than $16,000.

While I knew the airline industry had been struggling through tough times since 9/11, I sure didn’t know that some of the folks that fly me around are working second jobs and overnighting on lounge room La-Z-Boys. And I didn’t know that regional airlines, once thought of as puddle-jumpers, had grown so fast that they now account for more than half the nation’s daily departures. We are on our way to becoming a regional airline nation.

If you missed this big industry shift, that’s understandable. Most flights today still carry the codes and colors of the major airlines. But over the past decade, fewer and fewer of the majors are actually flying those planes. That job is increasingly outsourced to small regional companies with names most of us hardly know. Continental 3407 wasn’t flown by Continental, but by a company called Colgan Air.

The rapid growth of airline outsourcing is part of a fiercely competitive industry that keeps airfares affordable for many. And that’s good for consumers. But the crash of 3407, and the year-long investigation that has followed, raised significant questions about the safety practices of regional operators like Colgan. So it seemed a good time for FRONTLINE to journey into the world of the regionals and see what the insiders had to say.

In this clip from the film, you’ll hear about the lives of regional pilots, crash pads and the pressures that outsourcing brings to bear — “pilot pushing” as its called in the industry. Two former Colgan pilots agreed to speak publicly for the first time, and so we flew to California and sat down for long, amazing interviews. While their stories were in many ways surprising, we knew they weren’t unique. We’ve spoken with many regional pilots, both former and current, and most all shared similar concerns about what’s happening in the airline industry.

The full expose will be showing on February 9th. But even from this 10 minute snippet, you’ll see and hear some pretty harrowing facts…poverty wages for newbie first officers, crazy crowded crashpad conditions, the realities of duty time vs paid flight time, company efficiency quotas, the reasons why so many people commute. I’m a little perturbed that the video infers that all regional pilots are low time and underexperienced…but that’s a pretty common media angle.

It will be interesting to see if the special mentions anything about pilot families, and how the commuting lifestyle affects family life. I don’t deal with the physical fatigue my husband experiences after his fourth 16-hour day in a row, but to say I’m immune from emotional fatigue would be false. I do know the existing duty FAA guidelines are currently under revision, and things can’t stay at the status quo much longer. And this includes bargain-basement airfare.

And now for some light entertainment…

Skymall Birthday Wishlist

I love to shop, but not in the traditional “Let’s go to the mall and have a girly shopping spree heyday” kind of shopping. As soon as I was old enough to help my mom clip coupons, I gained mad discount bargain shopping skills. I am true to my brand loyalties, despite buying most of my stuff at discount retailers and thrift stores. Growing up, I was a sucker for the “As Seen On TV” commercial products (I still am, if the recently acquired SlapChop in my cupboard is any indication). I’ve been shopping online since the late 1990’s, and get better prices on the things I do buy that way. Although I don’t do much shopping from catalogs, I have had a longtime guilty pleasure obsession with SkyMall Magazine.

Nothing produces a case of the “Gimmes” more than Skymall. It’s a brilliant airline marketing tactic…fill 136 pages with exciting and unique products, and provide each passenger with a copy at arm’s length. I usually ban myself from even pulling the magazine out of my seatback pocket, knowing that I will launch into greedy materialistic consumer mode before I hit 10,000′ altitude. But on my flight back from Memphis this weekend, I indulged in a little SkyMall fantasizing. In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday (in 17 days), here is my Skymall wishlist:

Magellan Aluminum Wallet $29.95

I’ve never actually purchased something directly through Skymall, but I have found the items on eBay and purchased them for much less (I still don’t know why people pay $30 for an iPod charger when you can get one for less than $3 on eBay…) If these gifts are out of your price range, you can also check out my Amazon Wishlist…and I say this in the least greedy, “I’ll still be your friend regardless of the gift” voice possible. I like presents, but I like friends more. Stay tuned for details on my upcoming 30th birthday bash on February 5th…

Just for fun…comment and tell me what your SkyMall obsession items!

Sneak Peek at How My Weekend Started

Sleeping at SLC gate C09
(Yep! I Even Brought my CPAP!)

Apology to those who think I hate Embry Riddle

Just to clarify:

I meant no disrespect for Embry Riddle in my previous post regarding “The Bachelor – On The Wings of Love.” Personally, the only exposure I’ve had to ERAU is listening to the cockpit experiences of my husband and his pilot friends. When they hear about how “Grandpa Moneybags paid for my training at Embry Riddle,” its hard for them not to feel some resentment. Those typically are the same captains who make fun of my boys for living off of peanuts, pretzels, and Biscoff cookies (because money for their student loan payments trump a healthy meal). These loan payments often exceed their take home pay, and they went to the least expensive flight school they could find.

I do not doubt that Embry Riddle graduates gain an excellent education there, regardless of how it was financed. Maybe some of your ERAU grads who sent me hate mail will understand my perspective a little more…and will be kinder to your fellow pilots who trained in a less prestigious program.