Sunday, June 28, 2009

On The Occasional Perks of a Bad Schedule

I don't often write about my work life. If done well--or at least as I define "well"--being an airline pilot is boring and lonely. I like the work, but am tired of the travel, if that makes any sense. If I ever find myself making a call to my wife to tell her about my exciting day at work, it will be the last thing either one of us wants. And because she is my best friend, not seeing her half the month brings a sense of aloneness.

The system by which we bid our schedules was changed recently. "Change" may be too harsh a verb..."tweak" might be better. I had had my bidding strategy pretty much on "automatic pilot" month-to-month, and have gotten used to a schedule which fits my needs. I haven't put the time to understand these new tweaks well enough to make use of their strengths...maybe next month. Anyway, this new change/tweak, in combination with the regular seasonal variations of an airline schedule (summers are always busier than winters) and the industry trying to react to a declining economy has left me with lesser quality schedules than I have been used to. I'm not complaining, mind you, just noting that things aren't as good as they once were.

Anyway, this month has been especially taxing. I have a flying schedule of 16 days...which is about normal. On top of that, however, I was away for 4 days for our annual recurrent training. I spent the two days immediately preceding that recurrent in a financial seminar. (And I finally came to understand the material well enough to think that I am done going to these seminars. Now to translate that knowledge into my trading accounts!) And rather than go home after recurrent, I spend the Father's Day weekend with my ailing father for what I believe may be his last Father's Day. Immediately following that, I launched off on another trip.

All told, I have been able to be home 6 days this month. Wifeof- and Sonof- and Dau#2ofAzlib have been wonderful for me. The chores I normally take care of--the yardwork, the pool care, the ironing--have been taken care of by my family. If you're a reader who works 5 days a week and has 8 or 9 days of "weekend" a month, then 6 days may not sound like much, but my life is structured on 14-16 days off each month. Six days of down time hasn't been enough.

And because I'm not bidding well, the trips I've flown this month aren't particularly great either. By that I mean I am flying all-night trips. Some guys totally hate this type of trip, but I'm not one of them (yet). We have a "Quiet Room" where I am based, and I've found that if I can spend an hour or two in a recliner in a dark room with my earplugs in, then I can function for an all-night flight. Its not easy: That nap is crucial, and I have to drink coffee, and plan to eat and stand up to get my blood flowing in order to stay awake, but it is "do-able". I've had three of these all-night trips this month which have had me leaving my west coast base some time between 10pm and midnight and arriving in New York between 5:30am and 8am.

Anyway, last night we found ourselves watching the sun rise in the last hour of our flight. I'm not much of an astronomer, but I have flown enough at night to recognize some of the bigger constellations, as well as Venus and Mars. But last night, right before sunrise, and as we were over western New York, we were able to see what we took was the International Space Station. You can track it here.

A busy month half-full of crappy trips does have it's opportunity for a perk.

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