Perfect Chaos

Can I tell you a frank secret? Because you are, after all, my people…

I got up this morning and he was gone. I reached for him, but he wasn’t there, and my heart did a sad little flip.

Sooooo I checked my messages to cheer me up. Big mistake. The first one I received this morning was from an angry man harshly criticizing me for running this site and for being a pilot wife. ‘I should be ashamed of myself,’ or so he boldly declared. He is not even in the aviation field—not even remotely connected—but he felt entitled to his bitter words and unjustifiable anger toward a complete stranger. You know, toward me.

I grumpily slammed down my phone, crawled out of bed, opened the door, and was met by absolute chaos. I glared around at all the piles of dirty laundry, unwashed dishes, and enough dust bunnies to start a new farm piled around after an exhaustingly busy weekend.

And yeah, friends, I felt tired…and a little lot discouraged.

For a fleeting moment, I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe, I’m not the right one to do this for you—to be your encourager. Because today? I didn’t really want to be a pilot’s wife. I wanted my husband home in my arms, not jaunting around the country. I wanted mean people to stop saying mean things for the sake of meanness. And I wanted to not be forever and a day (or six) behind on life.

But then I realized that makes me the perfect person to do this for you—to be your encourager. Because I get it. This is #thepilotwifelife. It’s messy. Very! I have learned how to have lots of great days, but sometimes it’s still hard. Sometimes ‘those days’ creep in under the radar. I am, without a doubt, an imperfect, messed up, flaming hot mess.

And that makes me perfect for this, because I am real. I am perfect chaos.

I stopped and took a deep breath and realized something very important. Days like today help me help you better because my words? They’re not just empty words from an outside person but rather words of empathy from someone who has been there, done that. Recently. Like…right now, as we speak.

That gives me new perspective and makes me thankful for today. It makes me cherish the loneliness, the frustration, the real…because I know that it makes me a better advocate for you. It gives me real perspective. It helps me identify with you and your ‘those days.’

It makes me a real pilot’s wife. I love, love, love being a pilot’s wife and I love, love, love being able to encourage you. Because my chaos—your chaos—is perfectly beautiful.

I am convinced that we need this community. We need to know it’s okay to have ‘those’ days. We need to be able to lean on one another for encouragement and love and advice.

And we need to remind one another to keep F.L.Y.ing even when it’s hard or we don’t feel like it.

So I’m still here. And I still love you, aviation family. I’m not going anywhere, I promise. Well…except maybe to the grocery store because my kids are, apparently, not too keen on a(nother) dinner of lettuce and ketchup.

I love you, aviation family.

Tailwinds,

Angelia (a fellow pilot wife)

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Welcome Aboard: Beauty From Ashes

Here’s something I never, ever, ever (times infinity) imagined myself saying:

To all the brand new members of our #thepilotwifelife aviation family, numbers 601 through 11,145, welcome aboard! 

Just…wow. 

I am so glad you are here! To say that I am humbled beyond measure would be putting it mildly. You, my amazing aviation friends, are quite literally beauty from ashes. My heart is overwhelmed by your presence, so thank you.

My name is Angelia, a fellow pilot wife with an amazing pilot husband. I founded the pilot wife life page in November of 2016 for one simple reason–to combat the general and overwhelming negativity that is rampant throughout the aviation community and forums.

Simply stated, I wanted to give us all a place to love our pilots out loud, unapologetically! I wanted to focus on learning not only to survive this life, but to live it well–to search out beauty in chaos and embrace it. I also wanted you to know that you are not alone. There is a huge community of men and women living this life that get it.

It was and still is my heart to pour encouragement, support, love and positivity into pilot wives and their spouses in the hopes of affecting perspective (short term) and fighting the widespread culture of infidelity and divorce (long term).

I’ll be blatantly honest, I had no idea what that would actually look like when I began. I just knew I had to do it. It was tugging at my heartstrings constantly, and it simply wasn’t something I could continue to ignore any longer. I couldn’t stand by and watch as aviation marriages crumbled before my eyes while I did nothing.

Sooooo here we are, eleven thousand beautiful aviation men and women strong.

I often use the term ‘pilot wife.’ I understand that there are also tons of beautiful pilot women and their amazing stay-at-home husbands. There are innumerable flight attendants, male and female, and their left-behind spouses. I know! And I am so very grateful for all of you. I choose to write from a perspective that I personally live, because I do not want to presume a perspective that I have not experienced. I am not a pilot’s husband, therefore I do not feel it is a fair perspective to speak for them. However, my choice to address a particular group in no way negates the value of another. You are all, from every aspect of the aviation lifestyle, welcome here, appreciated here, loved here, and wanted here.

I also realize that the topics addressed here can often be applied to a wide array of traveling spouses and even marriage in general! I am proud to say that we have a diverse community that reaches far beyond just the boundaries of aviation. We have long-haul drivers, oil field workers, firefighters, railroad workers, military families and many more. You are welcome here. You are our ‘honorary’ aviation family, and you are deeply loved.

What does my vision for the future of this community look like? I have given a lot of thought to that question over the last few days. My deepest desire is to serve you well, to love you fiercely, and to give you resources that help to support, grow, and strengthen your lives and marriages.

I have a couple of big projects on the horizon which I think will help do just that. And I do mean big! Humongous! Gigantic, even!

Here are just a few things that I hope to work toward:

  • A connect page to help you find community by location, by airline specifics, and even by special interest. I believe connecting to like-minded folks will help us continue to grow and thrive.
  • Creation of localized aviation groups around the world. I believe a strong community is key to living the aviation lifestyle well. I want to connect you to people that get it and whom you can do life together on a local, face-to-face level. I have already helped launch two such groups, and they are thriving!
  • Creation of a private #thepilotwifelife discussion group for safe aviation conversation outside the scrutiny of public eyes. This will be a place you can go to have your questions answered by those who have been there, done that. We will institute rules to keep the conversation flow safe and positive.
  • A resource page for aviation families.
  • Continued daily posts on Facebook and other social media sources. These may range from funny to encouraging, but they will never demean our traveling spouses.
  • Conferences (both marriage and women’s) and speaking engagements where I can connect with you and encourage you on a personal level.
  •  And a couple of other big projects that I have already started working on but which are still in the secret phase! Shhhhh.

It doesn’t matter to me if there are eleven or eleven thousand of you. I fiercely care about each of you individually. I love hearing from you. Your stories, your feedback, your struggles, your successes. You help me continue to grow and learn too. You matter to me. Immensely.

You are beautiful. Diverse. Amazing. You have no idea how much I love each of you for your unique beauty. When I say ‘I love you, aviation family,’ I am not just spouting off empty words. I mean it. From the bottom of my heart, I mean it.

If you knew how often I pray for you as a group and individually… If you knew how much precious time I spend worrying about how to serve you better… If you knew how many nights I have spent into the wee hours of the morning messaging with one of you because you are hurting… If you knew how carefully I answer every single message and comment that you direct to me…

Maybe then you’d truly understand. I love you, aviation family.

I am ecstatic that you are here. Thank you for trusting me to pour into you and your aviation marriages in a positive, encouraging way. Thank you for trusting me with your hearts and your stories. I am humbled daily by you.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us. I believe that the sky’s truly the limit!

I love you, aviation family!

Tailwinds.

Angelia (A Fellow Pilot Wife)

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To Love a Pilot You Must Learn to F.L.Y.

It was one of those divine moments of shining clarity. For some people they come like the morning sun rising over the horizon and bathing the world in glorious revelation.

However, in my stubbornness they usually come more in the form of a good, solid kick in the teeth that finally knocks some sense into me.

Sometimes.

My pilot was on the umpteeth day of a really long trip. Now that I think on it, it sometimes seems like he’s always on the umpteenth day of a really long trip. Welcome to the pilot wife life.

So on this particular umpteenth day I decided for no apparent reason to make myself something besides the normal fare of leftover day-old mac and cheese and half of a chicken nugget my kid didn’t finish. Usually, it’s followed by an oreo chaser after they go to bed. You know, the whole frigging bag. Hey, don’t judge!

You know what I’m talking about.

I whipped myself up a perfectly marinated ribeye steak with a side of parmesan crusted squash and a glass of red wine. A meal fit for a… Well, a queen.

I shoved a week’s worth of mail, two lightsabers, several books, and a…what is that thing, anyway?…off the table so I could have a clear spot to eat, plopped my tush (still covered in last night’s pajamas at 6 pm) into my cheeto-encrusted ‘throne,’ and prepared to dine in style.

And that’s when a little [uninvited] voice of reason broke through my royal reverie. “Mommy? Why are you eating that? Shouldn’t you save the good food for when daddy is home?”

Boom. Like I said, a nice, solid kick in the teeth. Thanks kid.

The ‘good’ food. In that painful moment I realized that I had been living my life not as a queen, but as a second rate citizen. And it was affecting my marriage and my children in a big way.

I had been blaming him for my unhappiness, but in reality the responsible party was staring back at me in the shiny surface of my steak knife.

I resented my husband for ‘always eating out’ and ‘having all the fun’ out there on the road while I was stuck at home groveling in monotonous mac-and-cheese misery. But the truth was that I was making the choice to eat cold, half-gnawed chicken nuggets.

Not him. Not my pilot. Not my husband. Me, myself, and I. 

Yet I was more than happy to project the blame on him. Why? Because frankly it’s always easier to divy out responsibility for my shortcomings on anyone and everyone but sweet, perfect, awesome me!

It’s not that we like being unhappy, but we like being unhappy! It’s more comfortable to coast through our current stratosphere of sadness than to take the plane by the yoke and seek out bluer skies.

But here’s the problem. We are inadvertently cruising with our noses pointed at the ground and if we don’t pull up soon we are going to make untimely and likely fatal contact with the hard earth below.

Our marriages will explode without survivors.

We need to embrace the hard truth. We must take responsibility for our own joy. This is true in any marriage, but especially for marriages with a traveling spouse where we will spend an unfathomable amount of time alone.

You see, in order to love a pilot you must learn to F.L.Y.–

First Love Yourself!

Blame leads to resentment, resentment leads to anger, and anger leads to broken homes. However when we F.L.Y.–when we own our happiness and we first love ourselves well–we replace blame with choice, we trade resentment for joy, and we swap broken aviation homes for beautiful, strong aviation marriages.

Though I cannot choose all of my circumstances, I can choose how I react to them. I was choosing comfortable misery, but I didn’t even realize it until my child spoke those words.

My pilot wasn’t forcing me to eat what I was eating! He wasn’t forcing me to lock myself in the house like a miserly hermit. But for some reason I blamed him.

Not only was it affecting my marriage, not only was I acting like a wretched old grump, but I was devalueing myself in the eyes of my children! I had inadvertently taught them by my actions that I was not as worthy as their father.

That was on me. Like I said, a good solid kick in the face.

That’s the exact moment when I decided to learn to F.L.Y. because I am worth it! And so are you. 

From that moment on I made a pact to love myself well. I can’t always make a gourmet meal, but at least several times a month during his trips I broil myself a nice juicy steak. Because I’m worth it!

When I want to eat out, I eat out. I take my kids to the movies and have ice cream dates with my girlfriends. I take a shower, spray on some perfume, fix my hair, and put on makeup. Not because he’s home, but because I’m worth it!

When I started loving me well, something quite extraordinary happened–I started loving him well by default. I still missed him, but I no longer resented him. Once I understood that joy was mine to shun or choose I pursued it with unbridled passion.

Then the joy that filled my heart overflowed into our marriage, my children, my relationships, and now into you. The ripple effect has been quite simply breathtaking.

I am still a pilot wife. I still spend an unfathomable amount of time alone. I still miss him like crazy. But I am cruising at a new altitude of my appointing and have never felt so content, so full of joy, so alive!

I want that for you! So ladies, I am absolutely challenging you.

Love yourselves well. Pursue your passions, treat yourself to your favorite foods, go to the movies, put on something other than your flannel PJs, have lunch with girlfriends, and laugh out loud!

You. Are. Worth. It.

And when you finally learn to F.L.Y., your marriage will soar to new breathtaking altitudes!

I love you, aviation sisters. Now give yourselves permission to F.L.Y!

~A Fellow Pilot Wife

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I Know You’re Mad at United but… (Thoughts from a Pilot Wife About Flight 3411)

If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there are always two sides to every story.

On April 9th, a very unfortunate incident played out on United Flight 3411, the video of which has since gone viral causing a mass social media uprising with an ‘off-with-their-heads’ mentality. I mean, across the board. Fire ’em all and let the gods sort it out later.

Look, I get it. When I first saw the video I was appalled too. To say that it was inflammatory would be putting it mildly. But it was also a situation that was escalated far beyond the boundaries of necessity.

If a any law enforcement officer asks me to exit a plane, no matter how royally pissed off I am, I’m going to do it and then seek other means of legal reimbursement. True story.

Knowing what I know about airport security, I’m certainly not going to run back into a secured, federally restricted area at an airport flailing my arms and screaming like a banshee…because, you know, that just happens to be breaking a major federal Homeland Security law.

But that’s just me, obviously.

The moment I made that particular ill-advised choice, I would become an immediate and imminent threat to the aircraft’s security. That’s kind of a big deal. I mean, come on, I once actually had to remove my infant son’s socks because they mimicked little baby sneakers. These guys mean business.

I didn’t like it. I thought it was just plain stupid, honestly. But instead of pitching a massive fit, refusing to comply, and bolting through the TSA checkpoint like an out-of-control toddler, I did the big girl thing–sucked it up, removed the offensive socks, and went on with my happy life, sans being tackled and dragged through the airport in handcuffs by a bunch of big men with guns.

Because if you choose to take advantage of the services the airport provides, you play by their rules.

I know you’re all out there screaming that the ‘rules’ are unfair, but I am a pilot wife. I remember 9/11. Do you? I want my husband, the father of my children, to come home. I want you to get homeThat law exists to protect my husband. And your wife. And your grandmother. And your child. And you. I, for one, am glad for the law.

I’m not here to dispute the facts of 3411 with you. I am not interested in getting into an argument of opinion with anyone. We’re all entitled to our own. I’m not arguing that what happened wasn’t completely terrible–it was, on multiple levels. But I am suggesting that the general public take another look at the situation, ask a few more questions, gather a few more facts, and then create a less hostile and more intellectually wrought opinion about what happened.

Because the media is giving you just enough information to keep you enraged–enough to keep their ratings up.

Things to consider:

1) “You can’t just kick a paying customer off the plane!” Psssst! It’s in the fine print. They can, indeed, do just that. And it’s not an airline specific rule, it’s a commercial aviation rule. Every ticket you purchase comes with a plethora of fine print–you know, the stuff we just click ‘next’ on without actually reading what we are agreeing to. Yeah, that. Well, it’s in there, and you checked the ‘I agree’ box when you purchased your ticket. You can read about it and oh-so-much-more here. Kind of makes you want to read all those tiny words on your next phone update before you click ‘I agree’, huh? You should. United did not break any law, and he agreed to the policy and possibility of involuntary bump when he bought his ticket. And so do you. 

2) “Kicking a paying customer off an airplane!? I’m taking my business to Southwest!” Ummmm, okay. But just be sure you understand that every major airline, Southwest included, has a similar policy for involuntary bumping in a ‘must ride’ scenario. Don’t believe me? It’s called the contract of carriage. If you’re really bored, you can read Southwest’s here. Or Delta’s here. And on and on. This could have been any airline. In fact, it happens all the time. Most people just don’t wrestle law enforcement in the aisle.

3: “So what’s this ‘must ride’ nonsense anyway? They shouldn’t bump a paying customer for a free employee ride!” It’s actually pretty important to you as an airline traveler that they can. They were not ‘freeloading home’. That’s called non-rev and they have to wait in line behind your checkbook and often don’t make it home to their families if flights are booked (believe me, I know). No, this was a must fly, a positive space situation. In layman terms, it means that a crew must be flown to an airport to man a flight in order to avoid cancellation of said flight due to crew unavailability. The airlines are required to do so to avoid disruption of air traffic. In other words, if there are no willing volunteers and they need seats to get a crew somewhere to avoid disruption of aviation flow, they can, will, must bump people for the better good of the 1000’s. Why? Because one cancelled flight has a serious domino affect in the delicate, complicated world of connections and aviation law. This is not illegal. The only thing DOT requires in this situation is that the passenger is reimbursed his/her money. 

4: “It’s the airline’s fault for not planning better!” Do some research! The airline industry is conpex. There are about a million and one things that can cause a crew shortage including but not limited to weather, maintenance, weather, connecting fight delays, weather, FAA timeout regs, and did I mention weather? I wish I could control Mother Nature because I would be one filthy rich person. But I can’t. And neither can United. So they inconvenience one, or four, to keep hundreds on track. Do the math. And of course, if we were on the other end of this thing, we’d be tirading and blowing up the internet because United didn’t bump a passenger to make sure our flight didn’t get cancelled and left hundreds stranded. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. We’re a fickle crowd, we social media folks.

5: They shouldn’t have picked the minority Chinese doctor! It’s racist.” That’s just silly. Though federal regulation demands they involuntarily bump to prevent interruption of flights when necessary, each airline does have the leniency to determine how they choose the bumped passengers. They did not play spin the bottle or walk down the aisle looking for the Asian guy. Use your heads, people! There is a computerized algorithm that takes into account price of ticket, how long ago it was purchased, whether or not they can get the passenger to their destination in a timely manner, etc. It wasn’t an ‘Asian thing.’ Stop, people. Just stop. **added note: it has been discussed that Dr. Dao may have initially volunteered his seat and wasn’t chosen randomly at all. He then changed his mind after accepting the deal. 

6: “United should go under for assaulting that passenger! Fire the entire crew!” Read the facts. United never touched the passenger. In fact, by all witness accounts, the United flight crew (layman term: pilots and flight attendants) remained calm and pleasant throughout the entire event, never laying hands on the passenger. They followed protocol as required by policy, no matter if it’s a good policy or not. Once law enforcement became involved (also as required by protocol), United stepped out of the decision-making process. They had nothing to do with the rest. The passenger was forcibly removed by aviation security (the very disturbing clip that everyone is talking about) after running back into the secured area after being escorted out once. Once he did that, like it or not, they (law enforcement) were under full discretion of the law to apply necessary force to remove the threat. I’m not saying it’s pretty, but the only one who actually broke a law was the passenger. There’s a reason for these laws–it’s called 9/11. I understand he’s npt a terrorist. I’m only explaining why these laws and policies exist. We can’t have it both ways. But by all means, let’s berate and punish an entire flight crew–in fact thousands of pilots, FA’s, gate attendents, ground crew, etc.–because it makes us all feel a little better. 

7: “You piece of **it!” I get that the passengers were upset, angry, maybe even confused. I get that you are too. After all, media is tossing you out chunks of bloody meat like you’re a pack of starving wolves. But I’m seriously disgusted that the must ride crew that had to take those seats as well as aviation folks at airports around the nation after the unfortunate mess that unraveled have been verbally and physically assaulted and threatened. Can you imagine the very uncomfortable position they were in? doing their jobs to feed their families. Just. Like. You.  They don’t have a choice. They didn’t ask for this. They didn’t assault anyone. They are not a corporation; they are individuals who need a job. There’s a very fine line between what you despise and becoming what you despise. Many of the comments and actions I have seen perpetrated against United employees cross it. Violence does not fix violence. Don’t become what you hate.

Like I said, I know you’re mad at United, but there’s much more to the story than hits the media fan.

I truly hope that this gives you something to chew on and gives you a smidgen more insight into the complexities of aviation. I’m not making excuses. I think there were bad decisions made on both sides. However, I am saying there are always two sides to every story. Make sure you consider them both.

Tailwinds.

***In answer to some questions: I am in no way affiliated with United Airlines. I have not been paid for this blog. My opinions are not reflective of any airline or even my husband. I write of my own volition. I never stated that United did not make serious customer service or human interaction mistakes. Of course they did! Of course they should have made adjustments before bording, offered more money, and found ways to diffuse the situation. Of course, no human should be assaulted. I called it terrible and appalling in the blog. My only intent was to explain the policy behind what happened and that they were not illegal. United (and other airlines) has scrutinized their policy and made some necessary changes since this blog was published. Those changes are not reflected above in the blog as they were not current policy at the time of event.  Thanks. 

***A correction to the previous article. Mr. Dao was indeed Vietnamese and not Chinese.  That quote was verbatim from a comment off the internet. Also, it has come to light since this publication that the law enforcement officials were not federal. However, they are still not employed by United. I apology profusely for the confusion.

Angelia (A Pilot Wife)

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READ MORE FEDERAL INFORMATION AT ABOUT FLY RIGHTS