Stephen's Story: I had been here before, so I set my trust I will come back in the cockpit. A few weeks later it became clear that I would be made redundant. A terrible feeling but different from last time. Last time I lost my medical due to a stroke. Everyone told me I would never fly again. I proved them wrong by perseverance. A personality every pilot has. We don’t give up. We always find a way. And this time I am not alone. So many of us are hit hard by COVID-19. Some of you are flying already, some on furlough and some have lost their job.. What if you still have your job, what can YOU do to prepare to start flying again. What can you do in the meantime?
Already some months into lockdown and restrictions. Some have relaxed and enjoyed their time of. Maybe some found another job to do just to stay busy. One great initiative in the UK is Project Wingman. This project is all about airline crew coming together to support the wellbeing of NHS staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. A great idea to keep in contact with colleagues and do something effective with your time. In the UK the Job Retention Scheme is in effect which helps with ensuring income. In other countries similar schemes have been set in place.
Unions have set up special groups to aid furloughed pilots and people who have made redundant. Have a look at the site of the European Wellbeing Committee. Or google “pilot support group” and find out which one suits you best.
Steps to make your time at home easier and useful:
- Keep yourself healthy first of all
- Ensure sufficient financial income
- Keep a lookout for a job
- Study/Mock-up at least once a week
- Stay in contact with fellow pilots
Keep yourself healthy
If you are not healthy and following a downward spiral. You won’t have any energy to focus on the following steps. The Flight Safety Foundation has published some amazing material to that will help you keep or retain that o so important health. Physical and Mental.
Ensure sufficient financial income
It's a tough one to talk about, but something very practical. Again my analytical mind set out the following examples.
- Live off your savings.
- Find a job.
- Sell luxury things you really don’t need.
- Sell your house and buy a cheaper one, or rent.
- Look at your monthly bills, what could be cheaper.
This may be a difficult one, as you are use to a pretty good income. As a first officer my income was not yet the top one, and my savings were not that much I could live of those for a year or two.
If you have enough savings and can last with it, you just have to make an estimate on how long your furlough period will be. But my opinion is that work keeps you healthy (coming back to the first point on the list)
If you are not in the situation with enough savings or furlough pay you may have to work extra and may have to make some difficult decisions. I almost had to sell my house. But found a job(with sufficient salary) in time to prevent that. But that could be a decision, sell your expensive house, go and live smaller. Maybe sell other luxury things you don’t really need. But when selling things, keep in mind that you expect to be back flying and maybe a bit less salary and it will cost you extra money if you have to buy it again. I also looked at all my monthly bills and got rid of the things I don’t really need. I had another look and changed my cellphone subscription, another couple of euros a month!
Keep a lookout for a job
- Make it a habit to look for new jobs
- Don’t be satisfied with your current job (you probably won’t be 😉)
- Subscribe to newsletters to get the information quickly
- Highlight the best websites to hunt for jobs to make your weekly search easier
- Use your connections (I found my job at EASA via LinkedIn)
- Make yourself known to companies (I wrote articles that attracted the interest of other people, which in their turn contacted me for work)
Try to spend half an hour a week on job hunting. Maybe the first times it takes a bit longer, but you will find a flow and then half an hour is enough. If you think you are done when you found a job, don’t. It is not a pilot job and your goal is to get back there. You are on your way up and there is always something better. If not, you at least tried. I know this may sound pushing but that is how I think about it and you of course don’t have to be me..
To make your hunting easier you can subscribe to newsletters, this will send information to you. The downside is that you are limited to that what you have subscribed to. LinkedIn is the only social media I use now. And it has proven to be helpful, in both my times when I lost my job. To make myself interesting, I write articles and keep my profile up to date. And when linking to the correct people, you will see jobs on LinkedIn quickly as well!
Study / Mockup once a week
Next to half an hour of jobhunting, try to reserve one hour of studying. Keeping your knowledge fresh will make it a lot easier to get back to the level required when you are planned for an assessment.
Hermann Ebbinghaus did a study on this and published the forgetting curve.
If you look at the 3 different lines, the first one is with none or almost none repetition. The second one is with more repetition, and the third one shows even more repetition. You can imagine that if you have been FO or CPT on the same aircraft for quite a while, you will remember the SOP’s for a longer time. Try and test yourself now: Can you visualize the procedure before and after engine start? How about the de-icing procedure? Where would you be in the curve?
I mention the de-icing procedure because as summer is ending we start thinking about winter conditions again. We have another look at the books to refresh our ready knowledge. Due to COVID-19 more knowledge may have been lost. Unless you have studied every week to retain it. But we can imagine that your mind was occupied with other things..
To get back at the professional level you want to be you need to start studying again. Repetition is the magic word here. Once a week.
Stay in contact with fellow pilots
Talking to friends about your situation helps. It especially helps for your personal life. But being a pilot is something only other pilots can fully understand. You can try to explain it to a non-pilot, but that doesn’t have the desired effect.
- Discuss your current situation
- Check where to renew your license, maybe someone has contacts to get it cheaper
- Meet with each other. Via skype, facetime, face to face for a drink (keep in mind social distance)
- Talk about new job opportunities
- Talk about how airlines are starting up again
- Look for communities on the internet to talk to fellow pilots
The benefits are great if you stay in contact. Imagine the aviation world like a country you live in. If you are out of it too long you start to forget things about it. To go back and live like before is a more difficult start. Even if you are made redundant it could help to talk to fellow pilots who are in the same position.
Gain new skills and knowledge
If you have spare time put that time to effect and pick up a study or a course. There are many short courses available and maybe you can work on that hobby to make it an extra income. Or learn something new what you always wanted. I personally am following a lot of webinars. Something that can be completely free and easy to do. For my job I have to drive an hour and a half, which gives me 3 hours a day to follow webinars while driving. I still have a Spanish course on cd and will start on that next week.
As you know aviation will return again. You have decided to go back to it. Estimations vary from 1 to 3 years. We can see short haul ramping up right now. EasyJet for example expects to have 75% of their network back in operation by September. Norwegian first had the plan to hibernate until March 2021, but is now planning to ramp up its SH operation starting in September. Then again if we are hit by a second wave, and lockdowns are put back in place, that will put flights to a halt again. For now maybe the answers are not known. But you know what to do how to effectively use your time until you are back in the cockpit!