Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This whole pilot fatigue stuff

We have all heard about the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo.  If you know some detail about the crash, you have heard that fatigue may have played part in the crash.  And if you stay with the news, you know that the FAA recently came out with new pilot fatigue rules. Truth be told, I really haven't read through everything in detail.  Steve and I, in the short time together over the last week, have briefly talked about these rules.  The timing of these rules and Steve crap-ass schedule around Christmas has inspired this blog post.  Warning: this post contains honesty, bad language, and a bit of whining.

Let's map out Steve schedule over Christmas, which was a 3-day (which ended the morning of the 26th), piggybacked with another 3-day (that began on the evening of the 26th).  Keep in mind that Steve had a red-eye on the 5th and again on the 21st.  So, this month is just chock-full of these lovely fighting-body-clock legs. 

I won't bitch much about Steve's lack of being home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I have said it before, and I will say it again, it is part of the game right now.  We are making the most of it.  Yes, I did cry at mass because I missed Steve.  Yes, I wished that Steve was on our walks around the block to look at Christmas lights - the kids in the garden cart while my parent's German Shepherd "pulled" the "sled" like Rudolph.
Yes, I wish that Steve was around with my Father and Brother-in-law in the basement drinking and talking about the recent axe purchase my Dad snagged at a local flee market.  But, that is not the point of this post... 

Ok, so on the 24th, Steve's "go" time was 7:30a, which meant  his "show" was 6:30a, which meant he left the house at 5:30a, which meant he got up at 4:30a.  Read: really fucking early and thus the start of having an off body clock.  I couldn't even tell you what his trip looked like.  I was with my family for Christmas, so I basically just waited for him to call us since I didn't know when he was a-comin' or a-goin'.  The worst thing I can do is call him when he is sleeping. 

Steve got home the morning of the 26th...and Steve flew out again that night on a 9:15p flight to LAS. Yes, that right.  A short 15 hours since he arrived at his domicile, he was out again.  Sucks, doesn't it.  You betcha'!

Enter how fucked up flight time affects a pilot, which in turn affects his wife and his kids.

Just to note: Steve actually had to wash his uniform at 7am, when he got home on the 26th.  Since he was leaving that night for another 3-day, he actually had to do laundry!  Not to mention, he actually drank a beer at 8am while he was waiting for his shirts to finish up in the wash. Don't worry, he met the 12 hours bottle-to-throttle. He basically said "fuck it, it is the holidays and this is going to be the best I can do today."

On the morning of the 26th, while Steve was drinking a beer and washing clothes and then resting, the kids and I made our way back to our home.  We planned our arrival so that Steve could have plenty of rest in the morning.  We left my parents around 10a, or so, with an ETA of 1p.  We did stop at Taco Bell for lunch, the kids bean burrito meal is actually a pretty decent option for fast food, and a potty break at a rest stop.  Of course with Taco Bell, you know a potty break is to follow.  We made it home around 1:30p, or so.

We got home, pulled into the driveway and made our way into the house.  Daddy greeted us with hugs and kisses and then we saw all of Santa's gifts around the tree.  The kids opened the gifts, and Steve was a part of it.  I am so glad that the kids and Steve were together, but I was quiet pretty much all afternoon.  I was exhausted.  CC was coughing throughout the night for the entirety of our trip, so that meant restless sleeping.  Plus, being away from home is just exhausting.  Not to mention, Steve was leaving in a few short hours for another 3-day.  Steve was laying it on thick with lots and lovin' and hugs and kisses.  As much as I appreciated it, I knew he was leaving again and I was almost numb to it.  Why bother getting attached, when he was leaving so soon?

Around 4:30p Steve went upstairs to take a nap.  Yet another 2 hours taken out of the short 6 hours we saw him that day.  Ben and CC actually followed him upstairs to be with him.  Steve was napping and the kids were watching tv in bed.  It was sweet and pathetic at the time time...so sweet that the kids love their Daddy that much that they wanted to be close to him, and pathetic that the kids were spending so little time with Daddy that they needed to be next to him while he slept

Steve left that night, the evening of the 26th, around 7:15p.  The kids sat on the front step and yelled "BYE DADDY" while blowing kisses.  I did call Steve later and tell him that I was sorry for being short and cold.  He understood.

On the 27th around 1:20p, I heard from Steve.  He sent me a text that read "im awake."  At this point it is known that a short text is far better than a groggy phone call where Steve can barely put two sentences together.  I sent him a reply saying that I was home with a sick CC.  She has bronchitis.  He didn't respond.  Not totally abnormal, since maybe he was in the shower or working out.  Whatever.  Finally about one hour later, I texted him again:

Me: Hello?
Steve: hello
Me: Did you get my text that cc is sick?
Steve: yes...sucks...im in a bit of a funk...sorry
Me: a simple response would have been nice...funk or not.
Steve: Sorry

That was the end of our texting.  I wasn't pissed.  Maybe annoyed a bit, but not pissed.  Not necessarily annoyed at him really, but rather annoyed at his crap-ass schedule.  I can't take anything out on him...it isn't his fault.  He had nothing to do with this, aside from trying to schedule Christmas off to be with his family.  The lovely computer scheduling programming put the doozy of a schedule together. 

This, folks, is how crap-ass schedules fuck with these pilots:  Steve was so out of it that he didn't even reply to my text that his daughter was sick.  Steve was going to rest and sleep on the 27th, and then fly a red-eye into the morning of the 28th.  This will be it for red-eyes for the next month, thank goodness.  January's schedule is MUCH better, with a vacation in there to boot.  So, we will be able to reconnect after all this craziness.

I should clarify, it isn't the red-eyes that fuck with him.  It is more the piggy-back trips...and the trips that have min-rest...and the trips that take him so off his circadian rhythm.  As a matter of fact, the red-eye he had on the 21st was actually great.  He said that he slept really well to prepare...apparently it was all the sushi he ate before he took his nap.  So, Steve is fully capable of handling red-eyes.  I am sure that most pilots with flight time in the 5 figures knows how to prepare for night flying.  What he doesn't do well are trips like this crap-ass one. 

Again, Steve and I didn't talk much about these new rules, but he did quickly tell me that they would address some of this recent crap-ass scheduling.  I want to add that Steve is always safe to fly, and if he weren't he would call off.  He knows his limits.  Steve is a professional, and would never jeopardize himself or his passengers.  Steve is well prepared for work.  Period.  Case in point, he understood that resting for a late flight is more important than time with me and the kids. 

Like I said, the timing of all the new fatigue rules and Steve's recent crap-ass schedule really worked out for blog material.  I am glad that something is being done about all this.  Too bad that it cost the lives of many to get this stuff changed. 

1 comment:

  1. That breaks my heart when the kids so want to be near a parent they'll snuggle with his or her sleeping form ... sad to say, mine do it to me on weekends ...

    Regarding working the holidays ...
    This year, my family contributed to both the problem (by booking flights on the 25th) and the solution (my husband volunteered to take over another pilot's flights on the 25th and 26th so that other pilot could celebrate on the 25th). My family celebrated on the 24th, a fact we didn't share with the kids who thought everyone else was celebrating Christmas that same day. I foresee many non-25th celebrations in our future between my husband's flying and my sister-in-law's position as a doctor (currently in her residency).

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