Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Learn to Laugh

When it rains it pours.  What I mean by that is, when one thing goes wrong, it seems to turn into a chain reaction and it isn't just one thing anymore; it's 20 or 30!  You can get all angry and annoyed, or you can just laugh it off and move on.

As an airline pilot, I have had main days of "pouring rain."  A few weeks ago a I flew a 4-day trip all over Southern California, mostly in and out of LAX.  Day 1 was perfect.  The weather was gorgeous, the temperatures were in the high 70s/low 80s, our gates were open each time we arrived at our desitation airports; we couldn't have asked for a better day of airline flying.  Our good luck didn't last long.  Day 2 was our chain reaction of "pouring rain."

The plane that we were supposed to start out in that day was a bit behind, so we started the day out late.  Because we were late on our first leg, our gate at LAX wasn't open anymore when we arrived, so we had to wait on the taxiway for a bit.  Our break in LAX was now shortened so we had much less time than originally planned.

The flight attendant ran inside to grab some food, the captain to grab a release, and I stayed with the plane to began my preflight duties.  Halfway through my walkaroud I realized there were passengers starting to board.  What the--- apparently the gate agents just sent the passengers down and the rampers were going to let them on the plane without checking to see if there was a flight attendant on board.  I had to stop the situation (not in my job description) and hold the passengers at the bottom of the stairs.  They were not too happy, so I tried to ease the situation best I could!

We got that whole situation figured out, boarded all our passengers, started engines, and were ready to go.  We got our clearance from ramp control to taxi out of the alley when... just kidding... ramp control asked us to do a U-Turn in the alley, go back to the bottom of it, and then U-Turn again to get out of the way of incoming traffic.  Oookay... that's a little weird.  But we complied.

Then getting a word in edgewise to ground control to get out of the alley was nearly impossible.  However, we finally made it out of the alley and on our way to the runway.  The rest of the trip went the same way; one thing after another after another.

We got flow from SAN to LAX, which we never get into LAX, and had to wait an extra 20 mins before we could takeoff.  We had plane swaps in 25 minute turns, angry controllers, got stuck behind aircraft mowing slower than I thought possible,  long taxi instructions, vectors taking us away from the airport, 15 mile downwinds, etc etc.  It was quite a 4-Day trip.  But I still loved every minute of it.  How, do you ask?  How could I enjoy working with all of that?  Because I learned to laugh.

Instead of being annoyed at having to do 2 U-Turns in the alley, I found it quite comical.  Who can say they have done that before?  Instead of being annoyed at having to swap planes in a 25 minute turn, I told myself it felt nice to get up and walk around and stretch my legs out for a bit.  Twenty minute delay?  Now I have more time to chat with the awesome captain I was with.  Telling the passengers they have to wait to board?  Now I actually get to speak with them face to face instead of just over the intercom; I was able to talk to some really cool people.

So when you get those days of "pouring rain" step aside, realize how comical the situation really is, and learn to laugh.  The situation is going to be that way no matter your attitude, so why not make it a positive one?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Changing my Perspective

I've been debating writing this post because it is hard to admit the error of my ways.  However, I realize there may be many others that are in the same boat as I, so I decided this post could help somebody.

A few months back I flew with a captain who drove me crazy!  It wasn't just one thing, but a combination of many things.  Now, I usually pride myself in being able to get along with anybody, so it bugged me that I didn't enjoy flying with this captain.  I tried to get over it, but I couldn't.  I flew with him a few weeks after that, and my experience flying with him again wasn't just annoyance now, I was flustered, angry, and felt totally defeated.  Why did he treat me as if I didn't know what I was doing?  I've been flying this plane for nearly 2 years- I know what I'm doing.  That day, I left work  hoping to never fly with this captain again and was determined to bid avoid him for the rest of my first officer career.

My plan would have worked except I didn't realize he was on my schedule again in just one weeks time, and I didn't realize this until the day before.  Oh man!  I thought of calling in sick, but that felt too dishonest, since I wasn't really sick.  I thought of dropping it, but realized there wasn't  enough reserves to do so.  I was going to be stuck flying it; there was no way out.  So I made a decision- if I was going to have to fly with him, I could love it or hate it; but I get to choose.

I went to work that day trying to think of some great qualities about this captain.  I really had to dig deep, but I was determined to think of something.  I told myself he didn't realize how unpleasant he was to fly with, he was just trying to do his best and always take safety first.

I cannot tell you how much changing my attitude changed my perspective on how I saw this captain.  This, in turn, changed the way the entire day went.  Instead of getting annoyed at him for questioning me on everything, I told myself he just wanted to make it home to his kids each week, which made him overly-cautios.  I began treating him with kindness, and then you know what happened?!?  I began enjoying our time together.  We talked about his career aspirations, his goals, and other things that were important to him.  I began to see him as a person and a great captain.

Later that day we had a 2 hour break inbetween flights.  When I came back out to the airplane, he had done the walk around, received our clearance, and listened to ATIS for me.  He had gone out to the plane earlier than required to get those items done.  Now maybe it wasn't a big deal to him, but it was to me.  All this time I thought he was awful, when really it was me!  My initial perspective on who he was was incorrect.  This captain has quirks just like everybody else, but it was my choice to get annoyed and frustrated with them.  It was also my choice to change my attitude and find the good qualities in this captain.

Everybody has their own little quirks, and in the aviation industry especially, we have to learn how to deal with everybody's quirks.  As crews, we work in a tight environment where tension can quickly decrease  the safety of a flight.  This is just my opinion, but I think that as first officers we have to learn to be moldable and make every flying experience, no matter the captain, enjoyable.  I'm not saying we have to be fake or pretend to be somebody we aren't, but we have to figure out a way to enjoy the day and keep the flight environment safe.

You see, once I told myself that this captain was a good person, I saw him as a good person.  I still noticed the things that initially annoyed me, but I saw them as him being cautious and safe.  I've flown with him many times since, and each experience is an enjoyable one.  

Can you change your perspective?  Is there somebody you could have a better attitude about?  If there is, resolve today to find their good qualities and make each day enjoyable for you and the rest of the crew.