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One Year away from flying in the Gulf

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One Year away from flying in the Gulf

Old 5th Sep 2018, 15:02
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Wadi Al Khoud
Posts: 40
One Year away from flying in the Gulf

An Ex-colleague of mine who called it a quit shared this with me (he allowed me to share )

Can anyone relate ?



One year away from flying in the Gulf.

Dear Friends and ex-colleagues,

introduction

It has been exactly one year since I taxied-in at the gate for the last time, set the parking break and moved both engine start levers to “cut-off”. Eventually all of you will live through that experience, for different reasons: you reached 60 or 65 and ran out of time, your “bullshit-bucket” is over- flowing or your “Money bucket” is sufficiently full.

Regardless of your reason, you will close a several decade long chapter of something that as been an overwhelming passion and it is like a small death...
For me, that precious moment was not emotional at all, My only focus on that last flight was “No ASR!”

It was just a massive relief and as soon as the last passenger disembarked I just ran away to the bus and never looked back.

Acknowledgment

Before I go more into details about this first year away from flying, let me acknowledge the struggles our wives are/have been enduring.
- There is something even more depressing than being a pilot in the Gulf: it is being a pilot's wife! You endured lots of absence when you needed us most, terrible mood swings, husbands in zombie mode sleeping all day long and never remembering anything, shouting at the kids begging for silence...
You know who you are, I know who you are, and I deeply admire you and love you for having put up with so many challenges over the years, you have my deepest respect and admiration.

Overall feeling.

One might think that the freedom of early retirement has been a blast but unfortunately no. I didn't enjoy myself that first year, it was hard, it is only once you stop flying that you realize how much damage was done to your soul and body. It takes a long time for the brain to realize that this is not annual leave and that you are not going back. Every week I have been thinking about going back, not because I like it but rather because of some sort of “Stockholm syndrome” or simply because flying was the only thing my life revolved around.

Let me go more into details with no taboos and in no specific order

1) Sleep

It took me about 8 months to go back to normal sleeping patterns. Before that, I woke up every- night around 02:00 – 03:00 in the morning thinking I missed my night flight reporting time. Sometimes I thought I was in cruise somewhere over the Indian Ocean during monsoon with the HF going crazy...

Today, one year later, I go to bed around 21:30 and wake up around 08:00 with a full night of good sleep, after lunch, I go for a 1 hr nap and it feels great.
8 months is a long time and it made me realize that we had no chance to recover during our 3 weeks of annual leave.

2) Mental Health

This is probably the biggest taboo in the airline industry and to make things worst, in the Arab culture. You can see yourself and co-workers around you enduring mental degradation and no manager, no doctor has any idea how to deal with it even if you are screaming for help!
This was especially relevant when I was an FO flying with some Captains: they were mentally broken but no aviation medical would ever challenge it...

It was particular heart breaking to see Flight attendant having mental breakdowns at work with no help in sight, ladies in their mid-twenties completely scattered...
So many crews went into self destructive behavior with drugs, alcohol and womanizing.
My coping mechanism was over eating (chocolate) and I still haven't lost my 15 kgs of fat.

I struggled with mental health and the first 2-3 months away from work were really hard. I had similar symptoms to “post traumatic stress disorder” encountered by soldiers coming back from combat zone. Many times I felt the culpability of having abandoned my “platoon” letting them do all the nasty night flights while I was peacefully sleeping in my bed.

The few “specialists” I have meet said the same thing : “it takes a lot of time to recover from a burn-out”. One said -” in order to finalize the healing process, you will have to go back to flying eventually!” (thank you but no thanks...)
One year later, I do feel better but with the uncomfortable impression that some of my brain cells have been lost forever over the Indian ocean.

3) Physical health

it improved, slowly but it improved, not being strapped to a seat all day long makes a big difference, walking a bit everyday, doing some simple chores , cutting wood, doing masonry etc helps a lot. I haven't set up a work-out routing due to lack of discipline but I am working on it. My diet improved, no more airplane food, no more radiations and contaminated air .
The reality in the industry is bad, one hand is not enough to count the number of my colleagues who died in their 50's over the last 10 years. This job is a slow and silent killer but “the show must go on”. Flying after 50 dramatically reduces your life expectancy, is it worth it?

4) Sex life

Well, as mentioned in the introduction :“no Taboos” so here we go!
The lack of sleep and stress led to a very “slow” sex life: it was very difficult to get an erection . The positive thing about this is that the very few times a Flight Attendant was “hitting on me” it had zero effect since I had zero sexual desires, so NOT cheating on my beloved wive was never a challenge.
It took 5 to 6 months to go back to a normal sex life (I will let you define on your own what a normal sex life is...)

5) Social life

Social live was nonexistent due to the fatigue and crazy hours, the few people we met outside work were generally other pilots inevitably talking about pilot stuff (poor wives, airplane talk is soooo boring to everyone else.)

Today, there is not a single pilot in our physical social environment and it feels great, just “normal people” with 09 to 05 jobs sleeping in their beds every night and no more big ego “here I was” stories, fantastic!
Not being called “Captaaaaain!” in every sentence feels great, I can be me again, a simple guy from the country side. I kept some of my old uniforms and I will use them for Halloween or to build “Scarecrows” in our garden.

6)Financial life

A very important part of our lives spent in the Gulf: we were there to save money and then go home and retire. We didn't changed our lifestyle much compare to back home (no fancy Latte, no maid, no driver, no Gardner or cleaning lady etc) and managed to save about 60% of my tax free salary every month. We followed simple strategies that are freely available on the internet (Andrew Hallam, the millionaire teacher or Garth's Turner 60/40 portfolio). We stayed away from all the sharks selling you theses high fees insurance scheme leading you to nowhere and focused on a self managed portfolio.

After I quit flying/working our income was divided by 3 and our expenses were divided by 2.
We live a simple life on the country side somewhere in Europe, have a garden, old cars but we are happy and have plenty of time.
One of the best book I have read about finances is “Your Money or your life” by Vicky Robin.
The basic Idea is that your general happiness will increase with your income to a certain point. Past that point, any excess money will become completely meaningless.
The amount of money we think we need to retire is more of an emotional threshold than a magic number. You will know that you reach that threshold the day you realize that your time is worth more than any money or flying contract in the world. It is a scary and liberating feeling.
Walking away from a big fat monthly salary as been a strong act of faith but it worked out well for us.

Conclusion

This was our experience, many of the 40+ crowd can probably relate to my story.
Besides the challenges of flying in the Gulf, we were blessed to live in the nicest country with the nicest people in the Gulf. A country with breathtaking wadis and shorelines, mountains and deserts.

The highlight of my 10 years in the Gulf were all the great professional I met from all over the world: flight attendant, ground personnel, mechanic, pilots etc... You truly inspired me and I think about you every day.

“ show must go on...”
airtractor is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2018, 15:14
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Join Date: Aug 2008
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I think for any guy/gal flying in the Gulf can relate to most of that.
I can.
pilotguy1222 is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2018, 16:38
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Join Date: Oct 2010
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Happy one year! I too relate to most of this, despite being from the "other side" of the cockpit door. Still adjusting and it's a bit if a struggle some days but definitely more positive in life these days. In one month I too will hit that one year mark and I know more than ever it was the right choice for me.

Thank you also for touching on the mental health aspect. It's still taboo in our industry and really shouldn't be as it's so easy to see why these issues come up with the type of work and schedules we all do. Important for others to see it's not just them enduring...
givemewings is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2018, 09:56
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For someone who is about to finish his pilot training and looking forward to a pilot career, I find this very interesting! Thank you for sharing.
pilot freak is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2018, 11:07
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Tractor..I love your post and could not agree more. I have posted here many times about my enjoyment of being home..and how all the things you mention improved. I also add..walking the dogs.

I am waiting for Dropp to add his comments.

Glad you are enjoying life as I am...there IS a life out of the ME, and for me..out of aviation.

Regards SOPS
SOPS is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2018, 15:35
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Originally Posted by SOPS View Post
Tractor..I love your post and could not agree more. I have posted here many times about my enjoyment of being home..and how all the things you mention improved. I also add..walking the dogs.

I am waiting for Dropp to add his comments.

Glad you are enjoying life as I am...there IS a life out of the ME, and for me..out of aviation.

Regards SOPS
I have known for some time I have to get out of Emirates and with your post it crystallizes my thoughts exactly. I do not want to get like you did and EK will do it to you. It does it to everyone in various degrees. Some realize it some deny it but it happens.
RK Blue sky is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2018, 07:15
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Valuable insights. Thanks for sharing the story
reivilo is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2018, 08:11
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Yo mamma's house
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I walked away about 6 months ago at the ripe old age of 34. The simple fact is you don't need to be in your 40s or 50s to experience all this. Personally I experienced many of the above physical and mental symptoms while I was there and still now feel as though I'm putting my health back together. I am still flying and still working reasonably hard, but there is a big difference between coming home tired and existing in a constant state of fatigue or "burnout". Everybody is different, but I found the constant night flights mixed with jet lag was destroying me.

So often I'd see friends after a few rosters had passed by and think "my god he looks like shit" only to realise he was probably thinking the same about me. Photos taken during my last months in the middle east show a tired shell of a man appearing years older than I actually was.

The good news is that it does get better on the outside and life isn't as hard as you think without maids etc.

No disrespect to all who decide to stay, but please take care of yourselves because no one else will.
WakeTurb_69 is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2018, 11:06
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Join Date: May 2014
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Originally Posted by WakeTurb_69 View Post
I walked away about 6 months ago at the ripe old age of 34. The simple fact is you don't need to be in your 40s or 50s to experience all this. Personally I experienced many of the above physical and mental symptoms while I was there and still now feel as though I'm putting my health back together. I am still flying and still working reasonably hard, but there is a big difference between coming home tired and existing in a constant state of fatigue or "burnout". Everybody is different, but I found the constant night flights mixed with jet lag was destroying me.

So often I'd see friends after a few rosters had passed by and think "my god he looks like shit" only to realise he was probably thinking the same about me. Photos taken during my last months in the middle east show a tired shell of a man appearing years older than I actually was.

The good news is that it does get better on the outside and life isn't as hard as you think without maids etc.

No disrespect to all who decide to stay, but please take care of yourselves because no one else will.
Are you still in the industry?
scrum is offline  

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