As aviation professionals, corporate pilots know and accept that their personal life is likely to be dictated by the ring of a pager triggered by the corporate office’s schedule, notes Andre Fodor, Aviation Director, Johnsonville Sausage. Acceptance of this reality will require lifestyle adjustments to help you maintain a productive, healthy balance…
The importance of flexibility to enable a good work-life balance is enormous for all corporate pilots, and is key to enabling us all to maintain positive mental attitudes and work-drives to deliver the very best service that Business Aviation has to offer. For example, a significant part of the lifestyle adjustment I made involved home-schooling my three children to maximize the opportunity to spend time off-duty with my family.
As a coach to my staff, I encourage everyone within my flight department to maximize opportunities, to be flexible in their lifestyles and to prioritize quality of life which equates to a department that is energized to excel and shine at their jobs.
Following are some examples of lessons I’ve learned over the years in staying healthy and happy within my flying job…
Just recently while sitting on standby in a hotel in France, I was mulling over my upcoming three months’ flying schedule. There were some gruelling long-range trips that would keep me away from home for a long period of time. In all honesty, the prospect invoked sadness at being disconnected from my family for the entirety of the summer.
Sure, we are all grown-up flying professionals and we often ‘tough out’ the worst of schedules, but as I began to apply flexible thinking to the situation I realized that we were about to park our aircraft in Europe for twelve days while our principal travelled by sea. We always keep our airplane fully-staffed, so I put together a plan to get my wife and children to join me in Italy at short notice.
The flexibility I had worked hard to instil into my personal life enabled the plan to succeed, transforming that gruelling schedule into a memorable opportunity.
Once all of the risks of changes to my schedule were considered and accepted, my family took advantage of an opportunity that will be remembered by us all for years to come!
Of course, we want our principals to think of us as embodying the utmost in efficiency; constants in professional preparedness, and I learned another lesson from this episode as I shared my plans with the chairman of the board. That wise, seasoned corporate veteran smiled as he acknowledged my good time-management to make the most of a priceless opportunity. The great value to both me and the company were not lost on him…
Case Study in Fitness
Mental and physical health must also be considered an integral part of the flight department. Without due care and attention in this area we may suffer setbacks that can impair safety and productivity.
As I approached age 40, I visited my physician for an annual check-up. At that time, I was a flight operations manager for a major fractional ownership company and my phone rang constantly. It was an exciting, busy and intense time - but it was also an unforgiving, punishing lifestyle. The role brought high stress along with bad eating and resting habits.
After reading my lab reports and examining me, the doctor prescribed medication for my blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol.
His prognosis scared me enough to spur me to act.
A nutritionist taught me to make good choices. I learned how to navigate cravings for junk food and combat the energy lows that come from long days in the cockpit lacking regular nourishment and rest. For example, a handful of peanuts and a small protein bar, washed down with water produced increased physical and mental energy through the day.
As I got back into shape, I found that healthy, moderate eating and exercise made me not only physically, but mentally fitter in the cockpit environment.
Establishing Rest Schedules
I recently read a study that claims most adults have a nightly sleep deficit of at least two hours. There are no prizes for guessing that, with the nature of the corporate pilot’s professional lifestyle, we are often chronically fatigued and suffering from jet lag. Thus, it is crucial to develop a rest schedule.
This is one area to become less flexible in: sticking to the plan requires dedication, conviction and some ‘me-first’ thinking.
This may require us to educate our families and friends to understand that after a long trip, we might be jaded and in need of restful recovery before jumping straight in to a flurry of domestic or social activity.
A balanced lifestyle promoting emotional (personal), mental and physical health should be an essential discussion within your flight department management style. Over time, it will reduce budget costs, enhance operational safety and increase productivity.
As a by-product you will have a firm and fit body on which to hang those hard earned shinny pilot epaulets!