If you’re at all exposed to the pilot community, you’ve probably heard the joke Q. What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot? A. God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot. Admittedly, I chuckled a little when I first heard it. But I think this joke represents the general stereotype that is given to pilots, particularly fighter pilots.
One of my best friends here is not part of our squadron. A few weeks ago, she put something on her FB status about how her husband left at 5:30am and still wasn’t home around 8:30pm and I commented on it about how it sounds like a pilot’s schedule. One of the guys from her husband’s squadron responded to my comment and said something like “Yeah right. If he was a pilot he’d be home by 6pm every night and deploy for 45 days at a time.” I had about a million smart ass responses come to mind as soon as I read that, but instead I just said “You and I must know very different pilots.”
I’ve talked to my friends husband before about the reputation fighter pilots have here, and really, it’s not good. I asked him if his guys (he runs a squadron on base here at Aviano) would want a ride in an F-16 given the chance and he said that they’d probably turn it down, just to spite the pilots. Honestly, I was shocked by that, and by that comment one of his guys made on that FB status.
Mark said a while ago he was talking to one of the maintainers and the kid was like “So, do you guys work on Friday’s usually? Or do you just come in, fly and then go home?” Mark said he laughed a little bit and tried to explain to the guy a little of what he does, besides fly.
It seems as though most people think that fighter pilots are a bunch of macho jerks, that think they’re better than everyone else. And granted, I have come across a few of those in the 2 years I’ve been part of the F-16 community. But it’s too bad that a VERY select few guys give then entire group such a bad rap. A while ago I read on a blog written by a fighter pilot’s wife, about how her husband was part of an elite group of people, yadda yadda… I just cringe when I read stuff like that because that kind of stuff gives us all a bad rap and it did come off sounding like she thought her husband was better than everyone else.
So in an attempt to clear up the apparent misconceptions, here are my 2 cents. MOST pilots are really nice guys (and girls). I can honestly say that this group of people we have the privilege of being part of the squadron with here, is the best we’ve encountered. The majority of the guys here have families and kids, and the squadron as a whole is very family-oriented, which isn’t always the case. (More on that later.)
Pilots obviously fly jets, but most of them also have full-time jobs in the squadron that they also have to keep up on. They spend hours preparing for one flight, then they brief it, fly it, and de-brief it, and depending on what type of flight they flew, all of that alone can take 8+ hours, and then they have to do their other job before or after they fly. A typical day for a fighter pilot lasts anywhere from 10-14 hours at work, 5 days a week. Often guys go in on the weekend to catch up on things they didn’t have time to do during the week or to get a head start on studying for the next week. A 60-hour work week is probably on the low end of average for them. There have been many days where Mark is at work long before Abbie gets up and he gets home long after she goes to bed. And as much as I would LOVE them to deploy for 45 days at a time, that isn’t the case. It is much, MUCH longer than that.
*I took all of these pictures on the spouse tanker ride in Nov 2009.*
To be continued…