Pilot Training: From a Wife’s Perspective

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The Pilot has posted about pilot training…..but this is one of my first posts on the topic!  It’s so crazy to realize that we are almost at the end of this adventure.  It seems like not so long ago that we were waiting to find out which base we were assigned…..and then waiting for our orders (which got switched around a few times)…..and then moving….and then waiting for him to start training….and finally starting.  We have been here for a year and nine months….and it has been a busy year and nine months!

So….here are a few thoughts for any pilot training spouses out there!!  (It is mostly directed toward wives, as that is obviously my experience…but most applies to any of the male spouses, too! 🙂 )

1. If you have some time where you are APT (Awaiting Pilot Training), take advantage of it!!  I know that it is kind of frustrating to make the move and then sit and wait for weeks or months (we waited five months) until pilot training actually begins.  You want to start what you’re there for!!  Try to view it as a blessing.  Your spouse will likely have a lot of free time.  Enjoy it!  Take advantage of the opportunities to set up your house, go on dates, go for a walk, or otherwise spend time with your spouse.

2. Be forewarned: There will be long days ahead of you.  12 hour work days are normal.  The good news is that they aren’t allowed to be at work for any longer than 12 hours.  So….if they go in at 5 am you can know for sure (most of the time!) that they will be home shortly after 5 pm at the latest.

3.  Find community. This is so important.  You need people around you for support.  Yes, your friends and family back home are invaluable…but it is also so important and so helpful to have people you can talk to face to face.  People who understand completely what you’re going through.  That is one of the reasons that the three training bases are so great.  Yes, they are small (Laughlin is actually the biggest of the training bases….all y’all who are there might get a kick out of that fact 😉 ), but they force community.  There are many ways to get involved with people.  You can get to know the other wives in your class.  Get to know your neighbors.  Host a girl’s day and invite everyone who lives on your street.  Get involved at church.  Join a Bible study.  See if there is a Facebook group for the spouses from your base.  Take a class at the gym.  Find a walking or running partner.  Get a job.  Find a place in town that would be a fun place to invite the girls to hang out.  Attend a spouse social.  Join the Officers Spouses Club.  There are many possibilities!

4. Find out what you can about what you’re getting into.  Attend a spouse’s welcome.  Go to Heartlink.  Have fun at Red Carpet.  The information you learn will be invaluable.

4.  Learn to let go.  This one can be very hard.  I have heard it said a few times that the year (or year and a half in our case) of pilot training is all about the pilot….the rest of their career is for you, the spouse.  I’m not sure I entirely agree that the rest of the career is about us (deployments anyone?) but I see the point.  Pilot training is very intense, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  You have to learn to let things go.  Your spouse will need lots of time to study.  Lots of time to unwind and decompress.  Your spouse will need to talk (constantly sometimes) about airplanes.  Let him.

5. That being said….you’re still his wife. You and your spouse will need to find a balance.  You still need your husband and you still need time together.  Be honest about your feelings and needs.  Try to keep up date nights.  Make sure you share your heart with him.  I’m pretty sure that even though he comes home and talks about his flight, this acronym and that acronym….he still cares about you and your day.  Don’t buy into the temptation to throw a pity party and become a martyr because this year is “all about him.”

6.  Be prepared for changes. Stuff happens.  Your husband’s show time might change, his flight might get canceled, or he might get home when you aren’t expecting him (either late or early).  He could hook (fail) a ride.  He could wash back one (or more) classes.  He might completely wash out.  If something big like this happens….it is okay if you need time to process it.  It is okay if you struggle with it.  But….you have to learn to live with it and move on.  Your husband needs your support and love no matter what happens.

7. There is good in every place.  Don’t succumb to the temptation to hate on where you are based.  Yes, the training bases are remote.  Yes, there are a lot of inconveniences.  But no place is 100% horrible.  There are beautiful and amazing things about any place.  Look for the good where you are.  Sometimes you have to search for it…sometimes it might be right in front of you.  But find the things to love about where you live!  (Yes, I will need to remind myself of this every time we move!  I’m pretty sure no place can compare to So Cal. 😉 )

8.  Remember that your husband, your marriage, and your situation is unique.  Don’t compare your pilot training experience with your friend’s.  Find what works for you guys and go with it!

9. Pray, pray, pray!!  This can be a tough season of life, but remember that you are not alone.  Pray for strength.  Pray for wisdom.  Pray for love.  Pray for peace.  Pray for contentment.

I asked some of the wives I’ve met here at Laughlin for any advice they wanted to share.  They had some great advice!  Here are some of their nuggets of wisdom…

  • Whenever possible, take food into your husband’s flight room. Taquitos, cookies, burritos, anything!  They will love you!!
  • Be your husband’s #1 fan and biggest supporter!
  • Be social.  Step out of your bubble.
  • Open communication and compromise between both of you is imperative.
  • Find a hobby or a job.  Those 12 hour days can really get to you!
  • Pilot training is emotionally exhausting, and the last thing your husband wants is to have another instructor in his house. Expect him to be tired when he gets home and let him unwind before asking anything from or criticizing anything about him.
  • Volunteer whenever possible.
  • Find the positives in the little things.
  • Your husband will be on more of an emotional rollercoaster then a pregnant woman. They put up with our raging hormones, smile and put up with their emotional instability.
  • Take time on the weekend to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  No airplanes allowed!!
  • Take each day as it comes.
  • Stay in the loop.  Ask questions.  Find out what those acronyms mean.  Try to know at least some about each plane your spouse flies.  Flying is their world right now…try to join that world as much as possible.
  • Be grateful.
  • Make it a point to have dinner together every night.
  • Don’t complain to your spouse (vent to your girlfriends if you need to!).  But make sure you still share your feelings because it will be hard for you too.
  • If you are long-distance, keep them in the loop.  Send cards, packages, and kid’s artwork.   When you do have visits together, go on dates, be grateful, and stay positive.
  • Have extra grace toward your husband.

So much great advice!  If you’re reading this and you are just starting pilot training….or even if you are partway through…hang in there!!  It is long and hard, but it really is an exciting time of life.  Your spouse’s career is just taking off (pun intended).  You will have a very adventurous and exciting life!

-Bonnie

P.S. I just discovered The Pearl and the Pilot.  It was so exciting to find another blogger who has written about pilot training.  Check out her post about UPT!

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2 thoughts on “Pilot Training: From a Wife’s Perspective

  1. Love this! I’m sure spouses who stumble across this will too! You should share it on the wives page 😉

  2. Yes, yes and yes! I actually really miss Joe’s pilot training days, it’s where we met some of our greatest friends and had some of our best times together.

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