On March 14, our Canadian Prime Minister made the announcement that all Canadians currently abroad should return to Canada. Immediately. If you’re abroad, it is time to come home.
That night, I stood in my driveway and kissed my husband good-bye. He was off to Cuba.
“Drive safe, fly safe; I love you”: the last thing I always want Ken to hear before he departs.
It was one of the most paradoxical experiences in my life: in my professional life, I was helping students return from international experiences to Canadian soil, as quickly as possible. But in my personal life, I was watching my husband leave the Canadian border. Canadians needed to return home; pilots needed to fly them there.
I literally cried a few days later watching the Canadian press conference when, atop all of the many skilled workers thanked, Chrystia Freeland was the first politician (at least that I heard) to finally thank the pilots and crew.
Crying because I was alone on my couch hearing those words while Ken was once again in the air, ushering more Canadians home from Costa Rica.
Crying because I fear that in this time of globalization, when we so easily jump onto planes and think nothing of it, we forget what an amazing feat it truly is that we can literally fly on top of the clouds.
I was once on a flight from Nairobi back to Abu Dhabi, and the woman beside me became clearly worried – the turbulence was hard to ignore, and she was shaking. “Don’t worry – my husband is flying us,” I let her know. And she did calm down. Because it reminded her that we weren’t in some tube in the air, subject to the forces of the nature. Instead, we were in a carrier operated by real individuals who have dedicated countless years to building enough experience and proficiency to safely operate the flight.
I’ve learned a lot being a pilot’s wife.
Some things are little trivia tidbits – like, flight radar doesn’t always work over all locales, so don’t freak out if you don’t see the plane on Flight Radar…
like, you actually should be turning off your cell phone before take-off, thank you very much…
But I’ve learned much more impactful things.
I’ve learned that flying is the safest method of transport in the world, not just because you’re avoiding traffic, but because of the rigorous training that pilots continue to undergo throughout their careers (simulator exams every 6 months, for example).
I’ve learned that pilots are exceedingly proficient in areas that we might not even realize (meteorology, mathematics, social skills as you work together with new teammates each flight under what could be stressful circumstances).
I am frequently reminded of the brilliance of my husband, who is trained to think soundly, critically, and under pressure amidst the most challenging of circumstances…all to ensure that we, you, your loved ones, anyone that enters his aircraft, can get home safely.
And now that most of us are home safely, now that many pilots and crew are also home safely when they desperately just want to be in the air…
Now that we are here, I hope in this waiting period, that all of us learn to appreciate this aviation industry that is so often taken for granted. Or, let’s be honest, complained about.
Because if you’ve ever entered an airplane and gotten to your destination safely, you’ve a pilot to thank.
Because if you’ve ever been delayed due to weather or operations, you’ve also a pilot to thank – for putting safety first. My husband always like to say, “if I don’t want to go, you don’t want to be going either”.
This is a travel blog. And the fact is that the majority of these places I’ve travelled to, that I’ve shared experiences about … I’ve gotten to these destinations by plane.
When I boarded that Air Canada flight to Heathrow en route to Accra so many years ago, for my first ever international experience, it was pilots who got me there safely.
When I went to my honeymoon, my friend’s wedding, my trips, my consulting work, my conferences…it was pilots who got me there safely.
We are so focussed on the destination that we often forget that our journey actually begins when we board the aircraft and put our trust in its operators.
I write this, yes to boast about my Ken, but most importantly to share what I think has been missed recently in news media – air travel IS safe. Airplanes have always been built to carry people for hours on end without sharing air and germs (otherwise, we’d always have viruses after exiting a plane with 200 other people).
And in the future as you get on that seat and travel to your destination – because we all will again – think about those pilots in command, using their knowledge and experience and skills to get you there safely.
We will all fly again. And when we do, I hope we are all just a little more grateful for the experience.