on a wing and a prayer



I opened my eyes and said the customary good morning to Cy, and the rest of the family members. Settling down with my morning cuppa.  Reaching out for the newspaper purely out of habit, I thought, now what has the harbinger of bad news brought to us.

Germanwings had gone down mysteriously the previous day and now they had to determine, why the pilot had done what he had.

CY being from the profession is always at the receiving end of many questions , particularly  when an incident in aviation takes place. Questions range from , What work do you have , all you do is switch on auto pilot right? ,to, Have you had to deal with any emergency while flying?

Most people are unaware of the responsibility, the grueling training, the hours of reading (continuously as weather and circumstances for very take off and landing are different), that go into a job of this kind.

do-it-rightThe hours of work range from all nighters crossing different time zones , eating whatever is available, sleeping at times permitted by the roster. Coupled with the fact that one may be doing a flight eastwards before being sent westwards, during the span of 7-8 days, which could mean extreme hot to cold conditions within the same week. Listening  to the crew’s flying hours, schedules, time patterns of sleep and food, can be tiring in itself. Their blood reports  even  give  doctor’s palpitations.

The usual is prescribed along with medicines, “regular” sleep to counter fatigue,  “regular” exercise, “regular” food habits. The medicines are swallowed and the rest is tried ,by fitting it into the irregular pattern on their work. Sleep time is anywhere between landing time till the next day take off. Meals are adjusted as per the country one is in. Anyone, who has been hungry in a hotel and tried to order ‘diet’ food, would know the challenges there.

I have immunized myself to the fact that there is a risk involved in my husbands  job, and do watch and understand Crash Investigations, a program that   throws light on reasons as to why crashes have taken place.

Most crash reports where ‘pilot error’ has been known to be the main cause, has had a further history behind it. The reason why many of the highly experienced pilots have gone down has been because of cumulative fatigue , studies of  their flight patterns or schedules of days leading up to the crash. In a job where when needs to be highly alert, lack of sleep and extreme exhaustion can lead to that one tiny error that affects so many lives.

blame_gameStrangely though, the issue of fatigue has not been addressed at all. The motive behind the investigations is primarily to pin the blame so that companies may not be held responsible. The case of an american senior Captain, when he lost his sanity temporarily, was linked to fatigue. His name was cleared, he was allowed to fly after 1 year of investigation, on condition that he report fit before every flight. Again, the fatigue factor was over looked completely.

The most recent germanwings  crash has brought on a new angle , mental health of crew will be checked. Seriously??? Isn’t it ludicrous!!

exhaustionHealth checks on a regular basis is for company benefit and precautionary, but the ROOT CAUSE leading to the health issues whether mental or physical are many a times PURE FATIGUE.

The companies in a quest to make ends meet in a fast paced highly competitive environment  are trying to get every ounce of work worth the salary out of their staff, while the staff have no choice in the game of survival to keep going till they burn out.

Introducing , marriage laws (because apparently married crew are more happy and sane-solutions by Turkish air), or checking for mental health, are silly balms for superficial healing , in a hope for a miracle cure.Unfortunately, there is no quick fix.

The situation no doubt is a ‘Catch 22’  and faced by most industries in today’s times-this tug of war between staff and management will keep bringing one or the other down if a deep rooted balance is not found soon.

Young management professionals will keep collapsing trying to work 14-15 hour shifts, and trains will keep derailing every now and again, planes will continue to fall out of the sky, heart conditions will become a problem for the youth, unless. . . .

We  slow down the pace globally, if not, the only roses we will stop to smell will be the ones on our graves, sooner rather than later.. . .

stop and smell the roses

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