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  • Writer's pictureHera Aviation Group

Consider the caregiver aviator

Caregivers bring a unique set of values to the Aviation industry, particularly as pilots. (Part 1 of a 3 part series)

Eggs off a car seat or bugs off an airplane? They both come off the same way.

This morning I went for a drive to my favorite Starbucks with my Little one. As I was driving, I was thinking about today’s blog post about making room for our industry caregivers.

The old rhetoric of a frazzled mother providing less to a team has been debunked repeatedly. In its place is a growing awareness of the individual traits and inimitable principles a caregiver brings onto the flight deck.

If you’re a pilot, you know about CRM:

CRM, or Crew Resource Management, has been integrated into our daily lives on the flight deck. We are all aware that it is critical to a safe and efficient operation. I can still recite the definition I learned in my undergrad work from memory: The effective identification, development, direction, control, and utilization of all available resources for the maximum attainment of flight goals: safety versus utility.

This definition, this model, incorporated into every training program or organization with an Aviation department, is ingrained in us in a way that eludes doubt. We know CRM works. But it didn't start that way. When Mudge introduced this formal model of safety operation to our industry, there were many biases and preconceptions of what a collaborative flight crew looked like. Many professionals and academics were sure there would be anarchy if we accepted the tenets of this notion. But, brave humans decided to try. Science and data followed, and collectively we recognized this was the way forward.

The next step in the growth of our industry is the incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion. I now ask you to consider the caregiver aviator in the same way. A must-have, not a can be. We make the flight deck safer and more efficient. We espouse novel perspectives on agile leadership, change management, communication, decision making, strategic thinking, and out of the box problem-solving.

Experience and tested leadership skills bring together a reliable team that's open and willing to work together to complete a mission safely and effectively. If you’ve ever tried to get a three-year-old and seven-year-old to bathe without flooding the bathroom and ending up in tears, you’re an agile leader.

To aid in this perspective, I asked my friend and mentor, Shirley Phillips, Ph.D., to offer her professional insight. Shirley is a Professor of Aeronautical Science at Southern New Hampshire University, Science Writer, Researcher, and Airline Transport Rated Pilot/Instructor. She is an industry expert on human factors in aviation and is a published author:

“One thing that all caregivers who fly airplanes have in common is lots of practice figuring out how to prioritize. Having another human being to care for adds complexity to your daily life, forcing you first to choose what needs your attention. Being single-mindedly focused on one aspect of your life must give way to balancing competing priorities—something that pilots must learn early in their flight training with the mantra of aviate, navigate, communicate.
Caregivers have that expertise already and need only apply it to flying airplanes. It seems that a caregiver is less likely to focus on a landing gear problem for so long that the airplane runs out of fuel. Anyone alone with a toddler knows that you can't take a leisurely bath because your offspring is likely to put something dangerous in their mouth while you are focusing on your bubbles.
As a caregiver, you get the balancing act already, and you have practice tuning out voices trying to get your attention—a useful skill when your engine quits, and ATC is demanding to know how many souls are on board. Even when things are seemingly going smoothly, you are ready for the unexpected. You know that even though your baby sounds like she is happily playing in her crib, she's taken her diaper off again."

As I pulled back into my driveway and got my Little out of her car seat, I saw the remnants of her turkey bacon sandwich and remembered back to my first contract pilot position flying an Eclipse Jet. Every time we got back to base and pulled the airplane into the hangar, we cleaned the bugs off the airplane. But today, as I stood in the cold, picking out tiny pieces of an egg from the crevices of my toddlers car seat - I thought:

Twenty years’ experience as a professional aviator: Eggs off a car seat or bugs off an airplane? They still both come off the same way.

Primary caregivers make excellent aviators.


Jessica Webster

Founder & President

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