Stood Down – A QANTAS Pilot’s Insight. Day One.

Female pilot

Day One.

Stood Down.
As a QANTAS long haul pilot, I can’t say that this took me completely by surprise. The rumour mill was working overtime and, logically speaking, with COVID-19 decimating the planet, air travel was dwindling. The main issue was that both my wife and I are pilots on the Boeing 747.
There was a slight sense of Déjà vu in that I was made redundant during the Ansett collapse – but that was different. That was the end of the airline and passenger demand was still strong. This is a global crisis and hopefully a pause in operations – even if ultimately the income dries up. Which, with four kids in school, is the major concern.
Bouncing between news reports and company webinars, it would seem that our official notice from QANTAS will be posted Saturday and that the stand down will take place in the near future, although I still have one final flight rostered. Time will tell if that takes place.
So, what does it feel like?
There is a degree of uncertainty – and that is never great. My wife and I have a few weeks of annual and long service leave and then the household income stops – and that is never great. However, as we are both pilots, it is not in our nature to panic or throw our arms up, our nature and our training is to analyse the problem and find the best way to address it. Consequently, we spent yesterday afternoon gathering facts and formulating a bare-bones plan.
Our children are integral to this plan and we spoke with them at length. For the last few months, they have been bombarded with news reports of looming bushfires while a smoke cloud hung over our house and black gum leaves rained down. Their treasures were packed in the car and we were ready to evacuate. Now, the headlines overwhelm them with news of a global pandemic and their parents’ airline standing them down. “What does that mean, Dad?” It means that we are still so much better off than so many people in the world. Covid-19 is gripping the world, starvation is still rife for many children around the globe and war ravages the landscape in various hot spots. We will get through this. Even with my wife and I being stood down, we have each other and we live in a free and magnificent country.
What is important for my wife, children and I to remember is that will come out the other side of this, even if our world looks different. QANTAS will come out the other side of this, too. Still, while the Ansett collapse proved to be a “career disadvantage”, in so many ways it turned out to be a “life advantage”, throwing me out of my comfort zone. I undertook a Masters Degree, wrote books and hundreds of articles, meeting thousands of amazing people.
This time I am better prepared for the journey ahead than I was in 2001 and in the wake of 9/11. Once again, our world is facing a challenge and once again, we must all rise to meet it. Stay safe folks and take care of one another – at a safe distance.
Cheers and click here for Day Two.

Click here to read, “Boeing 747 – Queen of the Skies. Reflections from the Flight Deck.”


Boeing 747 5th Pod Taking Off
(Image: Keith Anderson)