...there was the end. That of the "dream job pilot". After 4.000 hours in the cockpit, I quit my job in the summer of 2020. And so it went on:
My last working day as a commercial pilot. I'm relieved to have taken the leap. Finally feeling clarity after months of brooding. Colleagues' reactions are divided: Some congratulate, others shake their heads and have no understanding. But deep down I know: what I'm doing here is right.
It feels wonderful to not HAVE to do anything for once. When someone asks me what I'm doing for a living now, I say: there are many ideas, one of them will be. And in fact, for months I've been wondering what my colleagues whose jobs are on the line think. Very few of them want to be retrained as bus drivers or train drivers. The industry is going through profound changes. With each passing week, the chance that everything will be the same decreases. I don't believe in it anymore.
I have a daily rhythm, the first time in years. Because until now, it was a matter of being flexible all the time. Heads of government and Formula 1 world champions, stars and corporate CEOs on private jets - when they wanted to. It was impossible to arrange private appointments for longer periods of time. Now I get up every day at six o'clock. Meditate for fifteen minutes. Then to the mat for yoga. Then work, step by step implementing my plans. That goes well. But at night, fears catch up with me. What if I misjudge the situation? There is no backup, no net. You have nothing in your hands, says the fear. You'll see, everything will work out, says my inner voice. Breathe in. Exhale. I hope that it is right.
Being registered as unemployed is one thing, but sitting in the group at the Public Employment Service and suddenly feeling that way is another. On this day it is like that. Or is it just a question of perspective? Who should be able to tell me how to feel? In the room, the fears are palpable, resignation from those who have been looking for jobs for months. If you're not careful, you'll get the blame. Oh dear, job lost. In your late 40s, as a pilot. Bad cards. But no, I think. Can't you see that something new is being created here?
I am working on an article for the Standard, which will be published in January. The topic: what changes the past year has brought. For the world, but also in small ways, reflected in my everyday life. As I write, I realize: no stone has been left unturned. I sold my car. Quit my job. My younger daughter finished school and moved out. I had no idea about all this a year ago. What a ride!
Christmas. We celebrate with the whole family, eight people, fresh from the PCR test in front of the Christmas tree. It's one of those days when I enjoy not flying anymore. No work cell phone, no standby, no last-minute flight plans. Kiev, New Zealand, Lisbon were it in the past years on this day. This time: at home in Vienna. Feels like Christmas!
My hands are cold, my heart beats faster as I pick up the newspaper at the tobacconist. The article in the Standard appears. For a long time, I thought about writing it under a pseudonym, because nothing about it is sugarcoated or put right, and as a person, I am fully exposing myself to criticism. I will not only make friends with it. But what is an opinion worth if you don't stand by it?
Wow, what an overwhelming response! More than 700 readers are discussing the article online, it's being shared on social networks, I'm getting letters from pilots in Austria, Germany, Holland, even Dubai. It surprises me how many colleagues think the same way. And it gives me strength for my new professional start. Two invitations to podcasts follow, one in Germany, one in Austria. Then ARD calls. Would I be willing to be a guest on a talk show? The topic: what else is there to wait for? Good question. I'm coming!
The sprint into the home stretch. Deadlines fixed, phone calls made to partners, bureaucratic red tape negotiated, zoom meetings held, concepts discussed, advice sought, specialist literature read, writing prepared. The new homepage goes online. Hermann Hesse called this the magic of the beginning. How wonderful to be enchanted!
Shortly before midnight and final spurt for the first workshop, which starts tomorrow. We are a diverse group: from the A 380 co-pilot from Dubai who has become unemployed, to the Lufthansa student pilot from Frankfurt whose training has been cancelled, to the private jet pilot from Austria for whom working conditions are deteriorating more and more. At Austrian alone, the Dash fleet is currently being disbanded, the number of 767 long-haul aircraft is being halved, and starting in the summer, one A 319 per month will leave the company. Elsewhere, as confirmed by talks with other airlines, things are no better. Pilots are one of the first professions to be hit by the full force of the crisis. But they also have the chance to be at the forefront when it comes to finding new jobs. I am convinced of that.
An evening with female power and captain's know-how, exciting stories, a common passion and in a very short time great familiarity. It was a lot of fun to lead through this event together with Jens. The positive feedback from the participants makes us want to do more: We are planning the next workshop for March, this time flight attendants should also be able to participate.
I was a few days "off the grid", as the New Zealanders call it. Cell phone off and into the mountains. Blue skies, snow, sun and spring-like temperatures. Seeing things at a distance before starting preparations for the March workshop.
What fascinates me about the experience so far: how an idea can take off. How it makes its way, becomes known, finds followers and supporters, even without any marketing. I believe that people sense whether someone is primarily interested in business or whether something is emerging because it comes from within and is urgently needed. A co-pilot of a major airline told me that five of his colleagues had taken their own lives since the lockdown. They felt they were no longer needed, and when they were laid off, they were afraid of losing their livelihood. May our work prevent more such tragedies from happening. Often, just sharing with others is enough as a first step, the feeling of "not being the only one who doesn't know what to do next," as one workshop participant put it. This is where the journey begins. To something that we do not yet know today. In the end, many will find a good alternative to flying. The Americans call this, by the way: "dating" a new job. Try and see. In relationships, at very least people marry their first love and are together with her for the rest of their lives.
Tonight is the time: my 15 minutes of Warhol glory are coming up. Although strictly speaking I have only 14, and I have to share them with two other protagonists. :-) Thank you Markus Stachl for the report about "wetransformpilots" and the personal story about it in the ORF program "Thema"! Tonight, 21.15, on ORF 2.
Sometimes it's the little things that have a big impact. In my case: a video on you tube that I stumbled across yesterday. It dates from the 1980s and shows a speech by Professor Paul Watzlawick in Stuttgart. Watzlawick had a wide horizon through his biography. He studied in Zurich, was a professor in El Salvador, lived in California and India, and met Krishnamurti. He became best known for his theories on communication ("You can't not communicate"). In the video, he stands at the front of the lectern, speaking into microphones around which meters of cables are entwined, to people with interesting hairstyles and sweaters, and he describes in his lecture how much people and even animals cling to solutions that once proved workable. The problem with this: what to do when the setting changes, the circumstances become different? We continue to hold on to the old solution. But then the problem becomes bigger. You can see this as a nice metaphor. For what is happening to many pilots right now. For our economy in general. A little later, Watzlawick demonstrates what happens when the solution to a problem lies outside our thought system. Sometimes very close, and yet not tangible. We then try out all the possibilities in our minds, looking for a viable approach, but going round in circles. What does this have to do with pilots? A lot. Because it's the way we see ourselves that can change and suddenly open new doors. Sometimes all it takes is a look from the outside to see the potential within. Astonishment included.
(You Tube: Paul Watzlawick: "When the solution is the problem")
At the end of March my typerating for the "Latitude" expired. The authorization to fly this modern business jet, which must be renewed every year. This is connected with a simulator check in the USA, and privately the costs beyond 20,000 euros are prohibitive. It's a pity on the one hand, because it was an impressive aircraft, with state-of-the-art technology and pleasant to fly. Will I miss it? Honestly: No. And that was a surprise for me. But when I think about it, I also feel how much quality of life I've gained since I stopped flying full-time. If you let go of one thing, you can "tackle" something else.
What I miss is the feeling of flying. Looking at the world from above. To beat the earth's gravity and to be free in space. But I'll get that back when the time comes. With a small, two-seater propeller plane and a flight over the Alpine peaks. My wife can come along, and I don't have to explain to her on the phone that unfortunately the duty schedule has changed and I won't be coming home at the weekend after all.
I was on the road for the "Standard" in the past days. A report from the camping bus, 1500 km criss-cross through Austria. The topic: What do we need now, in a post-pandemic world? What have we learned, what could we do better? These were exciting encounters, spontaneous, without a planned route. A young organic farmer who resists having to produce more and more because the yield per hectare in agriculture has been falling for years. A model manager and career woman who suddenly has doubts about whether everything should really revolve around money. And Luis, with his white ruffled beard and felted hat and his 96 years the oldest Kitzbühel resident, has summed up his wisdom in one sentence: " For greed all nature is too little." To be read in the "Album" on June 5. Looking forward to it!
Today we presented our program to an airline. The work of several months in 15 minutes PowerPoint to the point. The feedback makes me happy because it shows that our approach is right. To embark on the path to a new job, to a new task, with an inward look.
But it takes more than that to turn a good idea into a functioning company. Like a painter, I'm busy putting details on the canvas with a brush: As a team, we make contacts, plan workshops, record promo videos, tinker with corporate design, answer emails, zoom through the week. But what it takes then is stepping back. To see the big picture again. The canvas, not just the brushstroke. What area is important right now? Did I miss something? Where is something missing? Setting priorities when time is tight is something I know from the cockpit. Rearranging priorities several times a day, taking on impulses, overturning ideas and trying something new - that's what my daily routine looks like now.
Okay, I actually thought I had passed on the professional pilot identity with the uniform, on the last day of work. But it's not that simple after all. Every year it is time to renew the licenses. I've already said goodbye to some of them, but there are others I don't want to say goodbye to. The effort to acquire them was too great: the instrument rating, for example, or my flight instructor license. This weekend there is a mandatory two-day seminar for flight instructors. And there they are again: all the familiar faces from the industry, the ex-colleagues from the cockpit with whom you had a beer in hotel bars or went out for dinner together. A few became friends. It feels strange: as if everything is as it always was, and yet everything is different. Something has shifted. My view of this profession has become a different one, but the old view is still familiar to me. This oscillation between two worlds is typical for change processes. What helps? Taking one step at a time. Enduring the ambivalence. Clarity also happens over ti