My husband Dexter is amazing in many ways, but his top attribute is that he’s a pilot. It’s a well-kept secret, but being married to an aviator has numerous benefits far beyond the most obvious advantage, that they can fly a plane. Of course, it’s very nice that they have the ability to transport you up and down the country, leaving whenever you want and never hitting traffic, but this isn’t so useful when you don’t have your own aircraft.
The advantages that I’m in fact referring to are the skills, qualities and capabilities that all pilots must cultivate in themselves whilst on their way to becoming flying proficient. Because after a while, the focused and accurate ‘pilot mentality’ that they adopt in the skies sets in to their core and becomes intrinsic to their very being. And this makes them pretty awesome people to have around. I’ll give you some examples:
1. They don’t lose things
My husband Dexter hasn’t lost or misplaced any of his personal possessions in the last 15 years. To me this is an accomplishment of simply baffling proportions, as I seem to lose my keys and phone on an hourly basis. Most other people I know (the non-pilot ones) suffer the same as me, frequently putting things down but not remembering where.
This annoying and time-consuming habit simply doesn’t happen to pilots. They don’t wander around in a day-dream before ‘coming to’ and realising they’ve lost their bag. Any more than they fly along in a day-dream before suddenly realising they’ve lost 500 feet. The only time you’ll find an aviator ‘on auto-pilot’ is when they actually are on auto-pilot.
2. They check, check, check
Another reason that aviators don’t lose things is because they live their lives with a pilot checklist continuously looping round in their brain. Flight controls? Check. Radio? Check. Phone, keys and wallet? Check. So, even when they do put something down, it’s only ever a few seconds before that item is safely accounted for again.
Now, I realise that walking around with a pilot checklist for a brain, instead of the capability for abstract thought, might sound a little boring. But when this quality exists in your partner, it’s actually pretty darn useful, particularly when it comes to keeping things safe. When you score tickets of a lifetime to your dream concert, festival or Olympics final, and the tickets arrive a whole year before the event, there's no doubt at all that you won't lose those tickets and you'll definitely attend.
3. They are amazing navigators
Most of us use navigational skills daily; to find our room inside a hotel, to find our way back to the car with our shopping, or to find our way to the correct hospital department for a clinic appointment. Some people seem to have a natural affinity for route-finding, though they will never be as gifted as a pilot.
Remember the last time you really struggled to find your way somewhere? You probably implemented one or more of these emergency navigational strategies:
- You may have stopped and asked someone for directions
- You may have looked at the street signs around you and located them on your map
- If you were lucky then you may have found one of those maps with ‘You are here’ marked on it
- Maybe you decided to retrace your steps all the way back to the start so you could have a second ‘stab’ at the journey
- If you were really lost then maybe you simply stopped, pulled over and had a burger while you waited for the whole traumatic ordeal to resolve itself
Now, re-run that same memory whilst imagining you’re flying. This time, you can’t pull over and ask for directions. You can’t look at the street signs because there aren’t any, and there are certainly no ‘You are here’ maps. What’s more, you don’t have enough fuel to allow for retracing your journey. There’s no time for second chances, or burgers, in the sky.
What would be a terrifying nightmare for any normal person is all in a day’s work for your pilot partner. Aviators thrive on navigational adversity, even on their days off. Ask them to drive you to that interview in a strange town miles away; they’ll excel at it. If the truth really be known, they could probably get you there driving blindfolded, with the car windows boarded up, navigating purely on instruments.
4. They are skilled listeners
You’re probably getting the idea now. Aviators have exceptional personal qualities because of life or death situations in the skies. Well, this even applies to listening skills.
Messages in the air aren’t always clear. Yet pilots must receive instructions accurately in order to survive. Everything they hear they need to remember. Even if they hear it just once uttered quietly, stuttered quickly, scrambled with crackles and interference.
Unfortunately for my partner Dexter, these aviator hyper-listening skills cannot be turned off, even when back on the ground. Much to my delight, a cruel side-effect of his flight training is his now fervent compulsion to listen intently whenever I speak. Whether I’m informing him that we might have the winning lottery numbers, or telling him about my colleague’s second-cousin’s niece who just got married in a lilac wedding dress, he will listen with eager receptiveness, and remember that conversation forever.
5. They are excellent time keepers
Pilots must plan journeys with accuracy. They must decide what time they’re going to leave, know what speed they’re going to travel at, and make allowances for things like wind-speed, weight and fuel consumption. When they state what time they’re going to arrive at their destination, they do it with a to-the-exact-minute precision. As a result, aviators have an unrivalled grasp of time.
If you’re like me, you consider time in easy-to-work-with fifteen-minute or thirty-minute chunks. For example, for all local errands I allow ‘about an hour’ without even considering speed or obstacles.
But aviators think in minutes and seconds, and they’re always aware of their speed. If my husband Dexter gets delayed leaving the house because our elderly neighbour wants to talk about her cat, it’s never a problem. He simply performs a series of air speed and ground velocity calculations in his head, and then adjusts his pace accordingly. And whilst it’s true that he’s not usually early, in the seven years I’ve known him he’s never ever been late.
6. They are good drivers
Once upon a time, you might have been impressed when your love-interest drove a souped-up body-kitted Corsa with the bumper sticker: Drive it like you stole it. Soon afterwards though, you probably grew up. Because for anyone over the age of nineteen, it’s nice to have a partner who’s a really good driver. My argument is that there’s a limit to just how skilled a driver anyone can become whilst following two-dimensional roads, and making minor directional adjustments with a steering wheel.
Up in the air, pilots navigate in three-dimensions; pitch (nose up or down), yaw (nose left or right) or roll (banked to the left or right). They can make all three steering adjustments at once, even when they’re upside-down. Confused? Me too. But don’t worry, because pilots always know exactly which direction they are travelling in, by the feeling of the material in the seat of their pants.
You won’t find many aviators sliding their cars around country lanes. They have way too much respect for engineering and passenger safety for that kind of thing. Plus, they don’t feel the need to impress anyone with their driving. Because they’re a pilot.
7. Mile-high swoonathons
You didn’t really think I could get to the end without mentioning the swoon-factor, did you? When your partner is a pilot, you get to sit next to them flying, and wilt. Individuals without a pilot in their life might think that they’ve been on romantic dates. But let me ask them: Did you ever get taken cloud-surfing?
Early on in our relationship, my husband Dexter took me up in a plane to survey the countryside and fly over a white chalk horse. By the time we got back I was good for nothing, except perhaps scraping off the seat with a spatula and spreading on toast. There’s really nothing sexier than a partner who you can trust your life with, when you know they’re smart enough and talented enough to look after it.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking; pilots can’t all be this amazing. And why would their actions whilst flying dictate how they conduct themselves in relationships? Well, behaviour breeds behaviour, that’s my argument. After all, you don’t find Pilates teachers lifting heavy boxes with their backs bent, and you don’t hear of fire-fighters leaving candles burning at night.
So I guess the most truly amazing thing about pilots is that their incredible personal qualities have always remained secret… until now.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Helen on July 21, 2018:
Oh my goodness Lucy, your article made my pilot husband and me laugh out loud! We’ve been very happily married for 15 years and have never seen such accurate traits put to print before!!! You’re absolutely spot on!! I adore him! He never loses anything has NEVER been late, unlike me who’s always trying to squeeze in another job before leaving the house! He’s an amazing ironer, finder of things that I or our daughters have lost! He has incredible ‘rabbit ears’ as we call them - after years of listening to different people at the same time air traffic, co-pilot, ground handling, operations, etc he misses nothing!! A definite talent in social gatherings where I might miss something rather interesting!!!!! He can give an accurate ETA to the minute, over hundreds of miles the list goes on..... We could have been reading about our own marriage! I have forwarded your page onto flying friends and wives - who were equally amused - spot on!
It’s good to laugh out loud with your hubby....