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Monday, April 6, 2015

Feeling Safe to Self Report

There has been a tremendous amount of news coverage on the Germanwings tragedy. Some of the news has focused on pilots who suffer from depression. I have had numerous news outlets contact me asking me to comment on this tragedy. Some of these requests come from news shows that would use this tragedy to sensationalize this horrific event. It is due to the drama seeking shows that I have not consented to an interview yet. 

When I first went on CNN in 2010 most of the feedback I received were words of encouragement and support. There were some negative comments posted on various websites that carried the story, including this blog. There will always be differing opinions on any subject. I do not regret going public. I receive emails to this day from people worldwide asking for help. Usually, these emails are from people who suffer from depression and have thought about a career in aviation. They are asking for guidance in how to proceed. I respond to these inquiries by telling them first and foremost to be honest. 

Occasionally, I receive correspondence from professional pilots. Sometimes I am asked if I felt it was worth it for me to ground myself as I did. I will respond by telling them that flying is something that I do, it does not define me as a person. All too often people are judged by others as to what type of job a person has. When people find out I am a pilot I get looks of admiration. Yes, I love what I do. But I am still just a person.

It seems that pilots are supposed to be flawless. Pilots are not supposed to make mistakes. Pilots are supposed to have super powers. Well, I hate to disappoint everyone, but pilots are human too. Pilots catch colds. Pilots come down with the flu. Pilots can have their bodies ravaged by cancer. And yes, pilots can suffer from depression.

If a pilot is depressed there needs to be a way that he or she can disclose this condition without fear of losing his or her job. Currently, the FAA does have protocol in place for pilots in this situation. However, it is not easy for someone suffering from depression to talk with others about their disease. When I mention to other pilots that I grounded myself I usually do not tell the reason why. On a couple of occasions I disclose the reason for my grounding. Each time my admission has been received in a positive manner. I have not felt ridicule from my fellow aviators. 

I have seen some comments on news stories about me wondering what Captain (Sully) Sullenberger would say regarding this topic. I recently read an article written by Captain Sullenberger regarding this topic. Here is a link to that story. He is in favor of pilots who suffer from depression seeking help and returning to duty when they are capable of doing so.

I hope and pray that the actions of the Germanwings First Officer, Andreas Lubitz, does not reverse all of the work that has been put into paving the road for pilots who need help. Pilots who have depression need to know they can come forward and receive the help they need. Please remember, pilots are people too!

Keep a eye on the sky!

Collin W. Hughes 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lubitz, Pure Evil

Due to the latest tragedy with GermanWings I have been getting several requests for interviews from media outlets all around the world. Currently, investigators are looking at the possibility that Andreas Lubitz, the pilot that flew the GermanWings aircraft into the ground, suffered from a mental illness. The medical facility that treated Lubitz denies he was being treated for depression. 

The only thing I know about Lubitz is that he was an evil coward. This type of hideous behavior is not created by depression. This is something that sprouts from pure evil. I feel badly if a person wants to commit suicide. However, when a person takes their own life and commits mass murder at the same time, that is the ultimate act of selfishness. 

I am not sure if we will ever understand what caused this person to do what he did. But I do know that he caused a great deal of pain to many people.

I was having dinner with the other members of the crew that I am working with this week when we saw on television a memorial to the victims. Many of them were so young. I was saddened by the loss that the parents of these young people are feeling right now. As a father who has recently lost a child I know their pain. However, I was able to be with my daughter during her final days. I was there when she took her last breath. My daughter knew I was there. The parents who lost their sons and daughters in this tragedy were not able to say their final farewells. These parents were not able to tell their own children how much they loved them.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who lost loved ones in this tragedy. There are not words to describe the pain that they feel right now. Even though I have lost a child I still cannot comprehend what they must be going through. The circumstances of my loss is far different than something like this. 

My blog received a large number of hits after the news of what Lubitz had done had aired. Many people are speculating what caused him to do this. Some people are reporting that he possibly had a mental illness. I do know this. Depression does NOT cause someone to commit such an evil act. Depression is something that most people have felt at one time or another. Depression is an ailment just like any other physical ailment and can be treated. It does not make a person a monster. 

There is still a great deal of stigma surrounding mental illnesses. You cannot get through the day without talking with someone who suffers from some type of mental illness. People who come forward with an admission that they suffer from depression are often criticized. These words of criticism often come from those who are closest to them. 

Criticism makes it more difficult for a person to reach out for help when they need it the most. The answer to helping someone is not to scrutinize them, but to love and understand that they suffer from an ailment that is treatable. 

Depression is treatable, evil is not. Lubitz may or may not have been suffering from depression. I do not know. But if he was, that is NOT what caused his cowardly actions. I am sure that there are murderers who suffer from depression. But there are also murderers who do not have depression. It is not the illness that causes the act. It is the heart of a person that makes them what they are. In this case, Lubitz had the heart of a cowardly killer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Moving Forward

I am going through one of the most difficult things a person can face as a parent, the loss of a child. My daughter, Amy Aniceto, lost her battle with cancer on January 29, 2015. She faced her disease with courage and dignity. Even though she did not show her fear in her final days she had expressed to me months earlier that she was afraid. Her fears were that she would be forgotten and for the pain her daughter would feel.

Normally, when I write the words simply seem to flow from my mind. I usually find putting my thoughts into written form an easy almost effortless task. However, today is much different.  Today it seems I have to search for the things I wish to express. I am questioning every sentence I form. I realize that my hesitation is due to the pain of grief that I feel. 

Let's look at the grieving process. The expression of grief is different for everyone. Some people wish to be surrounded by loved ones. Other people want to hide in their homes and do nothing.  Whatever process a person chooses there is one certainty. Life goes on. Everyone will suffer the loss of a loved one in life. But we all must be able to move on. Moving on does not mean forgetting. We will always remember the loved one that has passed on. 

When I found out that my daughter had a short time left to live I called a friend of mine who had lost his son in an automobile accednt. I asked him how to get through something like this. He told me that is just the thing, you get through it, but you never get over it. 

My friend's comment does not mean that we should never feel joy again in life because we have lost someone close to us. It simply means that we do need to go on with life, but there will always be times that will be difficult.  When those feelings of sadness and despair come upon us we need to look for something positive. Bring up some memories of the person you lost. Those memories do not necessarily need to be something that made you laugh or smile at the time. Remembering something the person did that made you mad could actually make you laugh now. Simply remember the person and keep them alive in your hearts is a big part of the heeling process.

At times I think that it is not possible to go on. I feel that if I let go of this pain I am leaving my daughter behind. But to be productive in life we must move on from tragic events. If we let bad things get the best of us we are then crippling ourselves emotionally.  Life is filled with difficult times. Some people have more challenges than others. It is how we respond to difficulties in life that helps us to build character. Remember the old saying that it is not how many times you fall down in life, but how quickly you pick yourself up that counts. 

The previous saying reminds me of something Micheal Jordon once said, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Anyone who has watched Mr. Jordon play basketball (let's not mention his baseball career) probably does not think about his missed shots or lost games. Most people are going to remember Mr. Jordon for the amazing things he did on the basketball court. But behind every great success there are many failures along the way. So goes the grieving process. There will be good days and there will be bad days.  As time goes by the number of good days will outnumber the bad days. But having good days does not mean the loved one is being forgotten. It simply means that we are building on those missed shots and lost games to better our own well being. 

Keep and eye on the sky!

Collin W. Hughes 

The Prozac Pilot

I miss you Amy!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Value of Life

There has been a great deal going on in my life since I last posted on my blog. Life has been happening. However, the things I have going on in life now are not easy to face. As a matter of fact, I am faced with something that no one should ever have to face, the loss of a child. My daughter, Amy, was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. She went through treatment for several months and was pronounced cancer free. However, about two years ago it returned with a vengeance. 

As I write this I sit by her bedside in a hospice near Houston, Texas. I watch my daughter as she holds on to life as long as she can. I try to understand what I am feeling, but struggle to even describe my thoughts and emotions. When I look at her I wonder what she is feeling. Is she afraid? Does she feel alone even though her family is by her side to show her love and compassion? 

I know the end for my daughter is near. She could pass within the next couple of days or it could be any minute.  As I consider how short her existence has been on this earth I think of my own mortality. How long will I be on this earth? What have I done to leave my mark upon this world? My daughter does not have any time left to do anything more than what she has already done. But I do. Each and everyone of us who has life left in us still can do good in this world. I owe it not just to my daughter but to myself to use the time I have left to do good in this world. 

Life is precious. It should not be squandered. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest. That does not mean to go out and party and have all the fun a person can possibly have. It means to live each and every waking moment in a positive manner. To live life in a way that others are affected by your presence that makes them feel uplifted. Be remembered. Be unforgettable. Amy told me a few weeks ago that she is afraid of being forgotten.  I told her I would not let that happen while I am alive. I plan on keeping her memory alive. I hope and pray I can do it in a manner that will please her. 

I love you Amy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Can't

I can't. These words combined is the most dangerous phrase a person can say. I have thought this about myself many times throughout my life. I have let these harmful words creep into my mind and limit my own abilities. 

Each and everyone of us is capable of doing so much within our own limitations. I mention of limitations because we are human. It is not possible to jump over the moon so to speak. But we can receive the training and become an astronaut to fly to the moon. I know after reading the last sentence that many people will say, "I can't become an astronaut." If you think you cannot then of course you will not.

I am just using the scenario of flying to the moon as an extreme example. The same goes for anything we want to do in life. Many people will make up excuses for not being able to do something. Some people may think they have physical disabilities that would hold them back from doing things they want to. In some cases this may be true. But in many cases it really is our own minds holding us back.

Jennifer Bricker is a perfect example of how a person can reach beyond the limits that others saw in her. Jennifer was born without legs. This did not stop this incredible young lady. She was adopted by a family who told her she can do anything she set her mind to do. Jennifer wanted to do gymnastics. She worked hard and accomplished her desires. People with the "I can't" attitude would tell her that it is not possible for a person without legs to be a gymnast. Jennifer did not let that stop her.

We limit ourselves. Our minds are powerful. Success or failure is within our own minds. If a person thinks he or she can do something and puts in the efforts to accomplish this task, the chances of success will be high. This does not mean that there will not be failure along the way. Micheal Jordan did not make every shot he attempted. The best quarterbacks in history did not complete every pass that they threw. The best singers in the world will hit an off note.

The difference between success and failure is attitude. The first step is believing in yourself. The second step is making yourself do the work. The third step is believing in yourself again when the disappointing moments happen. The forth step is getting back up and moving forward after those disappointing moments. It is all a cycle. We can choose to end the cycle at any time. We end it when we let a disappointing moment stop our progress and say, "I can't."

Surround yourself with good people and be a good person back. If you are positive other people will want to be around you. There is always someone nearby who will tell you that you cannot do something. It is usually a person who has the "I can't" mindset about their own dreams. Since this person tells him or herself that he or she cannot they tend to drag others down to their own level. People who are successful will not tolerate this type of negative feedback in their lives. 

Give positive feedback to those around you. If you put forth an attitude of encouragement to others you will most likely receive positive feedback as well. There may always be the negative person around to drag you down. But do not listen to them. Often times the people trying to drag you down have no idea they are dong so, they simply think they are trying to help. They believe they are keeping you from disappointment. These people may even be close family members such as a parent or a spouse. Those are the most difficult people to not listen to. However, you must continue to listen to yourself and continue to work towards what ever your dream may be. Well, there may be some dreams that should not be worked towards. Dreams that are illegal or immoral are not really dreams, but just bad ideas.

Find good examples to follow. See what these people did to become successful. You will find that anyone who has great success has had a path riddled with moments of failure. But they did not give up. 

Never again say, "I can't." Say, "I can." If someone tells you that you can't, simply prove them wrong.

Keep and eye on the sky!

Collin Hughes,

The Prozac Pilot

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Ever Happened to Good Old Fashioned Manners?

There has been a great deal in the news lately about flights that have diverted and made unscheduled landings due to unruly passengers. Some of these events have been due to disputes between passengers over seats being reclined. 

In one incident a man used a device called the Knee Defender. This person used the Knee Defender to keep the woman in front of him from reclining her seat during a flight. A flight attendant asked him to remove the device. When he refused the woman in front of him through water on him. 

There are faults on both sides of this issue. First, if anyone ever listens to the briefings that are given at the beginning of every flight, they would know that it is a federal regulation to comply with all lighted signs and crew member instructions. In other words, when the seat belt sign is on passengers are required by law to remain in their seats. Additionally, when a flight attendant tells you to do something the law requires that you follow those instructions. Therefore, when this man did not remove the Knee Defender he was in violation of the law.

On the flip side of finding fault here lets look at the woman who through the water on this man. There is only one thing I can say about this. REALLY??? Some people think they can do what ever they want. Should she be able to recline her seat? There could be a heated debate on both sides of the isle regarding that topic. I personally do not recline my seat when I am a passenger in the cabin of an airplane. That simply is my choice. I know how it can be an inconvenience when someone in front of me reclines his or her seat. I do not like it, but I also do not say anything to someone doing so. There is this thing called civility.

Both people in this case were within their rights to politely speak to the other person about the situation and work it out in a civil manner. But when it gets to the point that the pilots decide to land the airplane and have these people removed from the aircraft then many people are inconvenienced. First, this cost the airline thousands of dollars just for the additional fuel. The flight crew is being paid by the hour so there are additional wages to be paid.

There are many other things to consider than just operational costs. With the delay that is caused passengers will miss flight connections. Often times travelers have plans that may have to be canceled and may not be able to receive refunds on these cancelations.  Due to missed flights the airline may have to pay for hotels and meal vouchers for passengers.

When it is all said and done with the costs are enormous. There is one simple solution to a situation like this. First, make sure the people responsible are arrested and charged. Secondly, anyone who suffers financial loss due to the delay should be subject to reimbursement from the offenders who caused the delay. 

On one of these latest fiascos one woman involved said she did not care what the circumstances were she demanded that the airplane land. I am guessing that if she were billed for all of these additional costs she would not be so demanding in the future. Also, if word got out that people were being charged thousands of dollars that other people would not be so fast to act in such a childish manner.

It all gets back to how we treat each other. Rudeness does not help in any situation. Being polite and thinking about others is just the right thing to do. However, we live in a society today that people think only of themselves. We have become so selfish many people think they can do whatever they want without suffering any consequences. 

It is time to return to people using good old fashioned manners. If more people thought about how their actions affect themselves and others, our society would be far better off.

Keep an eye on the sky!

Collin Hughes
The Prozac Pilot

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Go For Your Dreams

Often times we let obstacles stand in our way of obtaining our goals. How many times have you said to yourself that you will start a certain project when ___________ (Fill in the blank.) I know I have. 

Each and everyone of us has things in life that we would like to achieve. Goals and dreams are different for each person. Some people's dreams may be simple such as visiting a state other than the one they live in, which may be a short distance away.

Then there are people with more elaborate dreams, like becoming a movie star. No matter what those aspirations may be it takes effort on the part of the person who has the desire to be able to achieve it. For the person who wants to visit the neighboring state, he or she must take the time to make the trip. If transportation is the issue then there must be effort put forward on finding a way to get there. This example seems very simple, but you would be surprised as to how many people have easy goals, yet no effort is put forward to achieve these things. Making excuses for not succeeding is easy.

The more elaborate goals require even more work to accomplish. To become a movie star a person has to make contact with the right people. He or she needs to be able to act. Therefore, acting lessons may be in order. I am sure that someone in the entertainment industry could come up with a long list of things that would have to be done for someone to be successful in this area. Even then, there is no guarantee of success. 

I continue to get emails from around the world. Often times these emails are from people who are already pilots and suffer from depression. I am also contacted by people who want to become pilots, but fear they may not qualify for an FAA medical due to depression. Someone who suffers from depression can make up many excuses as to why their goals cannot be accomplished. But I know that with hard work and not giving up on your goals that much can be accomplished if a person sets out to succeed.

Several months ago I received an email from a young woman who is going to college and wants to be a pilot. She was worried about passing the FAA medical exam due to depression. She was on antidepressants. She had researched the policies of the FAA and knew which medications she could take. She knew what she had to do to obtain her FAA medical certificate. It took her several months, but she was successful. SHE DID NOT GIVE UP!

This young lady and I exchanged emails throughout the months as she got closer to her goal. She was able to get her medical certificate. I talked with her on July 2nd and she had her first solo flight. I could not be more excited for her if she were my own daughter. It was a wonderful feeling to have her tell me about her accomplishment. 

I write about this young lady to share with others that goals can be obtained. I talked with her on the phone a few times when she was not certain if she could do it and talked about giving up. We all go through times like this. Giving up is easy. Going forward takes effort. 

I am very lucky to be able to do something I love. In the year 2012 there were a total of 610,576 total people with FAA pilot certificates who were actively flying according the the FAA. Out of that number about 120,000 were student pilots, 218 held recreational certificates, 4,493 were sport pilots, 188,001 had a commercial pilot certificate, and 145,590 held an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

Statically, being a pilot a rare thing. When comported to the total population of the United States only .2%, not 2%, but point 2% (just in case you thought the dot was just a spot on your computer screen) of the population of the United States has any type of pilot certificate. People who have an ATP make up only .05% of the population.

Many people not in the industry become confused with the wording. A commercial pilot certificate is the rating needed to be paid to fly an aircraft for most jobs. This could be flying a banner tow airplane for hire, giving tour flights ect. A person flying for an airline must be ATP rated. This is also the same certificate needed for a person to fly as pilot in command performing charter work if flying a jet aircraft. Having a commercial certificate is not sufficient to fly for an airline. The commercial certificate requires a minimum of 190 hours to 250 hours total time depending on the type of training program the pilot attends.

An ATP certificate requires at least 1,500 hours total flight time. There are other things a person must do to obtain each of these ratings on top of the hours flown. Often times I am asked if I am a private pilot or a commercial pilot. I am neither. I hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Many times people will call a charter or a corporate pilot a private pilot. This is not the case. A private pilot cannot fly for hire. This wording is used mainly because the aircraft being flown in these cases is privately owned.

I mention these ratings a person must earn to share with you the time and effort that goes into having a career on the flight deck of an aircraft. Earlier I said I was lucky to do what I love. I take that back. It was not luck that got me to where I am today. It was time, effort, determination and hard work. In other words. if something is really wanted, it is worth going after.

Congratulations Kristin on her first solo flight. I knew you could do it. Keep up the hard work and always love what you do.