Balancing Parenthood While Fighting Forest Fires

Wildfires have once again been one of this summer’s hottest topics in Europe, United States and other parts of the world.

Aerials firefighters have had one of their busiest seasons. As climate experts fear wildfires will only get worse in the future, we can most likely expect a growing demand for aerial firefighters. Ensuring an uninterrupted career development of pilots with their busy parenting years is one way to make sure we have firefighters tomorrow, too.

Helicopter pilot Isabel Orran balances parenthood while working as an aerial firefighter.

Combining international assignments while having children at home is a tricky mission

Becoming a parent always involves shifts in your lifestyle and priorities. It is difficult to convey the amount of fatiguing and challenging work helicopter pilots do – especially when being a parent of small children at the same time. Still, many pilots would not trade their job for anything. After all, it beats sitting behind a desk and comes with fantastic views, along with many other benefits. However, there are also challenges. Combining family life with a pilot occupation can be difficult due to a busy schedule filled with training and duty trips.

Most people go into parenthood with an idea about their values concerning both raising their children and developing their careers, including a notion of the role their work will play after the children are born. Yet, the reality of parenthood often causes those views and plans to evolve, and the difficulty in striking a balance between parenthood and work means many have to reorganize their lives more than planned.

Balancing career and family life present challenges for all working parents, but we recognize there are unique challenges presented for helicopter pilots as their children are born. An airline pilot’s hectic schedule begins right from the beginning of the career, usually during simulator training. Days are long, the books are thick, and the required absorption rate of the study material is fast.

Making training smooth for pilots with small children

While combining a demanding vocation with parenthood is a challenge, there should be nothing preventing you from having both. For us at Coptersafety, it is essential to decrease any barriers to career-family balancing. Thus, our job as a training service provider is to make the training smooth also for pilots with small kids. It can be as little as offering a kid-friendly area or providing personalized training. This allows the parent to take time off from the training schedule for childcare.

We were glad to catch up with Isabel Orran, one of our student pilots, to hear her thoughts about incorporating work with being a parent. Isabel is a new mother who spent 3 weeks with her baby at our training facilities. She was recently faced with the dilemma of choosing between her pilot career and family.

Luckily, Isabel did not have to make the painful decision as she was offered a new job. The job will enable her to work close to her home, reducing the time spent abroad.

Initially, Isabel became a pilot due to her father’s passion for flying. Today she works as an aerial firefighter. She has been working all around Europe and South America for the last seven years. After becoming a mother, Isabel, like any parent, has experienced changes in her work and most of all in her priorities and values.

Isabel used to work at 10 to 12 different bases in a year. Often, she was called in with short notice.

“The frantic environment did not bother me previously at all. This was due to the fact, that I enjoy the excitement and travel that the job brings,” says Isabel. Due to her passion and love for her working environment, she was willing to give the career everything she had. However, now being a young mother, things have become a bit more complicated. Being directly responsible for a newborn human being makes it a lot more difficult just to pick up your things and leave for a mission.

Training with a baby attached to one’s hip

While Isabel was training at Coptersafety, she was challenged in ways she had not been tested before. It was her first time learning the ins and outs of the AW139 helicopter. The first time of her taking the IFR (instrument flight rules) course. Above all it was the first time doing it all with a baby attached to her hip.

“At times the information overwhelmed me, and I felt like it was too much for me to manage. At one point I was close to reaching my breaking point. But I am glad I did not quit,” Isabel reveals. “I feel lucky that so many people here have gone to great lengths to provide all the extraordinary arrangements and accommodations for my family and me during our training here. Especially having my own mother out here with me was a great help. Without her, I could not have done it. I am most thankful for all the support I have received,” she concludes.

Read more about our purpose build training center for pilots or contact us directly.

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