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Old 12th Aug 2010, 15:39   #1 (permalink)
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Pampa, Texas
Age: 22
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Question Airline Pilot Lifestyle

I would like to be a airline pilot. I have been hearing of about some of the long trips airline pilots go on every now and then. My question is what is a airline pilots family life and lifestyle like? Does if varry from when your at regionals to when you go to the majors? I would be fine with long trips and everything while I'm a bachelor but that may be a problem when I get married and have kids.

Thanks in advance, Austin
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Old 13th Aug 2010, 01:32   #2 (permalink)
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Here's an answer, based on 35 years as a pilot--you will work, i.e. be gone from home somewhere between 13 and 16 days per month, on average. Some lines you might go for the whole time, some schedules work 3 on, 3 off or some variation on that; but half the month working. Holds true for just about everywhere in aviation--bizjets, military, airline, etc. Owners of airplanes expect them to work and they need pilots to do so, also.

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Old 13th Aug 2010, 10:58   #3 (permalink)
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And if the answer from Galaxy sounds like a breeze those 16 days could well be split into 3 day chunks with 2 days off in between.(So that could take up 25 days of the month with perhaps a couple of longer trips or more time at home) IMHO most companies wil also want much more than 16 days work from you these days. Many now want at least 20 and some 22.

Consider also, is that any worse than 20 days nine to five Monday to Friday, with a commute that leaves you knackered in the evening anyway. And the pay will probably be better flying too.

Getting into the majors is tough these days though and it's hard on the outside. Check on here what sort of lifestyle the poor guys lived who were involved with the Buffalo NY crash about 18 months ago. That was a regional and they lived thousands of miles from base cos they couldn't afford to live closer, particularly the copilot.

You will also need a heap of money to pay for the training. At your age have you thought about the military in some form. They will train you well and pay you whilst training. The skillset is transferable later and the majors know your training quality.

Also, you might never marry. Seems to me to be a long shot that you're gearing up for a family when you should be career driven for at least another ten to fifteen years. I've managed a family life (one wife) with a total career in longhaul flying. I've missed anniveraries, birthdays, christmases, first words and first steps but we've also had great holidays in far flung places that my job provided. I'm sure I've had just as much quality time with my family as the local bank manager or executive who's out the door five days a week at 7am and returns knackered, twelve to fourteen hours later.

If you want to fly go for it and fit the rest in around flying. No doubt I shall be shot down by others, but that's my take on the subject.

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Old 13th Aug 2010, 13:47   #4 (permalink)
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can anyone mention if they enjoy the lifestyle at majors such as Virgin,BA etc.?
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Old 13th Aug 2010, 15:32   #5 (permalink)
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"Also, you might never marry. Seems to me to be a long shot that you're gearing up for a family when you should be career driven for at least another ten to fifteen years." I dont plan on getting married any time soon. I was jus wondering what it would be like when I am. If you could would you please give me and idea of what your average week at work is. Time going to work, time going home, days off ect... Thanks, Austin
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Old 13th Aug 2010, 16:14   #6 (permalink)
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At US carriers, it is very few sequences that exceed 18 work days, short of being on reserve, nobody is away 22 days. Reserves get about 10 days off per month. At my bizjet operation (22 pilots, 4 planes + or -) we are gone 13-16 days, on average plus a couple of office days.

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Old 13th Aug 2010, 16:23   #7 (permalink)
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At a major, flying domestic, probably 9-13 hours per duty day, but it varies. LH guys get in and ride it out. The fewest days per month are ULH guys non-stop DXB, HKG, BOM and they are gone 4 on, 5 off. But Mumbai (BOM) is a 16 hour flight and only the most senior crews are flying them. Southwest crews are very productive and fly lots of 2 on, 2 off months--10-13 hours per day, 6 legs per day. I have several SW friends and they love their schedules.

And you better tolerate getting up at 4 am and commuting to work or coming home at midnight.

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Old 13th Aug 2010, 22:42   #8 (permalink)
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First thing, take a calendar and eliminate the concept of weekends, holidays, etc. Everyday is potentially a workday. Now, divide a month beginning on the 1st into 3 days on, days home, so every 6th day you are headed to the airport and work. If you want to live away from your domicile, add in commuting time. I cannot be more direct--do NOT commute by airline to your domicile--live within driving distance, say a limit of 90 minutes drive. There is absolutely no saying what time of day the trip to the airport begins because the schedule changes each month and you bid on the available sequences based on your seniority. Seniority is like money in the bank, you can spend it as you wish. Want to have a great schedule, bid F/O on small equipment that doesn't pay as well as the LH stuff. Want to be a Captain as soon as possible, suffer thru being on reserve, no schedule.

Frankly, as an earlier poster said, if schedule is you concern, maybe flying is not your game. 35 years ago, when I started, all I wanted to do was fly and had no idea of what schedule would be like, now I still know what next month looks like. I am not airline now, but rather high end corporate.

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Old 14th Aug 2010, 10:19   #9 (permalink)
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"Life as a Pilot"

22 years old: Graduated from college. Go to military flight school. Become hot shot fighter pilot. Get married.

25 years old: Have 1st kid. Now hotshot fighter jock getting shot at in war. Just want to get back to USA in one piece. Get back to USA as primary flight instructor pilot. Get bored. Volunteer for war again.

29 years old: Get back from war all tuckered out. Wants out of military.

30 years old: Join airline. World is your oyster.

31 years old: Buy flashy car, house and lots of toys. Get over the military poverty feeling.

32 years old: Divorce boring 1st wife. Pay child support and maintenance.
Drink lots of booze and screw around while looking for 2nd wife.

33 years old: Furloughed. Join military reserve unit and fly for fun. Repeat above for a few more years.

35 years old: Airline recall. More screwing around but looking forward to a good marriage and settling down.

36 years old: Marry young spunky 25 year old flight attendant.

37 years old: Buy another house. Gave first one to first wife.

38 years old: Give in to second wife to have more kids. Father again. Wife concerned about "risky" military Reserve flying so you resign commission.

39 years old: Now a captain. Hooray! Upgrade house, buy boat, small single engine airplane and even flashier cars.

42 years old: 2nd wife runs off with wealthy investment banker but still wants to share house (100%).

43 years old: Settle with wife # 2 and resolve to stay away from women forever. Seek a position as a check Captain for 10% pay override to pay mounting bills. Move into 1 bedroom apartment with window air conditioners.

44 years old: Company resizes and you're returned to copilot status. 25% pay cut. Become simulator instructor for 10% override pay.

49 years old: Captain again. Move into 2-bedroom luxury apartment with central air conditioning.

50 years old: Meet sexy Danish model on International trip. She loves you and says you are very "beeeeg!"

51 years old: Marry sexy Danish model for wife #3. Buy big house, boat, twin engine airplane and upgrade cars.

52 years old: Sexy model wants kids (not again). Resolve to get vasectomy.

54 years old: Try to talk wife out of kids, but presto, she's pregnant. She says she got sick after taking the pill. Accident, sorry, won't happen again.

55 years old: Father of triplets.

56 years old: Wife #3 wants very big house, bigger boat and very flashy cars, "worried" about your private flying and wants you to sell twin engine airplane. You give in. You buy a motorcycle and join motorcycle club.

57 years old: Make rash investments to try and have enough money for retirement.

59 years old: Lose money on rash investment and get audited by the IRS. You have to fly 100% International night trips just to keep up with child support and alimony to wife #1 and #2.

60 years old: Wife #3 (sexy model) says you're too damned old and no fun. She leaves. She takes most of your assets. You're forced to retire due to Age 60 rule. No money left.

61 years old: Now Captain on a non-schedule South American 727 freight outfit and living in a non-air conditioned studio apartment directly underneath the final approach to runway 9 at Miami Int'l. You have "interesting" Hispanic neighbors who ask you if you've ever flown DC-3's.

65 years old: Lose FAA medical and get job as sim instructor. Don't look forward to years of getting up at 2 AM for 3 AM sim in every god-forsaken town you train in due to the fact your carrier can find cheap, off-hours sim time at various Brand X Airlines.

70 years old: Hotel alarm clock set by previous FedEx crewmember goes off at 1:00 AM. Have heart attack and die with smile on face. Happy at last!

Ain't aviation great!!??
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Old 14th Aug 2010, 17:03   #10 (permalink)
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Top Bunk

Now you've gone and taken all the glamour out of aviation for the interested new generation!!!


Do I know you??
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Old 14th Aug 2010, 19:50   #11 (permalink)
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Really depends i guess. I used to enjoy a nice work style with 4 to 5 on, 2 to 5 off, either earlies where i was home by 2 pm or lates where i had to start working around 2 pm. No nights away. Nowaydays we are supposedly working a 5 on 2 off pattern, however it is usually more like a 4 on 1 off, starting with early work and ending very late, no nights during work pattern at home. Days vary between 6 and 20 hours and we're all so damn knackered that the only good sleep we get is on the flightdeck. It is all legal according to EU-OPS subpart Q, but damn, can it be tiring. Anyway, lucky if i have 9 to 11 full nights at home, it can be far less although the minimum days off per month is 9 and we need to get at least 30 per 3 months.
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Old 14th Aug 2010, 19:59   #12 (permalink)
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Well the bit about the danish model sounded fun...
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Old 14th Aug 2010, 22:36   #13 (permalink)
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There is no single answer to your question, it depends on who you work for and what you fly and where you are based. My last employer was long haul freight-go to work, fly, layover,fly layover, fly for 17 days then go home for 13 off.
now I work at a pax carrier. On the widebody it was fly out for 2-5 days then home for a few: on the narrow body it is out and backs everyday. work about 14 or 15 days a month off the rest.
Seniority at your airline really makes a difference on the schedules you fly, which is why some people prefer to fly as a senior fo and have a great schedule as opposed to a junior captain who makes more money, and may have a far worse schedule.
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Old 15th Aug 2010, 05:28   #14 (permalink)
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Eat, sleep (or try to), and fly.
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Old 15th Aug 2010, 09:31   #15 (permalink)
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crap and crap. poor life style...
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Old 18th Aug 2010, 00:43   #16 (permalink)
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Topbunk, you made my day. I actually know a couple of guys who fit the profile, almost to well.
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Old 18th Aug 2010, 12:33   #17 (permalink)
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50 years old: Meet sexy Danish model on International trip. She loves you and says you are very "beeeeg!"
There will be a Danish model coming up when being 50? Looking forward to it .

Great post TopBunk .
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Old 18th Aug 2010, 23:56   #18 (permalink)
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you are very "beeeeg!"
..Errr that would be in the wallet....or gullet as appropriate.
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Old 24th Aug 2010, 22:34   #19 (permalink)
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Top Bunk and Galaxy Flyer have pretty much nailed it.

I fly long haul freight, and I am on the road about 19 days a month. I get to go to some great places at times, but there is no consistency in the schedule. Add to that my Guard flying/duty, and I spend most of my life in a hotel.

It is not all bad, but it certainly is not for everyone. You truly lose track of the days, and you gain a very different perspective on life. It is like an alter lifestyle viewed from the clouds literally and figuratively.

Commuting to my base (ANC) is the hardest part of the job, but that is just a fact of life for me now. I don't see how I could ever have a family living like this. Luckily, that is not a big priority these days.

I have no regrets. Every choice in life has a price. At least nobody shot at me this month.
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