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Zero-Zero 22nd Apr 2012 22:20

International Touring Pilot Lifestyle
If this has been covered under another post, I apologize. I'm considering applying for a 6/6 international touring offshore pilot position with a major operator. The flying sounds great, as does the pay, but I have some basic questions regarding the lifestyle. The 6 weeks away from my family would be tough for all of us, but 6 weeks off with my kids would be great. Could some of you who have been doing this for a while comment about how this schedule has been for your family long term?

At crew bases for major operators such as CHC and Bristow, is the internet connectivity generally good enough to Skype? Also, I wonder about the camaraderie between crews. Are these bases usually pretty tight, with people hanging out together, cooking meals together, etc, or does everyone just do their job and go back to their room? I've worked EMS bases with a family-type atmosphere, and others where everyone kept to themselves. Personally, I much prefer a team environment.

Also, I wonder how major operators are at honoring the 6/6 schedule. Do you often get stretched to do a 7/5, or even an 8/4, for the good of the company? Then, there's the sticky issue of taxes. If I lived in the USA and worked in an African country, would I have to pay taxes for both locations?

As you can see, I'm new here, and maybe didn't search extensively enough to find the 100 other times these questions have been asked in the past. :O Thanks in advance for the helpful replies.

gulliBell 22nd Apr 2012 23:48

Originally Posted by Zero-Zero (Post 7150323)
.....If I lived in the USA and worked in an African country, would I have to pay taxes for both locations?.

Taxation is usually as per whatever the laws are of your country of residency. If you are domiciled in the US and touring 6/6 to somewhere which has low or no income tax, I think the IRS are going to want to tax your take-home pay. If you pay taxes in the country where you work, at home you'll probably have to declare how much you've earned and how much tax has been deducted. In which case you might end up not having to pay any more income tax (i.e. don't get taxed twice on the same income).

As for the touring lifestyle questions, if you have a young family then to be away from home for 6 weeks is a long haul, even with the convenience of Skype etc. For me, 4/4 is about as much as I can manage before the "wheels start falling off" things at home. If I were single then 8/4 wouldn't be a problem. It's whatever your personal circumstances dictate.

212man 22nd Apr 2012 23:52

to answer a few points briefly:

BHL and CHC will pay tax in your work location

Any time spent over 6/6 will be at a day rate, however travel and sim will be in the off time

Camaraderie is normally pretty good and distinguishes these operations from the larger non-touring bases. Typically they are 'work hard, play hard' operations

Don't expect US/European standards of internet but it is normally adequate (though subject to interruptions in some places.)When I started in Nigeria I used to use an HF to Telephone patch (Portishead) while flying, so these things are all relative!

vaqueroaero 23rd Apr 2012 08:40

I have just started doing the same thing, so can answer you first hand. I work a 28/28.

With regards to the schedule the opportunity for work over is there, occasionally it works against me, but there are enough single guys here that are keen for flight time and money so generally it gets covered.

I have an iPad, so use FaceTime to stay in touch with my son, who is 5. I make a point to say goodnight, we eat dinner together sometimes over the Internet. He gets a real kick out of it. I have also facetimed from the rigs which he loves. The Internet connection at our digs is somewhat sporadic which can be really annoying. If it goes down I drive back to the office and connect from there. I also use T Mobile which has built in wifi calling (sort of like Skype). That has been a lifesaver. As long as I can connect to a wifi area I can phone the misses for free, also includes texting. I paid for international calling, but for some reason it won't work - something I need to sort out when I get home. In case of emergencies the wife has the base managers phone number.

Our digs are good, we cook our own dinners, but get well fed from the rigs so we eat light in the evening. Satellite tv, DVD players, air conditioning all work great. I shall be taking some fishing gear on my next trip for beach fishing. It can get a little boring at times.

As far as team work etc "people's is people's". We all get along and obviously it is very important.

My neighbors at home are great support for when stuff breaks/ blows up/ falls off etc. One guy can fix anything which has proved very useful. My wife's family lives close by which is a great support network.

Other than that it seems to be working for us. If it gets to the point where it doesn't then I shall move on, but the money is good and the time at home is very enjoyable. I get a lot of projects done!

Zero-Zero 24th Apr 2012 17:19

Thanks everyone for the great replies! We have a lot to ponder. Vaqueroaero, we have a pretty good support network at home as well, and that could make all the difference.

inputshaft 24th Apr 2012 23:07

Take the "work hard, play hard" thing with a pinch of salt. Many of the international contracts are for exploration work, where you might fly once or twice a week supporting one rig and then have to cope with being in a remote area with limited social life. Boredom is the enemy for many. The reverse of that is that it's pretty much easy money for what many of us do.

VFRIFR 25th Apr 2012 02:24

I have an iPad, so use FaceTime to stay in touch with my son, who is 5. I make a point to say goodnight, we eat dinner together sometimes over the Internet.
Well at least somebody has the luxury of working in the same time zone which for most of us time zones are 8-15 hours apart.:(

Camp Freddie 25th Apr 2012 08:09

Well at least somebody has the luxury of working in the same time zone which for most of us time zones are 8-15 hours apart
The pedant in me can't let this go, you can be 15 hours ahead or behind in basic terms, i.e. 6pm - 9am, but you are only 9 hours 'apart', in fact you can never be more than 12 hours apart :)

vaqueroaero 25th Apr 2012 08:10

I have a 5 hour difference, so I eat late! Not as bad as it could be.

Epiphany 25th Apr 2012 10:07

Leave your values, beliefs, religion and judgements at home. Many of the places you will work in will quite probably have very different ones. You may see grinding poverty, skinny kids who have nothing but the few clothes they stand up in with mothers who are little more than birth machines. A situation perpetuated by corrupt governments that the mutil-national companies that you are working for are quite probably helping to stay in power.

Take the money, lie by the pool on your day off, tell your wife and kids it is hot and sunny and you miss them but don't spend too much time thinking about what you are doing there.

Zero-Zero 26th Apr 2012 05:51

Great to hear about FaceTime! How many of you can use iPad Facetime at your base, like VaqueroAero? I assume all you need is WiFi...

Also, I wonder what life is like for the Base Manager/Lead Pilot. Is this person able to completely "drop the pack" when they're off for 6 weeks, or are they attached to their blackberry/email resolving issues from home?

Sir Niall Dementia 26th Apr 2012 08:31


I used to work 6/6 at the end as senior pilot. There was another SP who was my back to back, we used to e-mail each other the day before travelling about what was going on and then do a brief handover at the airport (he would leave on the plane I had just flown in on) that way our time off was ours with just a brief contact with the ops director for a report on everything at the end of a tour, the company were very good about leaving us alone, and a far as possible all sim/training time was done on their time not ours.

However; really take heed of what Epiphany writes, it is some of the most sensible advice I have read about this subject. It becomes very easy to want to change the world. On one posting I was on we actually built a school in our spare time and the whole company helped us to raise the money, I'm not sure we were right, but it salved a few consciences.

Also, we rotated people through on days so that you didn't have the same people in country all the time, small personal scratches can become magnified by the pressure of living so closely together and friction can result. We found this better for all as it stopped crews flying together all the time and building bad habits in the aircraft.

I would go back to commuting tomorrow if I could find a spot in the sun with no more than one flight a week, a bar staffed by olive skinned naked beauties and no-one telling the present Lady Dementia that I'm actually having fun.


inputshaft 26th Apr 2012 16:07

Zero-zero. I'd really caution you against trying to get directly into the business as a BM.

Think about it, you're with a small group working for what may not be the easiest customer, isolated in a society that you will not be familiar with. The support from the company may sometimes be at best "theoretical", your staff may or may not always be happy, the phone calls and emails to corporate may not always get answered. Be fair to yourself and others who might work for you by getting a feel for the business and the company for a while.

Zero-Zero 28th Apr 2012 20:40

Epiphany and SND, I appreciate your candid advice. It is good to hear that for the most part, you can leave the job completely behind you when you're home. Inputshaft, I'm not considering applying for BM right away - I know I would be a line pilot first and pay my dues. Just looking down the road a little and asking the "what if?" questions now for future reference.

Thanks again everyone! It's great to be part of a forum where people are professional, unlike some other unmentionable helicopter websites...

Epiphany 29th Apr 2012 09:30

ZZ be aware that you might well find yourself as BM if you express a desire to be one as it is not a job many want. The extra pay is minimal and not worth the additional work, stress and frequent complaints from customer and head office. Most guys I know who take the BM route do so because they are looking at a managerial position down the track.

This must also be one of the few industries where a person can become a BM with absolutely no experience, training, talent or ability. I've seen some shockers.

Bladestrike 29th Apr 2012 23:00

The BM gigs can be rewarding, depends on how you look at it. I have zero desire to move into mangement but took a BM gig as no on else would do it, and the base had been through a bunch of them. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and learnt a ton, but DO NOT DO IT FOR THE COIN, it ain't worth it. Base moves, crewing issues, customs, flight permits, local staff, etc. etc. you'll be far busier than your fellow pilots, but if boredom is an issue, this will be sure way to help the time pass quickly. If you don't know how to deal with stress, it'll be a steep learning curve, but you could come through it with better skills than most ever get a chance to develop. As far as the social aspect, you'll get guys that hibernate in their rooms and guys who want to explore around every corner. You generally don't get to choose where you go or with whom, but you can make the most out of any posting. Just in the last year alone, I've been to more places, seen more things, done more things, than I could have imagined, waaaay off the beaten path. I enjoy touring far more than I thought I would, but then again, I'd prefer a job where I could sleep in my own bed. Try it on for size for a couple years, then you'll know what's right for you.

Milo C 9th Sep 2012 01:00

Please, can anyone tells what's an aprox anual salary for a medium twin touring captain?

Thanks in advance

mikelimapapa 9th Sep 2012 09:27

Anywhere from 7-12k USD per month depending on what part of the world you are willing to go to

Milo C 9th Sep 2012 12:03

Thank you very much, MLP.
That's the kind of answer I was looking for.

SASless 9th Sep 2012 13:09

I did the "touring" thing for a great many years. I had a love-hate relationship with it.

I loved the time off....liked the money....hated some of the places i found myself in....made friends all over the World...and got an education that cannot be bought or found at any University.

I found the Offshore work to be boring.

Onshore work much more enjoyable....the more remote the better with the exception of a Geologist's Fly Camp....avoid them like the Pox! I don't mind living rough but Geologists really enjoy being miserable!

Alaska is great, Africa can be depending upon where you are....Asia, Southeast Asia is wonderful.

For way too many years BHL insisted upon an 8/4 rotation....which plainly sucked.....6/6 is the norm now and the only roster I would consider. One can stand on your head for six weeks at a time and having a full six weeks off is perfect. By the time your time off is done...you are ready to go back to work to rest up.

Forget the BM idea.....as has been said....not enough money for the headaches. Taking on Challenges is one thing but there is a limit to the reward one gets for doing so....especially when the rate of pay is so poor.

You will meet great folks....good folks....and Assholes.....just like anywhere else but overall you will find long term touring folks good fun to be around. I treasure some of the friends I have made over the years.

As to taxes....you will have to pay Uncle Sam for the pleasure of working overseas....but at a reduced rate as there is a set exemption for overseas earned income. Now days you might even earn enough to exceed that and thus have to pay taxes on the overage. If you are working for an foreign firm....especially if paid in a foreign currency....thus no W-2 Form.....you will have to "report" your earnings to the IRS. In all my years working overseas i was never audited by the IRS.

You will have to qualify for the exemption....read up on the law....get a good accountant who deals daily with these issues....and you will be good to go as far as dealing with the IRS.

By working overseas and NOT paying normal Income Tax.....you can save/invest a lot of money that you would not ordinarily be able to do. Do that....as overseas contract work can sometimes be a short lived thing which can wreak havoc on your Tax situation.

I retired at age 58 by saving and investing.....very few Gulf of Mexico pilots ever did that unless they had a Military Retirement before they started in the GOM.

The World Travel, seeing strange places, working with stranger people....make touring the right way to go if you can accept the differences and your marriage can survive the separation. Most marriages do not.

One thing you should be prepared for....if you work for a foreign company....you are not on the Home Team. Accept it and enjoy your time at home.

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