Career Transition - Home base

Hello everyone,

My name is Bastien, I’m in my mid-thirties, living an hour away from Sacramento, and I’m a father of two kids (ages 8-10). I’m currently working in finance and looking for a career change. Although I’m making more money than I ever expected, I’m not happy at my job and it’s taking a toll on me. I’m looking for a career transition that will still provide a decent living, have the opportunity to have a balance between work and personal life (i.e. no laptop), and reasonable free time to work on some real estate.

I have a long list of questions that I won’t bother the group with right now, but I need to understand if there are ways to guarantee a home base for a pilot. This is important to me because I don’t want to spend too much time away from home in commute. From my research, base allocation is attributed by seniority, but I’m wondering if with the pilot shortage and my situation in Northern California, I could have a chance to be based close to home.

Are there any options I should consider to give me a better chance of being based close to Sacramento? For example, picking a specific school or considering a specific airline?



First and foremost NOTHING at the airlines is guaranteed. A junior base today could be a senior base tomorrow and even worse airlines close bases as well.

That said living in Sacramento, the closest airports with bases are those in the SFO/OAK area. OAK is actually a junior base for SouthWest. FedEx is there as well but I believe that base is fairly senior for them. Skywest, Alaska and United both have SFO bases and my understanding is it’s mid-seniority for all 3. With that in mind again things can and do change and of course there’s no guarantee you’ll be hired by any of those airlines. All you can do is hope and see what the situation is when (if) the time comes.


This is good information. Thanks @Adam . So, in worse case, I could be base in ORD, start my journey from home, fly from SAC to ORD and only start my day at ORD. This sounds complicated life style with a family :slight_smile:

That being siad, what about private jet company, or cargo? same story?

I am trying to get an idea of what could be my life before spending 100k into it :slight_smile:


Commuting to work is rather difficult and I do not recommend it. I did it for seventeen years and my patience for it decreased with each year. I now drive three hours to IAD and am much happier and far less stressed. Now bear in mind that I only do that drive once a week, I cannot imagine doing it several times per week.

Cargo is FedEx and UPS, they have bases just like the airlines do. You could potentially get a charter job out of SMF, but that is putting all of your eggs in once basket, what happens if you do not land a job there

Are you willing to move, or are you set on living in SMF for life?

Thanks Chris for the response.

I am probably set in Sacramento area (Lake Tahoe) for a while. That being said I am not against driving once a week to SMF or OAK but I am more worried about doing it twice a week or driving + flying.

It looks like there is no east path for that.

As far as airlines go, Atlas is the only one I can think of that had the closest thing to guaranteeing home basing, and that’s because they will provide a ticket from your home to the plane. It’s still a commute, but with less hassle.
Other than that, nearly all charter jobs provide the same as Atlas, except that the commute is on day 1 of your trip, not the day before.


Some of the prominent charter companies might be more up your alley. I don’t know if things have changed since 2020 when I flew in the part 135 world nearly all the big ones: NetJets, flexjet, XO jet, Flyexclusive, pilots are home based!

That means you just have to live near a major airport and they pay to fly you to work at the beginning and end of your trip. Now there are a lot of differences between Part 135 v Part 121, but here’s the summary: pay structure salaries vs hourly pay, trip length and block scheduling typically 8on/6off or 7 on 7 off, no bidding, pilot duties can include weighing bags, cleaning the cabin, lav service, stocking the galley with refreshments, etc.

It’s different but it may fit with your lifestyle. Feel free to check out my schedules section and scroll back to when I flew for Flyexclusive to see what my typical monthly schedules looked like.


Thank you so much for your input! I’m going to do some research and update this post as I go.

Do you know if there are any events at ATP where I could meet pilots, graduates, and ask questions? That would be a great way for me to get a better understanding of the field and decide if this is a viable option for me and my family. Of course, I’m aware that nothing is guaranteed.

That’s really the purpose of this forum.


Thanks. I just feel bad bothering everyone wiht those question on forum :slight_smile:


Please do not feel bad about asking questions, that is what we are here for and we are all happy to help.



That is quite literally what we’re here for.

That said I would encourage you to browse the forum and spend some QT on the ATP website where you’ll find TONS of great info and answers!


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I was thinking of starting my job search by talking to some local base airlines, charters, and cargo services in my area. Is there a place I can look after that, or a website where I can find job openings in SAC? Is LinkedIn a thing in the pilot world or do you use Craigslist? :slight_smile:


I noticed you don’t mention any flight experience? If you have none you’re really putting the cart before the horse. I appreciate you’d like some idea of a career path but frankly assuming you can just be a pilot is kind of like watching a baseball game, thinking it looks cool and wondering which uniform will look best.

While flying isn’t rocket science or brain surgery, it does require a level of coordination, intelligence and temperament not everyone possesses. Not saying you don’t have it, just saying you might want to take a flight or 3 before you start sending out applications.

Further, again, this industry can and does change rapidly and the opportunities available today might be very different 2yrs from now when you’re ready.


Hi Bastien,

I was almost exactly in your position a year ago and thought I would share my experience in case it may be helpful for you. I also had a successful career in finance, however it burned me out over the years which had caused me to become a negative & unhappy person. I knew I had to make a switch but didn’t know where to start, so I decided to take some time off to reset and decide what’s important to me & my family.

I had always wanted to get my private pilot license, but I never could find the time to commit to earning it. Nor did I ever think of becoming a commercial pilot. However, after researching the lifestyle of being a commercial pilot, what it took to become one, and thoroughly discussing it with my partner to make sure we were on the same page, I decided it was an avenue worth exploring. I began researching flight schools in my area and took a couple of discovery flights with different schools - from here I was hooked. There is no experience like sitting in a cockpit for the first time and taking off. For me, it was this moment I knew the next 2+ years & the crazy price tag was worth it. I ended up deciding to join ATP because of the quick timeline, partnerships, quality of airplanes and financing options. I am about 4 months into the program now and couldn’t be happier with my decision.

While I was also worried about local job opportunities once I obtain the magical 1,500 hours, I realized early on that over the next 5+ years I (and my family) will have to be flexible as the economy changes, airlines change, etc. I realized I may need to commute or move locations to get my first job & build seniority to get to the majors and be where I want. Not to say the stars can’t align and I can’t stay where I currently am, but I don’t want to be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.

A few recommendations I would give from my experiences when deciding to actually make the plunge & what school to join:

  • If you haven’t yet, go take a discovery flight at a local school ASAP and find out if this is really what you want.
  • If it is, do some additional flights with other flight schools in the area to help determine which ones you may want to join (be sure to ask questions during these flights regarding the program, realistic costs, timelines, etc.)
  • Figure out what your priorities are for training - whether its cost, timeline, airplanes, airline partnerships, financing needs, does the flight school offer CFI jobs after the programs, etc. This helped me inform my decision on what school to choose. My top priorities when starting was finding the quickest way from 0 time to 1,500 without sacrificing learning how to be a great pilot as well as a school that provided pathways to the airlines - and that’s what ATP offered. I would say their timeline was a bit misleading for my location so be sure to ask the instructors you go up with what the realistic timeline is (ATP markets 7 mos but my location is more like 12-14 mos primarily due to weather constraints in the PNW).

While I am just an infant when it comes to aviation & just started my journey of becoming a pilot I would be happy to try and answer any questions you have!


Hi Andrew (and others),

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights and experience with me. It’s funny, but when I read the first two paragraphs of your email, I felt like you were describing my own experience! It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has felt burned out by the finance world and is looking for something else.

That said, I’d like to do a quick reality check to make sure I’m on the right track with what I’ve learned so far and my expectations. Please be honest and realistic with me.

My situation is this: I’m 37, a father of two, a homeowner, a sailor, the sole breadwinner for my family, and my wife works as a gardener at a school and takes care of our property (horses, chickens, kids). I have enough savings to cover the cost of living and probably the cost of the ATP, but after that I’ll need to rebuild my rainy day fund.

I haven’t been happy at my job for a while now; the pressure that comes with the position, the politics, etc. are really getting to me. What’s killing me the most is the feeling of never being able to finish my work; there’s always another email to compose, another report to write, etc. I want my next job to give me the opportunity to say, “Job done!” and move on without feeling guilty that I could have done more. I always use surgeons as an example; I don’t know any surgeons who have to perform procedures on their days off.

The idea of becoming a pilot has been in my head for a while. Although I’m a newbie in this field (except for a few non-commercial passenger flights and a lot of simulator time), I haven’t taken the plunge for a few reasons. Being a pilot has been my brother’s dream since we were kids; I’m the sailor, he’s the pilot. But he never took any steps towards that goal, and I recently realized that I shouldn’t be holding myself back if he isn’t making a move. I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to have a decent family life as a pilot.

So, why I hope piloting could be a good path for me:

  • I love flying;
  • I love traveling;
  • I love to be at home when I’m not working, but I also like to not be at home when I am working;
  • I’m responsible, cautious, and naturally prudent;
  • I’m not shy and can easily be approachable;
  • I could have a local side hustle (real estate, fixer upper, internet shop, etc.);
  • I could pick up and drop off the kids when I’m not working;
  • I could be more present with my family when I’m not working;
  • I’m happy to work nights or complicated schedules;
  • I could fire all my contractors and do the work myself (which I like to do).

What I’m worried about:

  • Spending too much time driving from my house on the hillside to the airport (and the base);
  • Spending too much time doing nothing on public transport;
  • Being bored after 10 years (it seems like a common theme for pilots who are looking for a career transition).

I really appreciate your help in assessing my situation. Thank you again for your time and input!

Sorry if this is getting too personal :slight_smile:

Hi Bastien -

Happy to help provide some thoughts, but I would say everyone’s situation is different based on their circumstances and priorities in life and my perspective may be completely different than yours & others so take it all with a grain of salt. :slight_smile:

First off, I definitely wouldn’t let your brothers dream hold you back - maybe you can actually talk him into taking the plunge with you!

Regarding your positives/worries about becoming a pilot, I think they make sense. I had similar reasons for wanting to pursue the commercial pilot path. Besides having a passion for aviation, the largest positive for me was the potential lifestyle it offered and the ability to be mentally present when I am home. I shared your similar experience within my finance career - I always felt I was online, and even when I wasn’t working I was thinking about what had to be done/worrying about everything that needed to be done for the next day, etc. and not actually spending quality time with my partner. So I thought while I may be physically gone from my family/house more being a pilot - I actually thought I would be more present mentally overall.

For your point on potentially becoming bored after 10 years - would love to hear what some of the mentors have to say regarding their experiences but I would find it hard to get bored of something if you truly have a passion for it! Also, one of the things that actually made me interested in being a pilot is that you are continually learning. It’s something I had missed in my previous career and was one of the reasons I was bored in that role. I can say, even in training it has been nice to actually be looking forward to the next day.

I think you are thinking about everything the right way in terms of laying out the positives and negatives. You mentioned being on some non-commercial passenger flights - were you behind the controls at all? If not, what was really helpful for me after coming up with the pro/con list was taking those discovery flights and getting behind the controls and actually flying. I truly didn’t know how much I would like it until then.