Real Answers from Real Pilots

Expectation Setting - Home v Away

Happy New Year ATPers!

Looking to those of you who have lived the regional and early majors years for advice on how best to already (hoping to be flying regionals 3 years from now) start setting expectations on the home front with regard to time Home v Away.

A big fan of this site, I know low seniority is what it is, that majors aren’t the only option, and this industry can change on a dime.

All of that notwithstanding, my goal is to one day fly for a major airline. So with that in mind, would welcome suggestions on what to be saying and discussing with my (extremely supportive) wife and kiddos.

Is it “don’t plan on me being around weekends and holidays for the first few years”? Or something along those lines?

I’ve dove head long in to the schedule posts to try to better understand this, and realize there are too many variables to say unequivocally what it will look like. Would just love to hear how folks coming out the other side of that first few years characterize their time Home v Away.

Thanks as always!

cg

CG,

There’s no question the early years can be rough. Seniority as you point out is key (as is a supportive family) but most people find a way to live with it. It might me celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve or the day after but you work these things out. Thing is how long you and the family will have to deal with this largely lies in your hands and your priorities.

You say your goal is a Major airline and that’s fine but that leap will put you back at the bottom of the food chain. As will upgrades, airplane transitions etc. Most steps forward in this industry will negatively impact your relative seniority and hence your schedule.

For example, let’s take the first years after you get to a Regional. Let’s say you can upgrade after 3yrs. That upgrade will put you back at the bottom of the Capt list. 3yrs later you get a call for the Majors. Awesome! But again your back at the bottom again. Now 2yrs later you can get off that 737 flying domestic for a widebody flying international around the world! This is great but but back to the bottom again. 6-7 later maybe you can finally hold Capt on a 737! Woohoo! But guess what? It’s been 15yrs and you haven’t been home for Christmas once! That however is not necessarily the way it has to be. Many pilots hold off on upgrades and transitions in lieu of a better quality of life but most don’t. Most chase the money and the bigger planes etc. The choice is yours and it’s easy to rationalize either and no one can say what’s right. What I am saying is if you’re sitting next to me and you picked up a trip on Christmas for double-time don’t cry to me you wish you were home because the choice was yours to make.

Adam

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Chris,

“don’t plan on me being around weekends and holidays for the first few years” is pretty darn accurate. It takes some serious seniority to start holding things like Christmas off and as Adam said, there can be several resets along the way.

The single biggest piece of advice that I can give you in regards to home life is to move to wherever you are based, do not be a commuter. It sounds easy when you first start: “I don’t want my family to have to move. I don’t want the family to change schools. Commuting really isn’t that bad”. I have heard all of those things and as a commuter myself have probably said them. Trust me, if you move to where you are based your life will be infinitely better. You might work a weekend, but guess what? your trip finishes at 2pm on Sunday and you are home for dinner while the commuter is waiting for his 6pm flight that will be delayed two hours, resulting in him walking into a dark house at midnight.

Sorry for the commuting rant. I have been a commuter my entire career and really regret it, so I make it my mission to educate newcomers on the perils of doing so.

Other than that, you really need to have a family that is supportive. If they are, it will all work out.

Move to base.

Chris

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Chris,

At this point all you can really do is share generalized expectations. There are too many variables to know what your schedule might be like. What’s for certain is that you will be gone for about half the month, on weekends and most likely have to work over the holidays.

When I was first hired by Horizon I was in the 2nd class to fly the E175 so didn’t have a problem getting weekends or holidays off, but when I upgraded that all went out the window. It’s not the end of the world. My family is supportive just like yours. We celebrate when we can and everyone is always understanding.

Tory

Chris,

I’ve seen both sides of this being the son of a pilot and being one myself. Everything has its positives and negatives, there are some sacrifices. The fact that I ended up choosing to be a pilot as well tells my overall opinion.

To add to what others have said,

  • Living in a base greatly increases QOL.
  • Live within your means. Aviation is volatile, You might get a huge bonus and raise, then be furloughed 6months later. Don’t over spend and have a healthy emergency fund.
  • Since you have a family; my personal advice would be not to chase the $. Really research before upgrading / dropping seniority. Sacrifice some money & a “hip vacation” for better QOL/time with the family.
  • Could write a whole book on QOL questions like this, just continue to research and as you get into aviation more you will pickup more.

Chris F

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Great real world sequence @Adam, thanks for taking the time to lay it out there. The “get to the majors as soon as possible” adage certainly makes sense on paper, but seeing your examples spelled out here is a good check and balance.

With two kiddos working their way through Jr. High and High School around the time I would be (hopefully) starting at a regional I could certainly see (based on your example) reason to delay an upgrade or stick with a more-senior position at a regional a little longer than typical.

cg

Love the simplicity of this advice, as my wife would probably tell you, simple advice or direction gives me the best chance of success.

I am sure the answers to these two follow ups are on this site somewhere, so pardon my laziness in not going to look for them

  • How do you REALLY know when you’ve committed to a base? Believe I’ve read of people commuting to a base until the one closer to home gets to the point where they could hold a line there.
  • Do regional newbies typically get to choose which base they want or are they told? Is it a situation where I could choose the base location I want, knowing I would be on reserve longer, but that I would be closer to home?

Again, if these are mind-numbingly simple answers that I should know or can easily find, just disregard!

cg

CG,

I’ll let Chris address those questions but just to throw a in a little more real world, there are many many variables depending on the aircraft, base, and seniority.

When you’re a newhire you’ll be assigned to a base and an aircraft based on the company’s needs. That after all is why they hired you, because they need pilots to fly this airplane out of this base. Now if there are a number of slots open in different bases you will bid for them based on the seniority within your class. Now when I first started this adventure I lived in NY (and no desire to leave or commute). Fortunately EWR was actually a very junior base so I got it immediately. It remained a Jr base the entire time I was there and as people constantly bid to get out I continued to gain seniority in my base, upgrade, had a great schedule, etc etc and never had to commute once.

Point is until you know what airline you’ll be flying for, what base they have and what bases/airplanes are senior and which aren’t its not something to be overly concerned with or assume it’ll be bad. That should also obviously be a consideration when you start looking for jobs.

Adam

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Chris,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with your questions. Questions like those are exactly what we are here for.

When you get hired at an airline, you will know what the bases are and if the airline is growing there, staying stable and shrinking. For United, EWR is always one of our junior bases, primarily because of the high cost of living and because not everybody shares the affinity for the Garden State that the Sopranos do. I have been based there my entire career and don’t see that change for a long time. It is a big base for us, with plenty of different airplanes based there and a large local market to draw on. In short, I feel very secure in being based in EWR and cannot see that changing against my will at any point.

Now if I was based in a place like CLE, that has been shrinking for decades and is barely hanging on as a base, I would probably not get too comfortable there.

In other words, you will have a feel for the bases and what the situation at your airline is. That being said, Continental Airlines did have bases at LAX, DEN, and IAD that were all closed at various points, so you never really know for certain, but those did seem like exceptions.

As a new hire pilot, you will be presented with a list of available bases and will bid on them based on your seniority (of which you will have very little). For my airline, typically the more senior bases like DEN are not available to new hires and it takes some time for those pilots to hold those bases.

And yes, you could chose a base with a longer reserve time, assuming that it was available to you. Many people chose to do that.

Let us know what other questions we can answer.

Chris

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Chris,
I just wanted to chime in here and offer my perspective from the 135 side. I am currently at a company that offers 15/13 and 8/6 rotations. I am on the 8/6 so I work my 8 day rotation not knowing where I’ll be throughout those 8 days and then guaranteed 6 days off. I work that shift every month and can anticipate which days I’ll be on unless I request time off. I really like the consistency and it easy on my family to keep track. From what I’ve researched and noted during my job search, these set rotations are pretty common for the Part 135 charter world. I am also home based so I get to live where I want and the company arranges my travel to and from work at the start and end of my rotation days.
If quality of life is a huge priority for you, entertain the thought of the Part 135 world. Just do your research though because quality of life can vary dramatically from company to company. I just wanted you to know what else is out there!

-Hannah

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Thanks Hannah, I was listening to an ATP ride report over the weekend where they interviewed someone from 135 and it was really eye opening for me. He described the 8/6 scenario at his company, but also went on to describe that he himself is “dedicated crew” on a specific plane (which came with a whole other list of duties).

Quick follow up for you though, since you are home based does that mean your commute to start your trip is counted as part of the 8 days on? Or do you have to commute to the starting point and home, in some cases a day before or after? Don’t know the lingo enough yet to know what you mean by rotation days.

Thanks again!

cg

Thanks for taking the time to respond Chris, and sorry to all following along I haven’t figured out how to reply to all of these in one message!

The QOL is a big piece for me for the next 10 years or so, and then once the kiddos shove off for whatever post-secondary endeavors they choose I can see myself flying with less concern for it.

For all the “seniority is everything” and “get to the majors ASAP” I really like the balance of a post like yours that puts out there an alternative.

cg

At my company the travel to the plane is on your first day of the 8 days and your last day is your travel home day. So to answer your question, yes. The travel is included in your 8 days on.

-Hannah

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