How to read Regional FO flight schedules, amount of legs/day and sleep

Hi,
I’m planning to become a pilot, but I am going to go to UND for it first. I had a few questions about airline life, crew rest, etc.
Sometimes ill browse the forum and see that someone has posted a flight schedule where they work 18-20 days, and I was curious how crew rest worked between flights, along with how to read the schedule, see if the legs are included, work hours, etc.

I was mostly curious about how well regional FO’s and airline captains sleep. Do you find it difficult to sleep as a pilot in hotels on your schedule away from your home base? Is there a set amount of hours between flights that are mandated for pilots to sleep? I ask because I sometimes have difficulty sleeping and take benadryl to help me get there. (I think because I drink a lot of caffeine and use nicotine occasionally) It said on my medical clearance that I can’t take it within 8 hours of flying, which is fine.

From what I’ve seen, getting adequate rest and eating seems very difficult as a FO/Captain. I’m a bit worried about this aspect, as sleep and appetite are crucial to keeping stress low and a nice headspace in life. I don’t want my life to suffer tremendously, have a breakdown or become an alcoholic, or get divorced just to have a job I feel i would be good at… So I thought I would ask a pilot.

Thanks for reading,
Thomas

Thomas,

Getting rest is absolutely critical for pilots and the FAA is very specific in how much rest is required as well as how much flying can be done. There’s an entire section of the FARs (Fed Aviation Regulations) that strictly covers the the rules, Part 117. In short the bare minimum is 10hrs of free from duty that must include an 8hr sleep opportunity:(14 CFR § 117.25 - Rest period. | CFR | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute)

As for how well people sleep in hotels, that really depends on the individual. I probably sleep better in hotels than I do at home. There are min distractions, set the temp to something comfy and I’m out. Others however aren’t as fortunate and take some time to mod off. In my experience I think it’s something people get used to over time. Benadryl is definitely a no no. There are plenty of tips. No TV, no exercise close to bedtime, proper room temp, no snacks, dark room etc. What’s most important to note is that if you don’t get enough sleep and do not feel your fit to fly that you don’t. All airlines are required to have Fatigue policies that allow a pilot to call in fatigued with no discipline. If however it’s a constant problem you will be called in for a conversation.

That all said I’m more concerned with your concern of regarding a breakdown, getting a divorce or becoming an alcoholic as a result of your poor sleep habits. If this is really a problem it’s probably you should address before you get hired at an airline.

I’d also recommend you consider a different route than UND, particularly with your concerns. While UND is a fine school, the airlines neither require nor desire an aviation degree. Further if flying doesn’t work out for any reason it really doesn’t give you a backup plan.

Adam

1 Like

Piggybacking off of what Adam said:
“I’d also recommend you consider a different route than UND, particularly with your concerns. While UND is a fine school, the airlines neither require nor desire an aviation degree. Further if flying doesn’t work out for any reason it really doesn’t give you a backup plan”

I can’t begin to tell you how many pilots I’ve talked to that wished they had gotten a general degree wether it be business/engineering etc rather than getting a degree in aviation. It helped them a lot but they had a really hard time finding work outside of aviation so having that additional background and expertise is a really good fallback.

Best of luck at UND!

Well, Im not saying my marriage is having problems or will because of my vocation, or that I hit the bottle every night. This past week I have just been seeing a lot of dramatic “Why you shouldn’t become a pilot” stuff. From what it seems, being on the road seems hard and lonely, and that being a regional FO is rough since its difficult to eat full good meals on flights, get good exercise due to little free time, rushing across terminals for the next leg, and working 12 hour days for little pay. Seems a bit tricky if you’re on delay on the last leg of the day, and you wipe out at 1 or 2 AM in a hotel room only to wake up 4 hours later to do it all over again.

I’m in the military at the moment, and the military kinda has concerns with alcohol abuse and divorce rates because of stress and being away from home. Obviously, what I’m saying is extreme, but I don’t really drink unless Im eating a steak at a restaurant with my friends. I’m not married yet, either. I’m simply trying to gauge what its truly like, warts and all, before I go to school and dedicate to it.

I’m also just trying to gauge if the career is right for me. It seems a bit difficult for the first 5 years. I already work on planes, so its familiar. I like cars, fixing them and driving them. I decided I don’t want to be an engineer early in my career after working with them. I’m more hands-on and I think I’d hate a desk job. I already know the positives of being an airline pilot, but I want to know the negatives before diving in, too.

Thanks for your answer!

Mr. Rhodes,

Hmm. Never really considered that. The only real reason I’m looking at UND so much is because the GI Bill covers all of the 100k worth in flight training and has really really nice in’s in the industry. If I tacked on a minor in business I’d probably be alright, you think?
At the moment, I’m about 93 credits deep into a Bachelors in applied science with a focus on Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle. I also have an associates in applied science for aerospace navigational technologies.
If all else fails, I think I can work in Defense contracting because of my work background. A lot of people in my section have worked at a few different ones like Raytheon and Boeing and have some pretty nice salaries without degrees.

Thank you!

Thomas,

When I type up my schedule, it is often a simplified version of things as it would take hours to type in the departure and arrival times, etc. Generally speaking, overnights can be no less than ten hours, but most of mine are much longer. I sleep fine in hotels. There are no children, dogs, neighbors starting their cars, etc.

I think you need to double check the information on Benadryl. My understanding is the you need much more than eight hours before flying.

If any of the mental health issues that you mention are even remotely a possibility for you, you really should think twice before signing up for this career field.

I must ask, how old are you? How long will UND take given that you already have 90+ credits from another school?

Chris

You see the above scenario literally cannot happen. It’s illegal and both your airline and YOU would be violating the regs. If you were delayed to 2am, then your flight the next morning would need to either be delayed or re-crewed to give you your 10hrs required. That’s also my problem with alot of the video whiners. They give you half a story. Is being an airline pilot the perfect job with no long or bad days? Not at all and it does happen but not that often. As for the pay I’ve been listening to pilots complain for years. Here’s my take, if the airline (or the forums) told you you’d be making $100k and they paid you $40, you’ve got good reason to complain. But that’s not what happens. They do they’re research, know what it is and then complain anyway and that’s just being a brat. When I started at Xjt when you went to the company website to apply, on the very first page it said “First year pay is $18k, is this acceptable to you?”. If you clicked no it said thank you and logged you out. When I was going through training and first year countless pilots would complain about the pay. I’d ask “didn’t say what first year pay was on your application?”. They’d say “yea”. I’d say did you click yes? They’d say “yea”. That pretty much ended the conversation.

The reality is its all about expectations and if yours are realistic you’ll be fine, if they’re not you’ll be disappointed.

Adam

1 Like

Hey Chris,

Im 22. UND will still take 4 years, but its less of a science-oriented degree. I think my 90 credits will transfer so I won’t have to take general classes, though.

Thomas,

Have you looked at my schedules? I post screenshots of my schedules to help illustrate what’s really going on.

My schedules include times to show how much time we typically have between flights and on overnights.

As for your questions about sleep and food, I am not sure how to answer that. The schedule is the hardest part of the job since it’s always changing, but as mentioned earlier there are limitations and regulations to mitigate fatigue. While they are not perfect they do help. Whatever the regs can’t provide for you is up to you to fill in the gaps based on your needs. Problem is when you’re junior you won’t have much say. This is where I am a bit lost on how to guide you. Asking pilots about their own personal experiences will only get you so far. The reality is that what works for us may not work for you. This is where I think some self reflection and honest conversations are needed. You know yourself better than anyone else. I can provide you with as much information as you need to help you make a decision, but at the end of the day the decision rests on your shoulders.

Tory

Is there a guide online on how to read these schedules? That was another question I had for you guys, lol.

1 Like

This explains how to read mine. Let me know if you have any questions.

Tory