Real Answers from Real Pilots

January 2021 Schedule or not!

So this was my schedule for January (0 Flt hrs/90hrs pay). As you can see I didn’t work a single day as I was out sick for the month. Now I wasn’t really sick, I tore my rotator cuff, but I was clearly unfit to fly. Now people sometimes ask about disability if you’re a pilot and my airline actually has a very good plan. Problem is A) you have to be out for more than 90days and B) it only pays you 50%. Now 50% of Capt pay to sit on the couch and watch Judge Judy ain’t bad BUT it unfortunately doesn’t pay the mortgage for my lovely home on the water on Oahu. So? What’s a boy to do? It’s easy, you just call in sick, which is the purpose of this post/PSA.

Every month we work we accumulate sick hours which are kept in our “sick bank”. Now my airline has a very liberal sick policy which works on the honor system (we are treated like adults and professionals). You simply have to call in sick, no Dr’s note required, no questions asked. Now many pilots (particularly you youngins) use their sick bank for anything from mental health days to SuperBowl Sunday (there’s a saying, “schedule improvement is just a sick call away”). Problem is if/when they actually need it and the bank has a 0 balance now they’re out sick without pay. Many years ago an old crusty Capt told me “don’t waste your sick time kid, you never know when you’ll need it”. So when the orthopedist said “I’m afraid you’re going to be out for a couple of months” while I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t sweating the finances because I knew my sick bank was quite full.

So I offer to y’all the same advice I was given way back when. KIDS, DON’T WASTE YOUR SICK TIME! Sure you may miss a party or 2 but if/when you need it, you’ll be happy it’s there!




Glad to hear you’re not actually sick and you just had a little rotator cuff issue. As for:

Come on, you guys don’t have the Price is Right or Let’s Make a Deal on the island?? Those are classics, or Days of Our Lives (yes, I said it :joy:).

Thanks for the little insight about the “sick bank” and how it can be favorable to miss those few parties. Hope you start feeling a little better, hopefully they have you doing those short stretches with the door frame/wall and door handle with resistant bands.


Thanks Brady,

Never been a Price is Right, Let’s Make a Deal or soap guy. Much more about quiz shows (Jeopardy, The Chase, Master Minds) and yes Judge Judy and Millian.

No resistance yet but LOTS of broom stick stretching. Hopefully soon. The following was my favorite convo with the Dr:
Me: So how long before you think I can work?
Dr: Really not long, flying planes isn’t that strenuous.
Me: It’s not but I do need to lift my arm over my head (which is a problem)
Dr: Oh yea, I’ve seen switches up there. But do you really have to use them often?
Me: Well, there is a bunch of emergency stuff, fire, smoke so just in case…
Dr: Oh yea that would be bad! Ok could be a while longer! :slight_smile:



Hi Adam,

Sounds like from your description that your sick days will roll over from year to year? Do you also have PTO that you can use if you run out of sick days? Does PTO roll over year to year?

If you go over 90 days but have enough sick days to cover it, is it up to you to use it or do you automatically go on disability?

Finally, what does RISK mean?




At my airline we have to wait 90 days for LTD to start, so we use sick time to bridge the gap. Once we get to 90 days, you can either continue to exhaust the sick time (which pays more) or switch over to LTD, which is $11k per month, tax free, for most pilots at the company. That might sound like a lot of money, but when captains are easily make $23k or more per month, there is certainly a desire to get back to work.

We do not have PTO in the sense you are probably thinking of. We have days off awarded in the month (usually 12-14) and vacation weeks.



Yes our sick days roll over every year. As Chris said we too have vacation days that can also be used in the event you run out of sick time. Some of the vacation days to over but there’s a mandatory amount you must use every year. If you go over the 90days you must apply for the disability, it’s not automatic.

At my airline you call out sick and must call back in. When it came time to bid for Jan I didn’t know I’d be needing surgery so I just bid for a normal Resv line. Therefore when I called out sick and hadn’t called back in well, prior to any Resv days I was at RISK of being unavailable for those next work days.


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Thanks Chris, how do vacation weeks work? I can see that pilots would have different vacation rules, not like you can be in the middle of a trip and suddenly take vacation. But do you have to put it in during the bid?

Thanks Adam. So when. you have alternating RISK and SICK days, you would have been scheduled to work on the SICK days and the RISK shows you hadn’t called back the day before? That’s an interesting schedule, do you normally fly every other day like that?


Exactly. As for my work schedule it really varies. I’m very fortunate in that Hawaiian has somewhat unique InterIsland flying, which is the greatest gig in the world if you’re a lazy pilot like me. You can look at some of my older (pre-covid) schedules but InterIsland flying has no overnights and am and pm schedules. I typically bid am’s and start at 0500-0600 and am done by noon. With that kind of flying I really don’t care much if I have 2 days in a row or multiple unless I need to travel or have some other project.



We bid our vacation weeks several months in advance, then our schedules are built around the vacation time, so there is no need to get off a trip in the middle to start vacation. We start with two weeks of vacation per year, and top out around five weeks per year after twelve years.


Thank you for the replies. I think I’m starting to understand how some of these things work.


No problem, let us know what other questions you have.