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Old 06-13-2018, 07:21 AM   #1  
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Default Any spouses of pilots on this forum?

Hi, I have been an occasional lurker on this forum for the past several months. I spent many years wondering how I should support my husband in his pursuit of a career as a pilot. I am a pediatric dentist, so I have bare-bones insight into the airline/flight industry. From what I've gathered on these forums it seems unstable especially compared to my career but the path to obtaining the 6 figures is similar with the many years of investing hard work/hours and money/loans. Some background on my husband- has a Bachelor's from Embry Riddle, was career designated in the Marines starting out as a helicopter pilot, made it to Captain, but was frustrated from doing more admin than flying (circa 2011-2013). He then switched his MOS to logistics. He was deployed twice between 2011-2016. I was having trouble finding an associate job where we were stationed, and we both concluded it may be best in the long term to raise a family, to support my school loans, to follow where my career path would take me. In 2016, he left military life and started a masters program in project management. Although I was happy, this was a tough time for him. He felt lost and couldn't land a logistics job and decided to put the masters program on hold to pursue his pilot career plans again. I was hesitant to support him for fear of the hazards of the job (several of his pilot colleagues have perished on the job), the ROI, frequency of furloughs, and low pay. However, seeing him so unhappy this past year made me realize that I need to support him just as he has supported me. I'm ready to support him financially, my job allows me to do that. I guess I'm on here to get an idea of how spouses cope and what my expectations should be as a spouse. I have already experienced the long lonely days when my husband was gone for deployments and frequent trainings. I am hoping he will have more autonomy as a civilian pilot. I don't mind him missing holidays and being gone for a week at a time, but should I expect him to be gone for many months? And should I expect to relocate often like the military? So far he has 700+hours and will be starting ATP in August. What are my expectations for our lifestyle in several years? On average how long will it take him as a CFI to obtain the 1500 hours to get to Regionals? Then Majors, given his experience? I just want to be prepared mentally and financially to support him. And I apologize with my limited and ignorant knowledge of your profession! Thanks for any feedback.
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Old 06-13-2018, 09:33 AM   #2  
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I'm married to a spouse who's husband is a pilot so, like all of us, I have some insight.

He won't be gone like he has been for deployments. Even training is typically 5 on/2 off and at our company you're home for dinner on day 5 and leave on the morning after your full two days off.

Even at the worst, if he's commuting, he'll be home for at least 8 days and possibly 12 days a month. No phone calls, no reports, no additional duties. Off. OFF. That doesn't mean he won't be tired. I need a solid night's sleep, and prefer two, before hitting the road again. The sleep cycle issues from long haul international flying are the toughest part of the job once he advances further in his career.

Helo guys have a tough time advancing towards the majors since their rotor wing (RW) time isn't applied towards the requirements which are based on fixed wing (FW). Jet Blue and perhaps Spirit(?) give credit for his helo time. As far as I know no other major airline does. He'll get some credit for his officer career but nothing for his helo experience.

A CFI job pays around $30,000? He has up to a year of that to get to a regional unless the regional accepts his helo time towards their minimums. Once he's at a regional he can expect to fly approx. 800 hrs a year. Upgrade is probably in the 2-4 yrs range.

The typical guy getting hired at the majors, who isn't getting hired based on his military fixed wing resume which your husband doesn't qualify for, has 5000-7000 hrs total time and 2000-4000 hrs turbine PIC. The math is one year to 1500 hrs and then another 5-8 years to get to become the average new hire getting hired at the major airlines. Overall it's typically 8-10 years from the start to the majors but your husband is already at the 1-2 year mark.

If he can get a regional job that he can drive to life is MUCH better. At the majors I average approx. 8 nights gone per month. But as a junior line holder I, and another airline pilot dad, were the most likely dads to make the kids sport games. I even coached for two years which meant every spring every day was either coaching or flying. But the reality is some holidays are missed, summer vacations are a long way off, but overall he'll get more time at home with the kids vs the dads who have a 9-5 job.

Here's another issue about vacations - our schedules run month to month. By bidding early flying in the first month, and late flying in the next month, you can get 'end of month' or 'month to month switch over' vacations. I've already had 2 weeks, have another 10 day break coming up, and will get a third 10+ plus break later in the summer, all while using zero vacation days. So large breaks are available it just takes some seniority to get there. And I'm doing this as a junior line holder. Getting a week off, or 8 days, is pretty easy as long as you're not trying to touch a major holiday. The rest of the month will be busy if you have the first 10 days off.

The best gig is getting a job in your home base. Sitting reserve and not getting called is the same as having the day off except for making firm commitments. Golf? Sure. Tennis? Sure? Tear the roof off the house? No, save that for a day off. Take the family to the local park? Sure. Ride bikes with the kids? Sure. Wife take off to her mom's house 3 hrs away? No.
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Old 06-13-2018, 09:36 AM   #3  
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Once he gets to a major it might take a year or two to get to a senior base. If you live near a junior base he should get that within a year if not immediately.

If he's commuting life is tougher. But there's a value to living near you're extended family. That's the tough choice but something the job does provide - you can live anywhere you want. But there is a price to be paid by the commuter that a non commuter doesn't pay.
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Old 06-13-2018, 03:01 PM   #4  
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Thanks Sliceback for your detailed response. I guess I should've directed this thread toward married pilots with families. I'm relieved to know that he won't be gone for 9 months again!
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Old 06-13-2018, 04:11 PM   #5  
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The ‘grind’ is 5 on/2 off, for training and also if they’re commuting to reserve which is common as a new hire.

At the majors on reserve you’ll have 12-13 days a month off. In some situations he can sit reserve at home even if he’s commuting. That’s why not commuting, especially on reserve is such a good deal, because every day you’re not used on reserve is an additional day off at home.
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Old 06-13-2018, 07:36 PM   #6  
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Unlike the military you can live anywhere that has a decent level of airline service. But the price your husband pays is time spent commuting to his domicile.

Let's say you live in the boondocks of Wyoming. He gets hired and gets assigned to the junior base in the New York City area. He'll have to drive however far to the airport, hope he get bum a ride on the jumpseat and make at least 1 more connection to get to New York. And he'll need to allow for a backup flight in case he can't get the jumpseat. That means if he has an early morning departure on his trip he may have to leave home before lunchtime the prior day. And he'll need overnight accommodations in NYC. Either a commuter apartment or a hotel.

I'll give you my experience as an example. In 1989 I got out of the military and was hired by USAir and based in Pittsburgh. I was living in Fayetteville, NC at the time which had no direct flights to Pittsburgh. So I had to bum a ride to Charlotte, then bum another ride to Pittsburgh. That can be somewhat stressful as you're not guaranteed to get a ride unless your airline allows it's pilots to reserve the cockpit jumpseat. And as a probationary pilot for the 1st year you don't want to get on your Chief Pilot's radar by missing or delaying a trip. I rented a room from a Captain that had a large house but I needed a vehicle. Later I rented a bed in an apartment that had 2 or 3 pilots per room but it had a shuttle service to the airport so no car needed.

Now fast forward 2 years and I change airplanes and get Charlotte based. And I'm now living in Charlotte. I'm the 2nd most senior Pilot on the reserve schedule. I have to be available for short notice trips in case someone calls in sick at the last minute. That was a great lifestyle. I could hold weekends and major holidays off and many months I didn't get called out that much. I had all kinds of time off at home. And I was only on call about half the days in the month.

The most you'll be separated from your spouse is a few weeks when they're learning a new airplane. Assuming you don't live where the training takes place.

Most airlines have 2-4 day long trips. Some like my most recent one have 7 days out then 7 days back home. Some cargo carriers that fly large jets all over the world will have you out on 1 long trip for 16-17 days then you're done for the month.

So the lifestyle in Civilian Aviation can vary widely depending on his employer's trip scheduling and where you live.
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