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Leaving law enforcement for aviation?

Old 11-18-2022, 10:58 PM
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Default Leaving law enforcement for aviation?

Don't know if this is the right place for this, but I appreciate the advice regardless:

33 yr old, married, 1 kid (infant). I've been a cop for 10 years now, recently promoted to a supervisor rank. I have 10 more years to retirement and a half pension, but the stress, constant overtime and tour flip flops has me looking for an out. I've been out on paternity leave for a few months trying to finish up my commercial/cfi and possibly make a career out of flying.

My #1 priority has always been family life, its part of the reason I hate police work, wish I knew then what I know now. Being told when you're leaving to go home that you're doing a double shift now, never making plans on days off because ordered overtime always seems to magically appear last minute, 9 hour shifts frequently turn into 12 hour shifts when something bad happens near the end. It gets tiring. Are there units where things like this don't happen? Sure. Is there an aviation unit in the department that could satisfy my lust for flying? Yes. Am I guaranteed either? Hell no, especially the aviation unit, you might as well be playing the lotto.

But anyway, the one thing holding me back from finally leaving is the time on the road aspect. I know it is basically unavoidable in an airline pilots career. But I feel like I may be overdoing it by assuming its all doom and gloom for the family. My wife is more than used to my horrible schedule, and does her best to work around it and not let it interfere with our lives too much. But for the most part I am home every night, and at least I am only a few miles away if I get stuck.

I am fairly well off since having socked away a lot during my servitude to the department. I still get a pension if I leave now, but it will be 1/4 of my pay and wont start paying out for another 10 years. Plus, I got my health bennies for life now having worked a decade, it locks it in. I have thought of just instructing as living, but from what I see my CFI do I don't know if that's viable for me for the long term. It would give me a lot of time home though, which is what I want.

What is your advice in my case? Am I trading one set of handcuffs for another?
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Old 11-19-2022, 06:03 AM
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Airline aviation is of course a job, with it's own drawbacks.

Airline schedule is tradeoffs, and with some seniority you get to select many of those tradeoffs. For me it's been good for the kids since I'm home a lot more, and at times when most dads aren't, and don't bring work home with me. My alternative white collar career would have been in upper management, with lots of long days. There's still some hardship on the spouse, because sometimes you're gone for four days and she has to suck it up.

One of the bennies that's not well understood by outsiders if you can often create a large block of time off with days off by creative bidding. Maybe up to a month without even using vacation. Or you can focus on consistency, being home 3-6 days each week.

Again with some seniority it's not hard to bid multiple specific days off for family events.

Major holidays will take more seniority, but once you get to a major you can get comfortable and build seniority as an FO in a junior fleet if desired. Or you can chase money at the cost of staying junior.

My personal thumb rule is if I get 15 days off or more than I'm ahead of the game compared to white collar work. That's readily achievable with a little seniority.

Seniority progression is a key consideration. This will go much, much faster at certain junior airline bases, NYC is a prime example. If you're willing to relocate to such a base and drive to work you'll enjoy a vastly different career than somebody who lives in a very senior boutique domicile. Also driving to work (vice commuting by air is game changer.

Also money... as a senior major FO or major CA you'll be making quite a bit of money... $200-300k for FO, $400k+ for CA. That kind of money alone gets you some additional QOL.



The short answer is that airline aviation will probably be a better deal for, but there's some risk along the way, and your geographic flexibility matters. It helps that you have a small pension and medical bennies. I've known quite a few cops in the airlines, and I don't recall any of them who wished they had stayed in LE.
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Old 11-19-2022, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by fcknglideslope View Post
Don't know if this is the right place for this, but I appreciate the advice regardless:

33 yr old, married, 1 kid (infant). I've been a cop for 10 years now, recently promoted to a supervisor rank. I have 10 more years to retirement and a half pension, but the stress, constant overtime and tour flip flops has me looking for an out. I've been out on paternity leave for a few months trying to finish up my commercial/cfi and possibly make a career out of flying.

My #1 priority has always been family life, its part of the reason I hate police work, wish I knew then what I know now. Being told when you're leaving to go home that you're doing a double shift now, never making plans on days off because ordered overtime always seems to magically appear last minute, 9 hour shifts frequently turn into 12 hour shifts when something bad happens near the end. It gets tiring. Are there units where things like this don't happen? Sure. Is there an aviation unit in the department that could satisfy my lust for flying? Yes. Am I guaranteed either? Hell no, especially the aviation unit, you might as well be playing the lotto.

But anyway, the one thing holding me back from finally leaving is the time on the road aspect. I know it is basically unavoidable in an airline pilots career. But I feel like I may be overdoing it by assuming its all doom and gloom for the family. My wife is more than used to my horrible schedule, and does her best to work around it and not let it interfere with our lives too much. But for the most part I am home every night, and at least I am only a few miles away if I get stuck.

I am fairly well off since having socked away a lot during my servitude to the department. I still get a pension if I leave now, but it will be 1/4 of my pay and wont start paying out for another 10 years. Plus, I got my health bennies for life now having worked a decade, it locks it in. I have thought of just instructing as living, but from what I see my CFI do I don't know if that's viable for me for the long term. It would give me a lot of time home though, which is what I want.

What is your advice in my case? Am I trading one set of handcuffs for another?
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Old 11-19-2022, 06:19 AM
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Short answer- yes you are trading one set for another, but there are a lot of differences that will make one better than another. And those differences are entirely personal. I did 25 years in LE and got out with a pension, and I'm now a 50-ish regional FO and mostly loving it.

On the plus side of staying in law enforcement- while it might be a lousy job at times, it is a great career with unmatched stability, benefits and retirement. For all the stress that the job creates, one thing you rarely have to worry about is whether you'll have a job in six months. Airlines are not like that, not at all, and certainly not at the entry level that you'll be spending at least your first few years in. If you have 10 years to a full retirement, perhaps staying in and flying part time is an option. Of course the hiring environment in 10 years is far from certain, and many projections show the current hiring boom slowing down by then. So it's a gamble.

On the plus side of getting out and going for it now- while you will be physically away from home for longer stretches of time (trips are often 4 days with 3 days off in between, at least at the regionals) you will be mentally and emotionally present for your family so much more when you are home. Law enforcement corrodes your soul in ways that you certainly understand, and seeing things every day that no human should have to see will have an impact on your family life. I don't come home crabby, tired and emotionally exhausted from a trip like I did daily at the PD. And unlike in LE where many jobs are on call 24/7/365, when you are on your days off, you are completely off the clock with no obligations to the company, unless you choose to pick up some overtime flying, which is completely optional.

Good luck with this decision.
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Old 11-19-2022, 06:25 AM
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If you can get a pension at 43Ö. Take that.

Spend the next 10 years buffing your resume. Instruct. Fly a king air. Build time. Set yourself up to go straight to a major or get a solid corporate job the day you retire.

If you network and instruct locally you will likely be able to build turbine pic within a couple years
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Old 11-19-2022, 06:54 AM
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Sounds a little like me...
At about 10-12 years in I was offered a very good job in part 91. I couldn't draw a pension at that time though and wouldn't have gotten bennies. I decided it wasn't worth the uncertainty with a child.
Also, you mention you socked a lot away, but, having a toddler is expensive and finishing up those ratings is going to be VERY expensive, then there's the occasional financial "gotchas" on top of our current inflation outlook.

10 years ago when I retired from LE and went to flying full time, I'd say "go for it", I've moved up to the top 5 % in base already, but now? Too many question marks in regional land for my taste. I'd wait till you get the full pension, that gives you the freedom to explore away. Like someone else mentioned fly while working as LE and finish certs and look for some per diem or part time work to build hours/get experience.

Nobody has a crystal ball, it's all a matter of risk reward equations. In my mind, it was too important to guarantee solvency for the benefit of the kiddies.

Don't know what state you're in but they could only work us so much between our union contract and labor laws, (not for lack of trying though). Now if you truly hate police work (as opposed to the scheduling issues) get out. Nobody wants a miserable cop on the job, least of all the cop him/her self. That will spill to your relationship with your wife and child(ren). If it's culture and schedule that are the problem, perhaps look to another agency, everyone is having trouble recruiting.
Kind of went full circle there didn't I....
Best of Luck in your decision!


Originally Posted by fcknglideslope View Post
Don't know if this is the right place for this, but I appreciate the advice regardless:

33 yr old, married, 1 kid (infant). I've been a cop for 10 years now, recently promoted to a supervisor rank. I have 10 more years to retirement and a half pension, but the stress, constant overtime and tour flip flops has me looking for an out. I've been out on paternity leave for a few months trying to finish up my commercial/cfi and possibly make a career out of flying.

My #1 priority has always been family life, its part of the reason I hate police work, wish I knew then what I know now. Being told when you're leaving to go home that you're doing a double shift now, never making plans on days off because ordered overtime always seems to magically appear last minute, 9 hour shifts frequently turn into 12 hour shifts when something bad happens near the end. It gets tiring. Are there units where things like this don't happen? Sure. Is there an aviation unit in the department that could satisfy my lust for flying? Yes. Am I guaranteed either? Hell no, especially the aviation unit, you might as well be playing the lotto.

But anyway, the one thing holding me back from finally leaving is the time on the road aspect. I know it is basically unavoidable in an airline pilots career. But I feel like I may be overdoing it by assuming its all doom and gloom for the family. My wife is more than used to my horrible schedule, and does her best to work around it and not let it interfere with our lives too much. But for the most part I am home every night, and at least I am only a few miles away if I get stuck.

I am fairly well off since having socked away a lot during my servitude to the department. I still get a pension if I leave now, but it will be 1/4 of my pay and wont start paying out for another 10 years. Plus, I got my health bennies for life now having worked a decade, it locks it in. I have thought of just instructing as living, but from what I see my CFI do I don't know if that's viable for me for the long term. It would give me a lot of time home though, which is what I want.

What is your advice in my case? Am I trading one set of handcuffs for another?
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Old 11-19-2022, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by 187Breezy View Post
On the plus side of getting out and going for it now- while you will be physically away from home for longer stretches of time (trips are often 4 days with 3 days off in between, at least at the regionals) you will be mentally and emotionally present for your family so much more when you are home. Law enforcement corrodes your soul in ways that you certainly understand, and seeing things every day that no human should have to see will have an impact on your family life. I don't come home crabby, tired and emotionally exhausted from a trip like I did daily at the PD. And unlike in LE where many jobs are on call 24/7/365, when you are on your days off, you are completely off the clock with no obligations to the company, unless you choose to pick up some overtime flying, which is completely optional. Good luck with this decision.
This times 1000. I went from airlines to LE and back to the airlines. I wouldn't change those decisions but my family all encouraged me to go back to flying. Even though I was technically home more during my LE career compared to commuting to a regional airline, I was more present when at home. Now, I'm actually off more than I was at the PD so I win on the physcial presence test as well as the mental/emotional one.

To continue your cuff analogy: IMO the handcuffs are a lot looser at the airlines and you're cuffed in front. I guarantee you won't even realize how raw your wrists have gotten until you've been out of LE for a while.

Personally I wouldn't wait 10 years. Seniority is everything and the hiring wave is now. You'll be in worse shape quality of life wise if you wait 10 years and start at the bottom at 43. There will be thousands of guys/gals senior to you who are significantly younger than you if you wait that long. With today's pay at the airlines, I doubt you'll come out ahead financially if you wait either.
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Old 11-19-2022, 06:09 PM
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Thanks for the responses. Definitely feels like they skew towards leaving law enforcement. I've got a few months to make a decision before my paternity leave expires.

On that note, do airlines accommodate you if you have a family emergency and are away mid-trip and need to return? Or is it just something you have to do, pay out of pocket, and deal with company repercussions later?

I think I'd like to work at somewhere like Republic, based in LGA and just do as many day trips as I can. Driving there would be 20-30mins. I have heard that parking, getting on the shuttle, going through security, eats up a lot of what is a pretty nice commute. Can anyone speak from experience?
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Old 11-20-2022, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by fcknglideslope View Post
On that note, do airlines accommodate you if you have a family emergency and are away mid-trip and need to return? Or is it just something you have to do, pay out of pocket, and deal with company repercussions later?
Any but the worst bottom feeder regionals would let you off the trip. Worst case take FMLA, that grants you immunity. Majors and better regionals will get home (or at least back to your base) via positive space. Some might just let you jumpseat (or buy your own ticket).

Originally Posted by fcknglideslope View Post
I think I'd like to work at somewhere like Republic, based in LGA and just do as many day trips as I can. Driving there would be 20-30mins. I have heard that parking, getting on the shuttle, going through security, eats up a lot of what is a pretty nice commute. Can anyone speak from experience?
At any large airport I'd plan on 30-50 extra minutes for the parking/employee bus drill. Security is mostly a non-event, we don't wait in the pax line.
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Old 11-20-2022, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by fcknglideslope View Post
Thanks for the responses. Definitely feels like they skew towards leaving law enforcement. I've got a few months to make a decision before my paternity leave expires.

On that note, do airlines accommodate you if you have a family emergency and are away mid-trip and need to return? Or is it just something you have to do, pay out of pocket, and deal with company repercussions later?

I think I'd like to work at somewhere like Republic, based in LGA and just do as many day trips as I can. Driving there would be 20-30mins. I have heard that parking, getting on the shuttle, going through security, eats up a lot of what is a pretty nice commute. Can anyone speak from experience?

I was LGA based right out of training for Republic. When youíre new you have to pay the dues Gods initially. I was on reserve, the reserves are not getting used all that much now so, as close as you are, you will likely be able to sit reserve on your couch. When I did get trips, it was unlikely for them to be one day. Once you get a line and some seniority, you should be able to get more day trips.

The parking and crew bus situation is a pain, but not horrible. It took a bit to figure out the system, I gave myself an extra 45 mins most of the time and didnít need it. I like to be cautious. Itís been a while now but I donít recall security being any worse than EWR or any other major airport. Good Luck!
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