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Is the grass greener on the other side?

Old 07-20-2023, 04:15 AM
  #1  
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Default Is the grass greener on the other side?

Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but I am in need of some time critical sage wisdom and career advice. Tower has cleared me for the option. Iím on short final, but Iím unsure of my intentions. Should I full stop or touch and go and if the unexpected occurs forcing a go around what then?

Itís good to have options, but often when looking over the fence the grass always appears greener on the other sideÖ.until you jump. I have what I think is a pretty good gig, but Iím wondering if switching to the airlines asap would be better. For background Iím a former Navy guy, (TACAMO for those of you who know what that means) with just over 2000 multi-engine hours and just over 1000 aircraft commander hours primarily in B-707s and King Airs, half of which was international flying experience, and an ATP, but my experience is dated as I stopped flying in 2012 and got out in 2013. I didnít look at the airlines as an option when I got out 10 years ago because I wasnít current and the advice I always got from airline guys when I asked back then was, ďIf I were you Iíd find something else to do.Ē

Fast forward to today. My life is pretty much fatigue and stress free.

Iím flying again, but Iím flying little bug smashersÖhigh wing single engine reciprocating aircraft, but I am earning in the range of 110-150K per year over the next 15 years; at the end of which I will have a guaranteed yearly pension of about 40-45% of my pay which equates to somewhere in the 70K range per year plus whatever I save in my 401K which should be just over 1 mil. Iím in my early 40s and if I stick it out with my current gig Iíll be in my late 50s when Iím kindly shown the door and told thanks for playing.

My schedule canít be beat. I basically fly when I want which most days equates to leaving the house between 7:30-8:00 and Iím usually back home in time to catch some zzzís by 1pm. On days I donít fly for whatever reason I often donít leave the house or if I do Iím home well before lunchtime. The type of flying I do is not super exciting, but one of the big perks is that if Iím not needed and I want to go self-train I can. I can grab lunch somewhere in between legs or if I want to shoot a bunch of approaches or bounce to my hearts content any time of the day or night Iím free to do so. I get 30 days off per year, federal holidays and weekends, plenty of paid sick leave, Aetna health insurance and met life dental, my uniform consists of a t-shirt and shorts, I carry no passengers and I have a 15 minute commute with little to no traffic in a company car with paid for gas.

I do flights away from home with overnights here and there when the opportunities present themselves, but I usually have the option to pass if the location or timing is an issue. When I agree to go I get to choose the paid for hotel I want to stay in within reason (not staying at the Ritz) and I get a paid for rental car within reason (no exotic sports cars). Iím usually on deck well before check-in time, and I get some modest perm-diem which covers my eating and entertainment expenses. I was on the road for about 45 days last year.

As of one year ago when I have run into airline guys their answers to my questions have all drastically changed. ďYou should put an app in,Ē they say, ďNow is the time!Ē and ďLife is great!Ē I hear good things but when I look it still appears to me like a daily grind, but I donít know the reality. When you are on the road I donít imagine the airline experience is the same as mine, I donít believe the flexibility in schedule is the same and Iím assuming you probably canít skim a book or magazine when youíre straight and level when George is flying on a slow day, but I donít know what I donít know. What is reality and what is fiction? I just canít tell how stressful the job really is or isnít.

I also wonder about job security. How many guys you work with have something happen to them resulting in a loss, temporary or otherwise, of their medical in their 40s or 50ís because I know it happens and then what? I have 100% job security now unless I do something negligent or criminal. If I have a medical issue I can fly a desk for my company with the same pay 9-5. Sure my QOL would go down some because I have to dress up and put in a full day not flying, but Iím still guaranteed a job at the same pay so no worries there. But what would be the case as an airline guy?

The other guys I fly with donít have the experience and background I do and Iím constantly being asked by other random pilots I meet, ďWhy arenít you flying for the airlines?Ē or ďIf I were you Iíd be an airline guy,Ē but they are not airline guys because they donít have the option and they are as ignorant as I am to the reality of what it is to be an airline pilot.

On the surface I know my current existence seems mundane from the outside compared to the fantasy of the airlines which seems much more exciting, but if one digs down deep I wonder if itís as good as everyone says it is. When I look back on my flying career up to this point in time I feel blessed because flying in itself has been fun, but its been fun because I have always had the freedom and flexibility in the airplanes Iíve flown to make my own independent decisions within reason; take off early or late, land early or late, shoot some approaches or do some touch and goís for fun, etc., and Iíve reveled more in the free time at the destinations than the actual journeys getting there. Iím concerned the airlines could take the fun out of flying for me where I am a slave to a schedule that takes me away from my family at the most inopportune times, touching the yoke for fun is off limits, and my free time at my destinations turn into browsing shops inside airports and late night room service at airport hotels in between legs with min crew rest, but like a mushroom I live in the dark and I desperately need someone to shine the light of truth upon me.

From my very unscientific research it appears the money is way better than what I make now. I could double my salary and fly beyond my late 50s into my early 60s which equates to even more money in the long run, but are the risks and trade offs worth it? We trade our time for money and money doesnít buy happiness nor does it buy our most rare commodityÖ.time, but it can greatly increase our quality of life in so many ways so Iím torn between the world I know and the world everyone around me keeps telling me I should be in. Iím putting my reality on paper for the first time in the hopes those of you on the other side of the fence can tell me if itís worth jumping over and will the hare (you) beat the tortoise (me) in the race financially if I donít trade my shell for a pair of ears and jump? Thank you in advance for your time and words of wisdom. It is much appreciated.
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Old 07-20-2023, 05:28 PM
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Airline schedule flexibility is better than you think. That depends on the airline, base, equipment and of course seniority but if flexibility is your groove you can find it. My airline situation is not very flexible at face value but I can almost always make it work with some hustle and effort, and a little stress due the uncertaintity.

With mil wings, you'll be a shoe in for the top jobs right now.

After year one you'll be making $200-300K (accounting for all compensation), and actually be fairly senior as an FO at the big three due to retirement-induced movement. If you upgrade after 1-2 years (at the expense of relative seniority), that will $400k+.

For an apples to apples comparison you need to assign an annual value to your pension benefit, ie what would you have to save each year to achieve the same $ in retirement.

If you like what you're doing and don't need or want more money then no reason to change.

But the opportunities at this moment in history are objectively some where between "unprecedented" and "insane". Many folks outside the industry simply can't believe it because the paradigm is so different than what they were told over the years. It's real. This is the Golden Age they'll talking about 100 years from now.

Disclaimer: Airline employment and stability is always subject to all of the black swans we've seen over the years. Once you get to about 80% global seniority (which will happen fast at many airlines right now) you should be safe from furlough for the usual reasons.
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Old 07-23-2023, 07:27 AM
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Stay put. You have a great life. Yes, you could make more at an airline, potentially visit exotic locales, fly with some great folks, and have more in retirement. However, you will be gone more and will have to put up with layovers that suck, work schedules you donít enjoy, and annoying coworkers. If your current situation meets your needs and desires why upset the apple cart just because someone somewhere makes more.
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Old 07-23-2023, 02:04 PM
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As my wife says, the grass is greener because thereís more manure on it.
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Old 07-23-2023, 02:39 PM
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1) spouse
2) kids
3) your interest in commuting or moving to a base

define about 90% of pilot QOL decisions. Your current job sounds great in all ways except pay in which it is quite adequate.

The money is greener at the airlines - a lot. that's not arguable. Let's say $300K vs $150K. $150K differential after taxes nets you something like $7-8K extra per month. What does that actually do for you QOL?


And secret answer C: start doing some King Air day work. Somebody will send you to school. keep that in your back pocket and in 15 years move into corporate flying to supplement your pension.
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Old 07-23-2023, 05:37 PM
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1. Do you currently live within easy driving distance to an airline base?
2. How secure is your current job?
3. What is your tolerance for sleeping in a hotel room 8-12 nights a month.

remember also that long term disability insurance covers more than just loss of license, it covers you if you are unable to show up for that office job too.

There are LOTS of issues to consider.
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Old 07-23-2023, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by galaxy flyer View Post
As my wife says, the grass is greener because thereís more manure on it.
My dad always said our roses were always more majestic because they were planted over the laterals of the septic tank.
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Old 07-26-2023, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by TransWorld View Post
My dad always said our roses were always more majestic because they were planted over the laterals of the septic tank.
Erma Bombeck penned a book titled to that effect: The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (McGraw-Hill, 1976).
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Old 07-26-2023, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnBurke View Post
Erma Bombeck penned a book titled to that effect: The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (McGraw-Hill, 1976).
True. I always thought she stole that idea from my dad, ca. late 1950s.
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Old 07-27-2023, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by TransWorld View Post
True. I always thought she stole that idea from my dad, ca. late 1950s.
It's quite possible. During that period, while life was a bowl of cherries, she was in the pits.
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