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Old 12-18-2006, 03:19 AM   #1  
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Default FedEx/UPS Family Quality of Life

As a newbie fresh from "lurking" to posting, I'll say the information, candor, and wit in this forum are outstanding. Thanks to all.

I'm former active USAF (KC135) flying Corporate (Part 91) at BHM and looking to transition to cargo. I've read many threads on schedules, bidding, days on/off, etc...and how seniority affects everything. With that in mind, what is the quality of life for a young family (mid-thirties, married, 3 kids under age 5yr) embarking on a long career in the cargo business?

In corporate I'm gone up to 6 nights/mon. I fly a few times/wk (some weekends) and do 2 wks of recurrent training/yr...NOT a blistering pace. BUT always on call, underscoring a lack of control over my schedule. I "control" only my 13 vacation days/yr.

By contrast, my perception of cargo ops is: 12-14 days away with known (i.e., hard) time off each month, plus vacation/sick leave/etc. I read this as "control of my schedule" (seniority permitting).

Given the greener financial grass over there, my questions concern the family:

1-Do the many days off allow a flying father to be engaged at home?

2-Is "schedule control" a pipe dream or a real asset in helping FEX/UPS families thrive (i.e., in contrast to an erratic schedule in Part 91)?

3-Is a Memphis/Knoxville move necessary for family QOL?

4-What scheduling/bid strategies help families most?

5-What steps can one take to make the lifestyle positive for young kids (i.e., activities, traditions, communication on the road, etc)?

6-How does one best lighten the burden of "solo-parenting" on their wife?

7-At what time horizon does a new hire start to realize the benefit of seniority and get into the "groove" of balancing family and cargo flying?
Verbose? yes. Thought I'd go big early.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 12-18-2006, 05:58 AM   #2  
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Checknin, I don't believe anyone can answer your questions but you. So many variables are involved. What we can do is give you our experiences and you'll have to judge for yourself.

Quality of life is a relative term. One pilot would never live here (Memphis) and another would and both have fantastic quality of life based on extracurricular activities etc. Much of your QOL will depend on whether your wife is happy; does she want to be near her family or not, is she independant or not etc.

Personally I've got about 20 years at Fedex and I can't remember one event of my kid's that I have not been able to schedule around and be there for. Obviously this means alot to me, it may not to another. Also as the kids get older their need for me to be in their face so much dwindles. Seniority in any seat is the key. Here at The Fed you can be senior in the back seat of the 27 in no time and controling your schedule. The key is to live within your means and not be forced to upgrade just to chase dollars that you may have already spent. Then you've become a slave and I can assure you you will not have QOL.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that for QOL you need to be gainfully employed and right now the brightest horizon is The Fed or Big Brown. The rest is manageable.

Good luck on your decisions.
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Old 12-18-2006, 07:15 AM   #3  
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Excellent points made by Bitme. QOL to me was spending time with the family. My 2 cents. I live in domicile (mem). The plan was to gain seniority, move and become a commuter. But while living in domicile I was home a LOT for the family. Hence life is so much easier living in domicile so we stayed. This provided more options for bidding $eats and lines etc... I was able to bid A300 captain in just under 10 years (school house only 3 times-new hire, f/o, and capt.). I have personally bid reserve over my past 10 yrs and spent a lot of QT at home with the family (where I fly to was not that important to me). Even though I'm very junior in the left seat now I still have never missed a birthday, Thanksgiving or Christmas including this year--knock on wood! You're only junior once and that is your date of hire. The rest is up to you. Good luck!!!
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Old 12-18-2006, 07:46 AM   #4  
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Boy, do you want to know everything, or what?

First off, there’s no such thing as a normal flying schedule at FedEx, and I suspect the same thing for UPS. The reason I say this is that the saying “different strokes for different folks” is such a big player here. For guys who live in domicile, there is the possibility of rarely working. They bid reserve, and during non-peak times, spend most of their time around the home front. During peak season, they’re gone (probably) much more, up to and including the number of reserve days in their line. However, some of those days could just be some out and backs (leave domicile, fly to some out-station or two, or three, and then return to domicile) and then go to sleep in your own bed, until you’re again scheduled to fly. Then there are the guys who live in domicile, but still like to fly and so they do their (basically) 2 weeks away a month. Then you have your commuters, those who don’t live in domicile. Again, their needs and desires vary. Some like double deadheads, trips that start and end out of domicile. At the beginning of their trip, the get on a commercial flight, bus, train, or limo, and get to the out-station where their trips starts. At the end of their flying they do the same in reverse to get home. Others enjoy flying into base on FedEx equipment and then start their line of flying.

Seniority is the driving key in the airline industry, and even one or two seniority numbers can make an entire world of difference, not only with your monthly schedule, but with your life. As an example, look at the last guy to be furloughed from (pick an airline). Now, look at the guy just above that guy. He’s still flying and his family is still being cared for. The other guy has to fend for himself. This is a gross example, but is a valid one, if only to make the point of how different things are on the seniority scale.

Do you have to move to your domicile? FedEx used to ask all pilot candidates if they planned to move to Memphis. Everyone said “Yes”, and then once hired, maybe 60% actually did the move. Now, however, the greater majority lives out of domicile. However, having said that, if I were starting a new family, or had small children or a spouse who required a lot of attention, I’d try to live in the town where I were based. It’s sooooo much easier, both on them (your family) and on you. There’s much more diverse flying in base; you have a larger support mechanism in place (in other pilots and wives and kids, and corporate knowledge about the surrounding area and how to get something done, and where to get it done, etc.) Will you like it there, well that’s another question, but without doubt, it makes for a much better quality of life, especially in the beginning when you’re junior. Later on, as you acquire seniority, you can decide for yourself.

What scheduling/bid strategies help families most? - Again, everyone is different, and for a little while anyway, you won’t be in control of your schedule. Use this time to figure what’s going to work best for you and your family.

What steps can one take to make the lifestyle positive for young kids (i.e., activities, traditions, communication on the road, etc)? - Take this with a grain of salt. Memphis is a very religious town. There’s a church on virtually every corner. If you’re into that lifestyle, you will have plenty of opportunities to meet lots of like-minded parents with similar values to yours. If you’re not into the church scene, there’s always the YMCA for youth sporting events, etc. Little league, T-ball, junior football, etc, etc. As for being on the road, for myself, I call home every day, no matter where I’m at. Sometimes, multiple times, just to say hello. With cell phones capable of calling from anywhere in the world, there’s no reason to not stay in touch.

6-How does one best lighten the burden of "solo-parenting" on their wife? - One way is to talk your girlfriend into going over and helping your wife out with her chores. Seriously, I don’t know how you’d “lighten the burden of solo-parenting”, except maybe bidding reserve to be home as much as possible, or maybe bidding those out and backs that fly in the middle of the night, but get back about the time the kids are going off to school. Another way of course is to not have kids, or if you have them already, you might consider giving them away, at least until you can hold the type of flying that will relieve your wife of her burden. Another method that is employed by some of our guys who love to say they “fly for FedEx”, but really hate to be away from home, is to get into the training department or a management job. These guys have the best of all worlds, making a ton of money and spending almost every night in their own bed.

At what time horizon does a new hire start to realize the benefit of seniority and get into the "groove" of balancing family and cargo flying? - Seniority starts accruing the day you start working, and if things continue the way they have, it won’t be long before you’re enjoying life. A friend of mine started work in October and now has almost 200 guys below him. As well, each person handles this job differently, based on so many varied things, that it’s difficult to say how long it will take you to get into the groove. Some never “get in the groove”, so seems to have been born there.

The key is to get onboard somewhere, and as soon as possible. Good luck in that quest.

As a side note, I had written this post up a few hours ago but hadn't finished it and I had to run out and do my annual full body CT Scan. All came back fine.
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Old 12-18-2006, 08:10 AM   #5  
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Like Bitme said many are up to the individual. But here's my take on things.

1-Do the many days off allow a flying father to be engaged at home?
Yes, I'm actively involved with my kids. I got used to sleeping some during the day (BLACK OUT BLINDS) so I can catch a nap and am able to eat dinner with the family, do homework with the kids, etc.. Reserve skeds 15 of 28 work days or 19 of 35 are work days.

2-Is "schedule control" a pipe dream or a real asset in helping FEX/UPS families thrive (i.e., in contrast to an erratic schedule in Part 91)?

I flew part 91 in a former life. I can have a lot of comfort knowing where I'll be and when. If on reserve, you only have to answer the phone when you're on. There are a few little things the company can do to slide R-days but that's nothing compared to getting that Part 91 call in the middle of dinner, during a movie, etc..
3-Is a Memphis/Knoxville move necessary for family QOL?

Living in Memphis is nice (or at least as nice as memphis can be) if you're sitting reserve and junior. You'll get a lot of family time even while you're "working." Of course BHM is a higher crime city than MEM. Why do you ask about TYS? There several guys who live there.

4-What scheduling/bid strategies help families most?
Learn by example. My thing, if you can hold any regular line, do so and you'll have an easier time dropping / moving a trip compared to an R-day. You'll screw up some, but everyone has. Seniority Seniority Senority. You'll face the pay vs. QOL when you either want to get out of the back seat, go to a widebody, etc...

5-What steps can one take to make the lifestyle positive for young kids (i.e., activities, traditions, communication on the road, etc)?
That is completely dependant on you and your family. Bring back little trinkets to the kids sometimes helps. If I'm headed home in the morning, I'll sometimes pick up breakfast.

6-How does one best lighten the burden of "solo-parenting" on their wife?
Be the best "single" dad when you are home. Get your rest, tell your wife to take the day off, you'll get the kids to school, run some errands, etc. But don't forget the wife either. Have a date night, take flowers or works for her. Again whatever works for you.

7-At what time horizon does a new hire start to realize the benefit of seniority and get into the "groove" of balancing family and cargo flying?

Depends on you. If you have a sponsor sit with him. Talk to guys who are in your relative senority (a year or so) and see what has/hasn't worked for him. You should have it down in less than a year.

You'll get some info (some bad some good) while flying. Most guys are glad to offer info for what worked for them.
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Old 12-18-2006, 10:06 AM   #6  
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Checknin, I agree with everything above, but I've got a commuter's input. My wife and kids got embedded in the town I was flying with the reserves out of and we haven't left. I've commuted my whole ten years at Fedex and have made the choice to wait to upgrade until I was fairly senior. I've made ervy important event for the family also, but it has been a bit more work than it would have been had I lived in domicile.
I'm now based at LAX and have just a few hour drive to get to the airport, but I still try to bid double deadhead as much as possible so I can avoid driving into LA.
As far as keeping in touch on the road, two words. Skype and Apple's IChat are invaluable for keeping in touch (I've found the Intl cell phones prohibitively expensive). Skype is free to download, costs about two cents a minute to call a regular phone, and is free to call a computer. Being able to see the gangs faces (and let them see me) with IChat is great. You can even help with the homework. I know one guy who turn on the IChat when he gets to his room, while his wife has it turned on on a computer in their dinette area, and he and his wife just talk away while she is puttering around the house (maybe too much face time?).
I've also found sending a lot of postcards and showing the kids where I'm going or where I've been with Google Earth makes things interesting for them.
Good luck with the career.
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Old 12-18-2006, 10:07 AM   #7  
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It is all in the choices you make. I live in a mid size southern city. After six months with the company I gave up my crash pad and airport car. I am away from home most months zero nights other months I am gone 10-12 days. Next year I will take 45 days straight off and still have vacation left over (unless the bid opens early and I upgrade). The catch; I stayed in the back seat and my pay will only top out at 100K this year (after 5 years). My timing was good, but anybody hired at Fedex this year should have reasonable control of his schedule at the two year point unless he chases the dollars.

Lag

Last edited by FDXLAG; 12-18-2006 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 12-18-2006, 12:57 PM   #8  
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Wow, you've all "watered my eyes" with great advice and encouragement. Thanks!

Quote:
QOL will depend on whether your wife is happy; does she want to be near her family or not, is she independant or not etc
.
Point well taken, Bitme. She has a sister in town and an excellent ability (though not necessarily the desire) to operate independently after years as an AF spouse.
Quote:
Hence life is so much easier living in domicile so we stayed.
Canyonman, How far a commute did you reject to remain in domicile? To your mind, is there a commuting scenario that would have been worth the move (i.e., How close would your town of choice need to be?)
Quote:
During peak season, they’re gone (probably) much more, up to and including the number of reserve days in their line.
Is there any notable peak apart from the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holiday push?

Quote:
FedEx used to ask all pilot candidates if they planned to move to Memphis.
Is this still the case?

Jet Jok: I hear you, "DOMICILE and SENIORITY!" Glad I was able to divert you from worrying about the "CT results"--cheers!
Quote:
Of course BHM is a higher crime city than MEM. Why do you ask about TYS?
BHM crime rate is drastically higher in the city vs. the burbs, just like any other metro area. For us, with a sister-in-law in town AND a local Guard unit, the choice is definitely BHM or domicile
Quote:
I've commuted my whole ten years at Fedex and have made the choice to wait to upgrade until I was fairly senior.
Hyperone: At 10yrs+, are you getting close to "fairly senior" and a decision to upgrade? In your mind, is "fairly senior" determined by your ability to hold a specific line, and is there a prevalent desire among pilots to stick with a particular bidline month after month?
Also, sounds like double-deadhead is the tool of choice among commuters...true? Skype/Ichat/GoogleEarth...Great stuff!
Quote:
I live in a mid size southern city. After six months with the company I gave up my crash pad and airport car. I am away from home most months zero nights other months I am gone 10-12 days.
Lag, this is extremely encouraging. How far a commute is your mid-sized southern city and is the double-deadhead in your "bag of tricks" as well?

Also, are the R-24 lines new with the new contract? If so, any predictions as to how those will play out among commuters?
Again, "Thanks" to all of you!
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Old 12-18-2006, 01:33 PM   #9  
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BHM is what...4 hours away?

That to me means some gas money and 4 good CDs. Comparing a commute you can DRIVE to in a pinch and a guy who lives on the other side of the Rockies is night and day. You can make BHM work--easy.

I always advise guys that IF they are happy where they are, then STAY there for 12 months. You have so many new things to learn--let the wife and kids keep the same schools, chuch, and social circles while you get your hands around this new life. You have NO idea what trips/flying you'll like...yet. Fly the line a while, then assess what you think works for you. If you are bailing from the military, you likely are taking a "temporary" pay cut. Why try to buy a new house, deal with all the associated moving expenses, etc in an already stressful situation? Your second year, you can use your vacation time, bid a month off, and move at YOUR convenience. You'll have a better W-2 and you won't be on probation--not a big deal but might make signing that big mortgage a bit less stressful.

You may decide to move to MEM...lots of folks do and are quite happy. I've also know a few who did the "auto move" and later regretted it...ended up moving again AWAY. Commuting for 4-12 months ain't THAT tough, and will allow you to carefully examine your options and see what works best for you. B'ham....geez...if you were badass you could ride a bike to work in a pinch. If you like it there, I don't think it will be that tough.

FWIW...I live where my Guard base is as well. It works great for our family. I think double-commutes make both jobs miserable, but being next to one or the other makes the combo a nice package.

Good luck--it IS worth all the effort, time, and research...
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Old 12-18-2006, 01:36 PM   #10  
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Also to add in. If you lived in BHM. Pinnacle has a flight that goes from MEM to BHM. There are a couple 727 flights that pass through BHM. If you think things are getting too close for comfort, the four hour drive is do-able. I know people that drive from southern Indiana, St. Louis, North Alabama, Nashville, etc... They'll always try to catch a flight but have an airport car there just in case.

I just saw what Albie said, Ditto.
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