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How often do you get to see your family while flying as a commercial pilot?

I am a sophomore in highschool and about a year ago, I really become fond of the idea of flying. I love riding in airplanes in general. I started taking some classes that would try to help me down the road of becoming a pilot. #pilot

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Tim’s Answer

Hi Dillin,
There are times commercial pilot see their family a lot and times they are away from their families because they work a lot. It all depends on a variety of factors.

First of all, there are all kinds of commercial pilots. The term "commercial pilot" simply means a pilot that can be paid to fly because she/he has earned a commercial pilots license. There are all kinds of commercial pilot jobs and aircraft. For example, commercial pilot jobs would include: flight instructor, towing banners, fire fighting, pipeline patrol, agricultural as in crop dusting, search and rescue, float planes, cargo, helicopters, charter, corporate aircraft and airlines to name a few.

Being with a major US airline for over 35 years, there are times I work every weekend and every holiday and other times when I have been at home for months at a time. Airline pilots can fly a "schedule" or fly "reserve". A pilot flying a schedule will typically know what trips she/he will be flying weeks in advance of flying the trip. The schedule can be working 10 days/month or 20 days/month. Airlines keep a staff of reserve pilots that are called out in the event another pilot calls out sick, a flight is delayed or diverts to another airport due to weather or a mechanical issue. These spare pilots have to be available to be called out if needed and can be at home waiting for the call out.

Pilots can fly everything from short distance flights with smaller regional aircraft to large jumbo jets flying long distances. Airline pilots can be home every night or could be away from their families for weeks at a time. It depends of the company they work for or the aircraft or routes they fly.

Most quality of life issues that affect how much time a pilot can spent with his family is determined by a seniority based system. The longer you are with an airline, the better schedule you can get and the more time you can spend with your family.

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Carlos "Danny"’s Answer

Hey there,

That question is hard to answer because there are so many pilot jobs out there. You have airline jobs, corporate jobs, private jobs, contracting jobs.,...... and everything in between. Depending what you fly and where you fly the schedule can change A LOT. So I will give you a rundown of the jobs that I personally have done in the aviation industry and their schedules.

- Airline Pilot: airlines are 100% based on seniority. This is the most important factor in an airline. This seniority number will let you chose bases, equipment and your schedule. They airlines have a bid system. This means you bid (usually the month prior) for your schedule for the following month. Depending on how high your seniority is the better the pick. If you are the most senior you will get your 1st pick everytime...make sense? With that said, a regular domestic schedule will usually be pretty close to 4 days on 3 days off. There are a lot of other tricks you can do with your schedule: like doing trips back to back and then having more days off together, trading trips, dropping trips, etc. But a “general schedule” is about 4/3.

- Private Contractor: this is probably the best option if you are only interested in “time off” since you can pick what trips to do or not. If you don’t want to work for a whole month that is completely your decision. With that said, you gotta make some $$$ so you have to balance time off vs income. Also to consider, this kinda of flying goes up an down. So some month you will have a lot of work and some others not so much. Once again is all about balance.

- Corporate Pilot: if you work for a good company this should give you lots of time off. The only issue is that sometimes you don’t know exactly when it will be as you do in the airlines. Some companies have hard days off, other have a lot of vacation days so if you need a day off you gotta put a vacation day, others have rotations, others you are on call 24/7 unless you have a PTO or Vacation day, etc. As for my personal experience with my current company, they are very conscious of quality of life, So they do their best to give you time off. So even though we are technically on call 24/7 we know when we are going to be flying. Also, corporate has ups and downs. There are month that you may fly 4 days and some you may fly 20. It all depends on the companies goals or time of the year.

If you know what pilot route you want to pursue I would be happy to expand on that route. Hope this helps

Carlos "Danny" recommends the following next steps:

Pilots quality of life
Pilot schedule
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Stephen’s Answer

It all depends on the type of flying you want to do. In my career I was a military pilot primarily based in the UK. The role that I fulfilled meant I was at home for the majority of my time, with just the occasional overseas deployment. As a commercial helicopter pilot I have been home most nights.
There are many touring jobs or long haul which will entail a significant amount of time away from home. These are usually rewarded with good salaries/allowances or exciting professional experiences.
As with all jobs/careers/passions you need to ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice to follow your choices. If being at home is the most important thing then jobs within locally based airlines/HEMS etc would be more appropriate, but if you wish to take advantage of the travel and experience broadening opportunities that being a pilot would have to offer then then airlines, long haul, touring jobs would be more beneficial - especially whilst you are learning your craft and have relatively few ties/family etc.

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Bryant’s Answer

From my experience from researching, it depends on the level you are in rankings. Also, going to Aviation or majoring in Engineering can open doors where if you contact an aviation school they would be able to give a better answer. Pilots are in demand and that they do have a tough schedule but every field has it good and bad. If you are motivated and interested then the skies are really open in the field.