Real Answers from Real Pilots

Choosing where to live, non-traditional career

(Michael Griffin) #1

Hey guys,

I am in a bit of a non-traditional situation and would like your suggestions/advice. I am coming into flight school at age 28, married with no kids. My wife will be graduating from Law School in May and we will be living in whatever state her job offer is in. I have looked at the airline domiciles on the ATP website and while a few job options for her are in a domicile city, a few of the best offers are not. She will be working in tax law which guarantees we will be in a large city with a commercial airport but will not be relocating for my job. I am going into this profession for the sole reason of the love for flying and would not be opposed to the idea of a career regional or charter pilot. My question is how to choose from the cities she has job offers in to be sure they will also support my career? For example, Nashville Tennessee is a potential job location for her but there are no domiciles in Nashville. The two closest domiciles for regional are more than driving distance to commute.


Hi Michael and Welcome!

Your situation is FAR from non-traditional and far from unique. It’s been said the best thing about a career in aviation is commuting and the worst thing about a career in aviation is commuting. What that means is one of the nifty perks about being a pilot is the ability to “jumpseat” on virtually every and any airline in the country thus allowing you to commute from literally anywhere. The bad news depending on where you chose to live that commute may be a pain in the butt? I’m here at Hawaiian and half our pilots commute from either the mainland or the outer islands. I even know one guy who commutes from Sydney. Now when I was at ExpressJet it was pretty much the same deal and we did in fact have a number of BNA (Nashville) commuters to all 4 bases (EWR, IAH, CLE and ORD). Fairly easy commute because there are direct flights to all the bases. Where problems arise is when you live in FarAwayFromEVERYTHINGtown USA and you have to drive 2hrs to a small commuter airport to catch another Regional flt to your base OR if you live somewhere (like BNA) where there are a lot of other senior commuters and your priority is low. In either of those cases you must plan accordingly. While most airlines have a commuter policy in their contracts if you really get stuck they still expect you to be proactive and make your best effort to get to work. One missed trip is not a huge problem but if it becomes a habit it will be. Also it’s always harder in the beginning on reserve when you need to be close to the airport but you’re not actually flying. Many commuters either end up getting hotels or securing crashpads for times on reserve or even before or after non-commutable trips (trips that either start too early or finish too late).

The fact is the majority of pilots commute from other cities and they all make it work. That said it definitely makes things more difficult and can often be frustrating from what I hear? Personally I never have and never will! :slight_smile:




For the last eleven years I have split my time between Norfolk, VA and South Bend, IN while being based in EWR the whole time. There are days when I find commuting to be stressful, but it is worth it to me when I get home to SBN. Commuting to workers an airline pilot is a viable option and many, many pilots do it. Adam is right though that it can take a toll on you, it is stressful and results in time spent at crash pads or stuck in airports that could otherwise be spent at home. You will just need to decide if it is worth it to you or not.

Nashville would actually be a great place for you to commute out of as FedEx has a major hub there and they are really easy to jumpseat on.


(Michael Griffin) #4

Adam and Chris,

Thank you for the replies! It certainly makes things easier with guys like you willing to share your point of view and advice!

I am completely ok with commuting but would like to make an educated decision on where we live in relation to where I would have the best chance of eventually working out of my local airport or at least a shorter commute. Other than experience and learning how the airlines work, how would I decide which cities are better than others? We will certainly be in a larger city so there are no worries of not being withing a short driving distance of an airport that is serviced by regionals.



The reality is there is no “best” city for commuting (at least not that I’m aware of?), there are just too many variables. Not to mention I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. Dallas is a great city to live in if you fly for American but if you fly for JetBlue, not so much. NY has 3 major airports that virtually every airline in the world flies in and out of making it perfect for any commute, BUT if you don’t like the city, the cold winters or the cost of living, what’s the point? As I said I’ve never been a fan of commuting, but if you’re going to have to I’d use it to my advantage. Live in the place you and your wife really want to spend your life and work from there. I have a friend who flies for Atlas and was based in ANC. She used to fly for ExpressJet out of CLE and also lived there. Unless she actually moved to Anchorage she was going to be commuting and she had ZERO desire to live in Anchorage. Soooo instead she saw it as an opportunity to live somewhere she always dreamed of and moved to Hawaii. I wouldn’t try and build my life around a commute that you won’t have for a few years and even then have no idea where you’ll be commuting to. Build your home and your life and you’ll figure out the rest. Unless you move to say Supai, AZ (remotest city in the US), then you might have an issue :grin:




Check out There is a map on there that shows the various airline domiciles in the US, you might find that helpful.


(Michael Griffin) #7

Thank you for the help again gentlemen. If I understand correctly as long as I live near an airport serviced by commercial airlines I should be ok. This certainly makes choosing a city to live in much more simple.





I will add that there are various levels of “Okay”. A small airport like South Ben, In is not going to have the ease of commutability that a bigger one like Indianapolis is going to have. You can commute from anywhere, but the bigger the city the easier it generally is to commute from there.


(Eric) #10

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