Real Answers from Real Pilots

When you're off work are you mentally off work?

Hi,

I know this is a silly question and it doesn’t sway my opinion of the career either way, but coming from a different career where I am never off work and my phone/emails are buzzing every hour of the day, I am curious if someone could shed some light onto how intrusive the work/dispatch is when you’re scheduled off work as a regional or major pilot.

To frame where my thought process is, are pilots ever hesitant to have a beer when grilling out with the family (for fear that they’ll get called to fly as a fill-in within 8 hours) or does the phone ringing ever induce stress for some pilots? With the industry in need of pilots, I’m curious if the low seniority pilots are constantly getting called to fill in for pilots that get sick or something. Or are there times when pilots are “on call” and know this ahead of time? I would expect corporate pilots to be more on-call, but I’m curious about airline pilots. I know we shouldn’t get stressed to be called to fly because it’s a passion fueled career, but I’m thinking about the affects that stretch to our families too.

(I’m guessing that’s what “Reserve” pilots are for, but do the “Reserve” pilots ever get so short handed that the non-reserve pilots are getting called in their time off?)

Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone’s unique questions, you guys/girls have a ton of patience.

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Bob,

The short answer is YES, and it’s one of my favorite aspect of the job. In my previous life I was self-employed and that meant I was “working” 24/7/365. There’s something INCREDIBLY satisfying (and relaxing) in the fact when you park the plane you are done! Now there’s a BIG difference between being OFF and being on Reserve, and there are pilots who don’t seem to get that (and get themselves in trouble). Now when you’re on Reserve that doesn’t mean you’re on call 24/7. You’ll still have a schedule, know when you’re off and when you’re not AND when you need to be phone available. If you’re on Reserve you’re on call for a specific period of time (depending on the airline that can be 10-12hrs). I often bid Reserve and I like the early callouts which start at 3am and finish at 3pm. Now if it’s 2:30pm and I haven’t gotten called chances are I won’t be BUT you are still ON CALL (aka working). If you have that beer and they call you’re in trouble. Same thing if I go on call at 3am, I look at open time and there are no trips for the next morning. I cannot assume I won’t get used and have that beer the night before. Again that would be on you. BUT if I’m off I’m off. Sure scheduling can call me on a day off for Premium pay or even “junior man” me (last resort if there’s no one) BUT if I’m on a day off I would simply say “sorry I just had a beer”, no harm no foul. Make sense?

Adam

Bob,

I don’t take my work home with me and I don’t think many pilots do either.
When you’re off, you’re off. Scheduling may call, but you are not required
to answer on your off days.

If you’re on call/on reserve, you’ll know because your schedule will say so.

Tory

Adam/Tory,

Thanks, that clears it up for me, I think that was the part that I was not understanding that you’ll know for certain when you’re on call/on reserve, and you’ll know when you’re 100% off with no potential obligation. I was thinking they were all blended as part of your days “off” without a confirmed stipulation of when you’re on call/on reserve.

Thanks for the quick replies.

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Bob,

Your new understanding is spot on. Having a significant number of days off is one of the best parts of being an airline pilot.

Chris