Aeronautical Randomness Flying Stories
What time is it?
November 21, 2011

I’m a really big fan of daylight savings time.  I enjoy the extra hour of evening light during the late spring, summer, and early fall.  I find it a little depressing when it gets dark early.

Everyone knows how the time change works.  Well, not everyone.  I had a roommate in college from Indiana.  Prior to 2005, Indiana did not observe daylight savings time.  (Arizona and Hawaii still stay on standard time year-round.)  Both times we changed the clocks, he became annoyed and defiant about the change.  But, I digress.

So, this time of year, we “fall back.”  One second after 01:59:59am on the designated Sunday, the clock snaps back to 01:00:00am.  Presumably, most of the nation is sound asleep.  Hello extra hour of rest.  Bye bye extra evening daylight.

But, not everyone sleeps through it.  For the first time ever, I was flying during the change.  I lifted off out of SFO at 11:55pm on that Saturday night and headed southeast towards Ft. Lauderdale.

For flight operations, we record everything in Greenwich Mean Time.  How that relates to local time is really irrelevant.  Five hours is five hours… on the Zulu clock.  But, for a guy always looking for new ways to stay alert on a red-eye, it gave me something to ponder.

We flew out of California and clipped the southern tip of Nevada.  Around 1:30am California time, we were over Arizona.  This time of year, since Arizona stays on Mountain STANDARD Time year round, it was still 1:30am.  We soon entered New Mexico.  The  local clock jumped ahead into the Central Time Zone, so we completely missed 2:00am.

So, if there was no 2:00am, when did “our” time change happen? (Mr. Einstein? Little help here?)

Who knows… when we blocked in at Ft. Lauderdale, it was 6:55am Eastern Standard Time.  So, accounting for the normal time zone change, we flew a five hour flight in four hours.

Some friends of mine were discussing the “effect” of the one hour local time change on their bodies.  As a pilot, here’s how I see it:

That Saturday, I started in Denver in the Mountain Daylight Timezone.  I flew to San Francisco, napped, then stayed up all night flying to Ft. Lauderdale.  I jumped ahead three hours and fell back one.  I slept all day in a hotel, had dinner, and crossed the time zones on the way back to Los Angeles.  Slept again, flew back to Dulles and rested again in the Eastern Time Zone.  Finally, I flew back to San Francisco, commuted home to Denver, and settled back into Mountain Standard Time for my days off.

So, the one hour change in local time has absolutely no effect on me.

About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 4 comments

  • Pam Deveau says:

    I won’t pretend that I followed the time zone stuff, but the pictures are beautiful!!!

  • I have flown internationally several times, and it never fails to confuse me how I get back to the USA 2 Hours BEFORE I LEFT JAPAN!!! That is a serious time-zone changeroo that always blows my mind.

  • Jesus Calderon says:

    It is really magic to land before the time you actually departed!! As a TWR controller in Barcelona, the night we reset the clock back from 3am to 2am is the one to be avoided and the oposite is the greatest one as our check in and out times are local so one night you work an extra hour for free and the other you are payed an extra hour without actually doing it. You may think this could work out nice but the truth is this is ok for the company but really unfair for the individual cause according to the past, the people who had to work the night the clock was moved forward isn’t the same that works the night its moved back. Not a problem for an aviation geek like me thouh! 😉

  • Ben Vaughan says:

    Reading this post made me think. When the clocks move back the time jumps from 1:59:59am back to 1am. If I have a 1am flight or train to catch, which one do I get, the first, or second?


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