Aeronautical Randomness Pilot Lifestyle
Working the late shift
May 9, 2012
6

After sleeping all day, we headed back out to Dulles for the late evening flight back to San Francisco.  It was still light at departure time, but, the sun had already set.  As we climbed up towards the flight levels, the sun rose again on the western horizon.  Basically, we out-climbed the sunset.  Shortly thereafter, the sun set from our new vantage point of 36,000 feet.

Commuting on red-eye/day sleep trips

After only twenty months with the company, my seniority allows me to bid the weekends off.  This allows me to be home and attend all the family activities on Saturdays and Sundays.  But, there’s a little trade-off: At my seniority, I still cannot hold weekday trips that are commutable on both ends.

For the last month and a half, I’ve been flying all three day trips.  The front of the trips are commutable with report times in the late afternoon.  I haven’t had any problems getting a seat on my primary flight and arriving in San Francisco about four hours before my report time.

The first day of each trip has three short legs.  It has been some combination of a Las Vegas or Los Angeles “turn” followed by a layover in either San Diego, Las Vegas, or Seattle.

On the layover, I stay up really, really late.  If you have any questions about infomercials broadcast in the middle of the night, feel free to ask.

On day two, I sleep as late as possible… late enough to make any college student proud.  It is not uncommon for the clock to display “PM” by the time I roll out of bed.

Hours later, I board a van that takes me to the start of an all night duty period.  The first flight goes to San Francisco or Los Angeles.  After sitting for an hour or two, we continue on a red-eye to the east coast.

Once at the hotel, I sleep all day.  My alarm clock is set as a “backup,” but sometimes it actually wakes me up forty five minutes before van time.

After the final six hour flight of the trip, we arrive back in San Francisco around 11:00pm.

Since I am off the next day, my goal has been to get home as early as possible.  For the first few trips, I killed time at the airport and jumped on the 5:30am flight back to Denver.  I arrived about 9:15 in the morning.

Then, I decided to get a little more creative.

American has a flight that leaves San Francisco at 12:30am.  Two trips in a row, I’ve secured a seat on that jet.  It arrives in Dallas at 5:40am CDT.

When I arrive in Dallas, I take the long escalator up to the AirTrain. A few minutes after exiting American’s massive hub of gates, I arrive at the E Terminal.  Just around the corner from the bottom of the escalator, Frontier’s 6:30am flight to Denver awaits.  Both weeks, the agent has immediately printed a boarding pass with a very nice seat displayed on it.

Frontier’s flight arrives at 7:15am MDT… two hours before the first non-stop out of San Francisco.

Am I crazy?  Probably… a little bit.  But, by effectively managing my sleep, it really doesn’t take that much of a toll on me.  Last week I made it home before the kids left for school.  That made it all worth it.

Here are a few random photos from the last few weeks:

The space shuttle on the 747 at Dulles

Our reflection in the terminal glass at Dulles

Crew meal

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 6 comments

  • Mike Weisser says:

    Interesting writeup on redeyes.. be careful. That kind of lifestyle (especially your AA commute) sounds like it could age a man prematurely!

    Glad you’re home on the weekends though. That’s got to make life a lot easier.

  • Beverly says:

    I was happy to see you saw the space shuttle. That must have made your day.

  • Pam Deveau says:

    I’m so glad you have this blog. It makes me feel close to you!!! Love you lots!!!

  • May 10 Update:

    I commuted again through Dallas this morning. As I ran through DFW with only 20 minutes between flights, I realized I made a small error in this post.

    The DFW train is called SkyLink. I confused the name with the train at other airports. I actually hesitated in the terminal when I couldn’t find a sign pointing to the closest AirTrain stop.

    I guess that’s what happens when I write blog posts in the middle of the night.

  • Cook says:

    The commute schedule back to Denver is creative, to say the least. But then it IS about getting home and the QOL time with your family
    A question, sir: Computer access about load factors and booking on your own line is a no-brainer. Can you also access booked loads on other carrier’s flights – or must you call them, perhaps their Jump Seat Desk? How do you figure your seat odds on lines other than your own?
    Like your blog and follow regularly. -C.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      If I need a specific load, I can text a friend who works for that airline. The non-rev or reservation line will often provide a general “it looks good/bad” or “there are more than xx seats open on the flight.”

      There are also several sites that will give a general indicator of the load. For example, http://www.flyzed.com will display a green smiley, yellow expressionless, or red frown face depending on your chances to get a seat.

      That being said, you never actually know until you show up at the gate. I’ve been bumped off supposedly “wide open” flights and boarded ones that were oversold by twenty.

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