On paper, the trips look rough.
The first time I saw one of the pairings, I thought pilots would have to be insane to bid them. I felt sorry for the junior pilots forced to fly them. I wondered how the FAR 117 rest rule overhaul could legally allow the trips to be built.
About six months ago, through one careless oversight on my bid sheet, I was awarded one of THOSE trips.
I admit, I griped a bit.
Then, I flew it.
Much to my surprise, I actually liked it.
At the airline I worked during my second furlough, I became accustomed to flying red-eye flights. Since I was based on the west coast, the red-eye usually flew on day one or day three of the trip. I would sleep during the day and return to the west coast that evening.
These days, depending on the month, I’m based in Newark or Houston. For the last four months, I’ve been awarded temporary duty in Houston. This out of base assignment comes with a bunch perks, so I volunteer whenever they offer it.
Since my epiphany, I’ve adjusted my monthly PBS bid to solely request these “terrible” trips.
Here’s what I’ve been flying recently:
- Day One: Usually a busy day with two to three legs of flying.
- Day Two: Usually a productive day with a few legs. The day ends in Dulles, Newark, Chicago or Denver.
- Day Three: One leg out west early in the morning. We finish in either Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
- “Day” Four: A red-eye back to Houston.
Notice that days three and four occur within a twenty four hour period.
These are legal trips… and, I love them.
On day three, after one flight, we arrive out west sometime in the mid-morning hours. The layover begins and lasts anywhere from twelve to fourteen hours. That night, between eleven o’clock and midnight, we catch a ride to the airport and fly back to Houston. Although the trip from Seattle is a little long, the others take three or less hours to return to Texas.
Here’s why it works for me…
By day three of crisscrossing the country, I become a little bit tired. Day three of the trip is so easy that I feel like I’m back in a hotel shortly after leaving one. For the next few hours, I get a lot accomplished and usually grab a good lunch. By three or four o’clock pacific time, I’m tired enough for quality rest.
I close the shades and fall into a deep sleep until forty five minutes before pickup.
I’m flying red-eyes more rested than I’ve been in years. It is enjoyable to fly in the middle of the night, gazing at a zillion stars with direct (wind permitting) routings and minimal radio chatter.
When I arrive in Houston, I catch another hour or two of sleep in our quiet room and then commute home on the first flight back to Nashville. If everything runs on-time, it allows a good chunk of a “work day” home with the family.
I know it sounds crazy.
But, like so many other things in life, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
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