Pilot Lifestyle
Double duty day sleep
September 25, 2015

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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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 9 comments

  • Cedarglen says:

    Hello – Brian if I recall correctly…
    We do not hear from you very often, but the posts are great! Some may find this one a bit dull, but I do not. As a career-long variable (mostly night) shift worker, I enjoyed it. The real key is one’s ability to adapt to a constantly changing schedule and that seems to be an age-related ability. You are young and you can adapt. The extra Quality Time with your family as well as the somewhat softer nighttime workload is one heck of a good deal. I suspect that there is also a minimal amount of bonus pay coming your way. In the end, the schedule plus your commuting needs will work for now. That said, one of these days the comfortable routine will bite you in a tender spot. In most cases, those who pay attention will feel the need for some change and see the signs begin to appear. That’s the time to review and revise, not after some part of you cracks. Funny/strange, but your partner and family will recognize the need for change a bit sooner that you do. That’s just the way it is. Having been though it myself, very best suggestion that I can offer is to stay connected with your partner and talk about schedule and QOL issues on a regular basis. S/he will know when it is time to revise…
    I’m well aware that a substantial number of your professional colleagues commute; some very senior pilots have done so for their entire careers. I guess it is all about QOL and being able to live where you wish to live. And during my working years, I could not have done it. A constantly changing schedule, often including red-eye work, plus the additional hours getting to and from the reporting point would not have worked for me. I guess I was lucky; my first professional job was less than 30 miles from home and I kept essentially the same job for >39 years. Thanks for a great post, best wishes and YES, it wold be great to hear from you a bit more often…-Cg

  • Nice to see a couple of posts close to each other. Referencing Cedarglen – it wasn’t dull. It’s part of flying and gives the regular folks another peek into the fun-filled, fantastic airline world. (a little humor).
    Please keep them coming. Quality blogs by career pilots are rare on the net and you help fill a big empty hole. Would love to see a story or two of the crew hanging out together on a layover.
    Fly safe.

    • Hi Courtney…

      Thanks again for your continuing support of my blog. I really appreciate that you consider it a “quality blog.” I assume you also read the blogs I have listed in the sidebar of this site? There are a bunch of great aviation blogs out there on the web.

      As for the frequency of the posts… I’ll try. I’ve mentioned this before in the comments, but I’ll reiterate it here in case you haven’t seen my rationale for frequency. There are two reasons I don’t post that often anymore. First, I’m very busy with flying and family life. Therefore, I don’t have as much free time as I’d like to write. Second, this career is very redundant. I only like to write about new topics and/or stories. I could put out a post every week, but I’m afraid it would say the same thing over and over again: commuted to work, flew four days, spent three nights in hotels and commuted home. Commute was a disaster? Oh, I’ve already written plenty of those posts. 🙂

      If I can dig up a layover story from deep in my brain that won’t incriminate someone, maybe I’ll share it. Sadly though, we are completely separate from the rest of the crew on 99% of the layovers. The new rest rules were pretty much the final nail in the coffin of flight crews hanging out together.

  • Eric Auxier says:

    Great explanation, not only the quirks of one’s normal schedule, but even the consequences of an unintentional mis-bid. Hashtag, Crewlife!

    I can see your logic in how you enjoy that type of trip…but you can have it, LOL! Though, I must admit, your redeye home is at least a fairly decent short one–provide no hiccups, as you alluded to in your comment about the commute home.

    Even with the most senior of schedules (and I’m by no means senior, but by a quirk of equipment and base get mostly “gentlemen’s hours” schedules), the very nature of our biz is a stress on anyone’s biorhythms, and it’s always a challenge for us to figure out what works best. I can only imagine what our international overseas brothers and sisters must endure with 11-12 hour long haul flights, through 8 or more time zones. No thanks, I’ll take your redeye home!

    Eric “Cap’n Aux” Auxier

    • Eric…

      You are correct that the shortness of the red-eye makes it tolerable. I still fly some longer red-eyes on the first leg of a trip and they remind me what real night flying is like. Five hours down to Bogota on day one is a pretty good slap in the face.

      But, as I said in this post, this works for me. I’m able to adjust my sleep patterns to accommodate this style of trip. While this works for me, I understand it is a nightmare for others.

      Maybe there’s a blog post waiting to be written about mis-bids. One of my most eye opening moments came shortly after we rolled out our first preferential bidding system. I instructed to the system to give me only trips that “ended before 14:00.” It honored my request and gave me four trips that released at 12:05AM. Yes, to a computer, that was well before 2pm. I bet it was proud of itself.

      (Readers… If you want to know how to avoid this problem when you start using bidding software, always bid a release time range such as 0400-1400 to avoid getting trips that finish just after midnight.)

  • Ron Rapp says:

    It’s funny how the schedule nobody wants is something another person can’t wait to have. I think it goes well beyond aviation. What’s the saying? “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Interesting that you probably never would have even known how much you liked it if not for the bidding quirk that gave you the first one.

  • David says:

    As always, excellent post. I for one 100% support your decision to only post when something unique comes up! This was no exception! In fact, in gives redaers like me something to look forward to every now and then. Speaking of waiting, I know its not Christmas yet but, can we PLEASE have an objective piece comparing a pilots view on Airbus and Boeing from someone who’s flown both? I may be pushing my luck here but I’d love it of you could! *Fingers Crossed*

  • TotoNSha says:

    RP, thanks for this post. Very informative and gives us a glimpse of what some of your scheduling looks like. As always we really enjoy reading your blog and look forward to your future posts. Here’s hoping too that we could be on one of your flights someday. Our home airport is IAH (KIAH).

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