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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Friday, December 05, 2008


A few months ago, my airline announced it would be closing its Boston base. All of the domicile's 240 pilots would have to find new homes throughout the system.
For me, New York's John F. Kennedy seemed like the best choice and I was awarded the new base effective this month. Tomorrow will be my first trip out of there and also my first time commuting to work by air.
Unlike many others in this line of work, I have been fortunate enough to drive to work for the past two years. What many outside of the profession do not know is that a large number of airline pilots fly great distances to get to work. I know of one pilot, for instance, who lives in the desert outside of Las Vegas and had to commute to Richmond, VA for many years. That included a long trek by car to Vegas or sometimes L.A., followed by two, or sometimes three flights to his base. After too many such trips to and from work, he was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and removed from flying for some time.
Another pilot I know flies all the way from Ireland and while I thought that was crazy, I met another guy who commutes from Germany to Newark to get to work.
While I have been bemoaning the new arrangement, it is not quite as bad for me although JFK can be a tricky airport to get in and out of because of congestion, heavy passenger loads and of course, the uncertainty of weather. It is also a major ding to an already questionable quality of life.
It will be a new and not necessarily pleasant experience, but it has shown me just how lucky I have been in the past two years to live a mere 45 minutes from the airport I flew out of. Life will be harder, the days longer and I fully expect to get caught in Kennedy on my way home and hardly relish the idea of spending a night in the crew lounge to await the first flight home the following day.
But unfortunately it comes with the job and is one of those many unsavory things we have to put up with to continue working in this job we love so much. I don't know of many other professions that require people to commute such long distances, never knowing whether you will make the flight to or from work.
While you may assume that riding my airline to work, especially on such a frequent route, shouldn't be too bad, think again. My airline would actually charge me for the service. Yes, I would have to pay my employer to get to a base I had never signed up for in the first place and that is just not acceptable to me since I can ride a couple of other carriers for free.
This really is a unique and messed up line of work. But the fact that so many would endure such difficulties every day of the week only goes to show that the job is fueled by passion.


Blogger Captain Dave said...

Capt. Wilko I have felt your pain. I to have commuted to work and have spent many nights in the crew lounge after watching the last flight home depart as I watched from the terminal. I now feel fortunate that I am with an airline based in San Francisco, about a two hour drive(with favorable traffic). There is nothing like driving to work and I count my blessings. I hope you can find a way to change your circumstances and someday live in you domicile.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Capt. Wilko said...

Thanks Dave. Well, I have to say the first time commuting wasn't too bad. But I know I'll be living through some of the same things you have as a commuter and I can't say I'm looking forward to it! How are you liking your new airline? A couple of friends of mine went over there a few months ago.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous zylhuette said...

I thought being a pilot is easy but as i read your experiences i could understand how you feel.

6:13 AM  
Blogger aa said...


9:47 PM  

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