Author Topic: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects  (Read 13970 times)

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Offline Gunshark

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Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« on: January 04, 2013, 23:23:08 »
Hello,

Long post. Appreciate reader dedication.

I’m a DEO pilot applicant, in the application process since July 2012. I’ve read several pilot-related threads on this wonderful forum already and I’m sure I will continue reading further. Admittedly, I haven’t read everything but the majority of info seems to be on the trade itself, from completing the application file to aircrew selection to pilot training to finally flying missions. There seems to be less info on how other areas of a pilot’s life are affected. I’m sorry if the questions I’m about to ask have been answered somewhere individually some time ago. But I figured it would be logical anyway to bring them together in one place, not to mention receive more up-to-date answers. I think it goes without saying that most people trying to get into this trade sleep and dream about flying missions. However, I believe how this line of work affects other aspects of a pilot’s life is equally important.

If the currently serving pilots, either fast jet, ME, or RW (or perhaps other Air Force trade members that live comparable lifestyles outside of work hours) on this site could please answer the following questions, myself and I’m sure others would be very thankful for the info and find it a useful part of their CF pilot career research. Thank you very much.

1.   Personal Life. It seems that a number of applicants are married or in long-term relationships already, and the CF website as well as this forum provide some info on how to manage personal life with your significant other. However, if you are single, as I’m sure many applicants other than myself are, what are the prospects of meeting people outside of work hours? And is there any time for that? Pilot hours seem to be long, postings seem to be mostly to small towns, and a lot of time is spent being away. So I’m trying to get a realistic picture, from those single pilots who’ve already served for some time and have experience with this – is it reasonable to expect a meaningful personal life? Is it mostly casual encounters or is it possible to find a keeper? Does the relationship usually go to hell after you deploy for several months? What are the chances of long term postings near the urban centres?

2.   Career Progression. This question has two parts. I understand that pilot candidates are awarded the rank of 2Lt upon graduation from BMOQ. I also understand that the pilot training that follows has a different timeline for everyone, depending on training spots available, etc. However, what is the ballpark timeline for years spent as 2Lt and years spent as Lt, and when is a reasonably capable candidate expected to earn Capt? The second part of the question is, what is the expected salary progression, starting with BMOQ to earning Capt? I am kind of confused by the Pay Scale table on the CF website (http://www.forces.ca/en/page/payscales-131#officersregular-1). I can’t really read it because I don’t know when the pay increments come into play, etc. So what is the expected time and salary range for BMOQ, for 2Lt, for Lt and Capt? I’m not in this for the money, but it would help to know this for financial planning.

3.   Cost of Living. In their answers to this question, I don’t expect people to put a dollar amount on this because everyone lives differently and spends differently. However, I’m sure some of you came from bigger cities where the cost of living is higher, and then experienced a change in this cost as you likely moved to smaller town next to where you are posted. Is the cost of living significantly lower near most semi-remote military base locations? Is it reasonable to expect to save a lot more on living as compared to city living?

4.   Life after Service. I am sure many of you have wondered about life after the initial service term, as have I. So I’m wondering what kind of good plans are out there. One option would be to try to renew the contract. That may not be possible, however, or that may not be one’s choice, perhaps for family reasons or any others. So what then? Are veteran pilots welcome in the airlines? Is it easy to get those jobs? What about heli pilots? Is it reasonable to expect to find a pilot job in the civilian world upon retirement from the CF? Or is military flying not recognized in the civi world? What kind of other jobs can pilots get? I have a mechanical engineering university degree. I’m sure other pilots have technical degrees as well. Would some combination of engineering degree/work experience and military flying experience be in demand for jobs in the civilian world? Once again, hard to say if I’d want to leave the CF, or perhaps I’d want to start something of my own, but it’s just good to cover all bases. Has anyone done something smart with their money during their service, and then retired having rental property paying their bills? That certainly would be something interesting to think about.

Those are all the questions I can think of so far. Will add more if I think of any. Thank you very much to those who take the time to read this and provide answers. Much appreciated.

Offline Dimsum

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2013, 01:22:54 »
I'm not a Pilot, but the life of an ACSO (schedule-wise) is similar to a Pilot in the Aurora/Sea King communities.  I'll just chime in with some easier answers:

- Personal life:  Yes, most of the postings aren't next to urban centres, but what you define as "meaningful personal life" will come into play.  Being originally from Toronto, it took a while for me to adjust to CFB Comox, but by the time I left I thought I was in one of the best possible posting locations (FYI, Comox is a town of about 20,000 people about an hour away from Nanaimo, BC).  As for relationships, each one is different but the bottom line, IMHO, is if that person isn't good with moving or independent enough to deal with you not being around, it's not going to work.  Also, if you are intent on flying (vice shifting to more of a "staff officer" role in HQ), then the chances of being posted to urban centres (Ottawa, Winnipeg, etc.) would be correspondingly less. 

- Career progression:  It's a bit tough to read, but each IPC (e.g. for Capt the 1-10) corresponds to each year you've been at that rank.  The various letters (A through E) mean the type of entry plan you enrol in (ROTP, etc.)  Many times Pilots will be "double-promoted" from 2LT to Capt since Lt and Capt are generally time-based ranks, but I have seen Lt Pilots before.

- Cost of living:  Not all remote locations are cheap; 4 Wing Cold Lake, for example, is getting some publicity in the news b/c due to housing prices thanks to the oil/gas industry.  Also, Post Living Differential (PLD) will vary between posting locations, and some will seem woefully inadequate to the current housing prices (again, Cold Lake.)
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline SF2

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2013, 08:16:05 »
Long story short - it depends.

Depends what you fly, where you live, what your duties are, what the op tempo is, how you manage your life on a personal/financial/social level.

Everyone's situation is different, and yours will be too.

Offline Gunshark

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2013, 10:32:35 »
Thanks guys. Couple of comments/questions.

So it is reasonable to say that during the 2-4 years it takes to complete flight training, pilot salary would go from about mid-40s to about mid-50s? I'm assuming the Capt rank is awarded around the time of earning Wings. (Is that correct?) And then at that point salary suddenly jumps to mid-70s?

If one decides that 10 years of flying is enough (hard to imagine, but there may be reasons such as family), is it reasonably achievable to earn a promotion to Major? I realize this would probably mean flying a desk, but would it also mean more consistency in location and work hours?

Thanks.

Offline Good2Golf

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2013, 13:11:44 »
Gunshark, during your training, you will remain a 2Lt.  Once you graduate and receive your wings (i.e. MOC*/MOSID**-qualified), you will be promoted to Lt. 

There are a number of regulations and policies that affect when you will be promoted to Capt, but a general rule-of-thumb (i.e. there are always exceptions) is that after three years of commissioned service (first as 2Lt, next two as Lt, but promotion to Lt not effective until MOC-qualified) you are eligible for promotion to Capt.  Lt to Capt at year three is, by policy not automatic; however, it is rare not to occur at this three year after commissioning.

Promotion to Major (as with all ranks) is merit based.  Minimum time from Capt to Maj, four years (called EPZ***), but to be honest, it is pretty rare to see a Capt promoted to Maj in just four years.  More often, one sees "streamer****" Capts promoted to Maj at five or six years, so being promoted to Maj in 10 years certainly is possible.

As a Capt, you could have a flying career for your entire service; rare but possible.  As a Capt, it is possible to have the occasional ground tour as well -- perhaps one ground tour for every two or three flying tours.  As a Major, you will necessarily have a ground tour, and the ratio between flying to ground tour is approximately 1:1, so for every time you get to fly, you will likely have a tour flying a BD4D.*****  By the time you are a LCol, there flying to staff ratio is less than 1:1, in that as a general rule, a LCol gets only one flying tour...as a squadron Commanding Officer.  That tour is usually superseded by a ground tour or two, and followed only by ground tours thereafter.


That said, for your questions asked earlier:

1. Personal Life.  "Balance"  If you are married, communication and joint decision with your spouse to balance your and their desires/concerns/goals is important.  I've been married for 22 of my 28 years of service and "balance" is working pretty well, so far.  Don't skimp on balance -- as a wise CO of mine once said, "Remember, at the end of the day, make sure that no matter how you conduct your career, that you have someone warm to roll up against in bed in the middle of a cold night."  :nod:

2. Career Progression.  See above.

3. Cost of Living.  As noted previously, semi-remote or remote postings is no guarantee of lower costs, in fact quite often the opposite.  Even places where you'd think costs would be lower, aren't.

4. Life after Service.  I'm not an expert on this as I'm still serving, but retiring pilots don't always remain flying.  Those who do, it seems to me that fixed wing pilots have a greater likelihood of remaining flying than rotary wing pilots.  As a general rule, the commercial helicopter industry does not pay as much as the military for the hours of flying experience compared to the airlines (where it seems most ex-service pilots move to).  For me, while I have a CPL-H with multiple ratings, I do not foresee a post-CF career in the commercial helicopter industry, but rather working in an area of industry that uses the wide skill set that I have accumulated in service.  As folks say, YMMV.******

Good luck in your application, and let us know how things go.

Regards
G2G


* MOC - military occupation code (officers' version of non-commissioned members' "trade")
** MOSID - military occupation structure identification description (a newer combined officer/NCM "MOC/trade" structure)
*** EPZ - entry to promotion zone (the minimum time in rank before being merit ranked for promotion to the next rank)
**** streamer - someone progressing rapidly through the ranks due to exceptional performance
***** BD4D - big desk, four drawers
****** YMMV - your mileage may vary

Offline Gunshark

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2013, 14:28:31 »
Wow, thanks a lot G2G, definitely great info. Sent some MilPoints your way, not that you're short haha.

Couple of comments.

Sounds like you got married while already serving for a few years. Was she your gf/fiancé before service or did you meet during your service? I get the idea that it takes a certain kind of woman to marry an officer and that much compromise and balance has to enter the marriage or the relationship. What I'm trying to get an idea for is if it's significantly more difficult for a soldier, as compared to a civilian, to meet people in the first place? Is it really true that soldiers may as well forget about having a personal life or is it really not that bad?

Another question is, can heli pilots convert within a reasonable time to fixed wing pilots and be picked up by the airlines? Or is this really an unlikely scenario? When you say you'd work in the area where you'd use the wide range of your skills, what kind of jobs are you referring to?

One more. How are the further education opportunities for a pilot? I love education, and would definitely consider picking up more technical skills, science & engineering knowledge (probably related to aviation), or obtaining various qualifications within CF. What about volunteering? Is there time for any of this? Does the CF help you pay for it?

Thanks a lot.

Offline Dimsum

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2013, 14:45:40 »
Wow, thanks a lot G2G, definitely great info. Sent some MilPoints your way, not that you're short haha.

Couple of comments.

Sounds like you got married while already serving for a few years. Was she your gf/fiancé before service or did you meet during your service? I get the idea that it takes a certain kind of woman to marry an officer and that much compromise and balance has to enter the marriage or the relationship. What I'm trying to get an idea for is if it's significantly more difficult for a soldier, as compared to a civilian, to meet people in the first place? Is it really true that soldiers may as well forget about having a personal life or is it really not that bad?

Another question is, can heli pilots convert within a reasonable time to fixed wing pilots and be picked up by the airlines? Or is this really an unlikely scenario? When you say you'd work in the area where you'd use the wide range of your skills, what kind of jobs are you referring to?

One more. How are the further education opportunities for a pilot? I love education, and would definitely consider picking up more technical skills, science & engineering knowledge (probably related to aviation), or obtaining various qualifications within CF. What about volunteering? Is there time for any of this? Does the CF help you pay for it?

Thanks a lot.

There is certainly time for a personal life, just not long stretches of free time.  So, while there is significant time off (20 working* days, then 25 after 5 years) and I would say I have much more than my friends in most of the aviation industry (not including major airlines), I wouldn't be able to commit to a sports league or something.  That being said, there are base sports teams, so obviously that isn't always the case.

Further education opportunities is a great (and highly-overlooked, IMHO) bonus for the CF.  The CF will pay for certain post-grad programs, dependent on your trade, rank and such.  Of course, you pay back in years of service (can't remember offhand what the ratio is) but hey, it's free education (MBA, M.Sc, etc.)  The list refreshes every year but generally includes most Cdn universities, as well as some international ones for certain degrees.  There are also courses like the Aerospace Systems Course, which can lead into a Masters of Public Admin or Engineering (depending on your quals beforehand) and is jointly held btwn the RCAF and the University of Manitoba.  Then, there are the international courses (Aerospace Systems Course in England or Australia, etc.)  Basically, if you get in, get trained and have an interest, ask and you may receive. 

* Working as in not statutory, weekend, or other random vacation time (a few days here and there for good work, etc.)
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Reply:  "If."

Offline Good2Golf

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2013, 14:58:10 »
Gunshark, I was ROTP so my first four years were at a Canadian MilCol and I started dating my wife in my last year, so I was still a 'student' per se for a year, before I started my pilot training.  My wife (fiancée at the time) even came out to Moose Jaw and Portage La Prairie during my training to see what we were embarking on before she finally hitched up with me...and educated consumer, one might say.  :nod:  We were actually married several months after I was type-rated on my first operational aircraft, so we knew where were posted to and what I'd be doing for the next little while.

I know of many folks who have transferred from helos back to fixed wing and it hasn't taken very long to get qualified on type.  Most of those folks were like me, having done our Ph 2 training on the CT-114 Tutor, back in the day when everybody and their cousin trained on the Tutor, not just the Snowbirds these days.  That is to say, there may have been a larger "common baseline" amongst all CF pilots, fixed or rotary-wing back when the Southern Saskatchewan sky was dark with Tutors buzzing overhead and the ramp was literally lined with more than a hundred jets every day.  Today, the return to fixed from helo world still occurs, but it seems to happen mostly at 15 Wing to return to 2 CFFTS instructional duties, primarily on the Harvard.

As for education, there is plenty of opportunity for further education, pilot or any other officer alike.  Many programs (both sponsored and unsponsored post-grad, for example) exist.  You can also undertake part-time education at an accredited establishment and be reimbursed as part of an individual learning plan (ILP) approved by the Canadian Defence Academy.  This would be no different for other officer classifications as well, though.

Hope that helps.

Cheers
G2G

Offline Gunshark

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2013, 18:20:20 »
Thank you.

If I cannot (or do not wish...unless ordered of course) to transfer from RW to fixed wing while serving, how long would it take to get fully qualified for civilian fixed wing upon completion of service? And would my military helicopter hours count for anything in civi fixed wing, or RW for that matter, aviation? (I'm going on the assumption that should I be successful in my application, I'll be placed in RW. Those are the odds. But I don't think I'd mind flying anything really.) Just trying to get an idea if it's reasonable to expect to land a similar-salary pilot job in the civilian world upon completion of service. I'd appreciate if someone else could pitch in other civi job ideas for an ex-service pilot. Maybe a consultant for an aircraft manufacturer etc. (Perhaps someone has done a lot more research on this already. After all, many pilots are serving and I'm assuming have a good idea what they'd like to do after their term.) I honestly don't know if I'd want to go back to the civi world post-military, I just want to have options to support my parents and any possible future family should I choose to not renew my military contract for any number of reasons. As a seasoned Captain, or perhaps even a Major, is it possible to request a permanent posting somewhere, even a CFRC, should I decide this is the best course of action based on any future circumstances?

Any further details on personal life? Will there always be some local bars to hang out and meet people? Online dating? I'm just trying to picture the reality of it. I live in Toronto now, and I usually meet people through my friends or I get involved in hobbies, like sports teams, dance classes, etc. I like meeting people while doing something cool together. But realizing that CF pilot work hours are long and irregular (as are locations), I'm not sure how many of those extra-curriculars I would be able to take part in, if any. As was mentioned above, even being in a league is unrealistic unless it's on base. I understand that service in the CF implies limitations in other areas of one's life, not to mention the risks. It takes certain kind of mindset to do this work. All I'm asking is if it is reasonable to expect to have some kind of personal life during service and how good the quality of it would be.

Appreciate the answers given already and look forward to any further contributions. Thank you lots. Hopefully it doesn't sound like I'm nitpicking, especially have not been accepted yet. I just want to know what I'm potentially getting into.

Offline SF2

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2013, 08:41:32 »
Again, there are 1 million and one possibilities when it comes to how you spend your time outside of work.  Needless to say, different locations have their benefits:

- Petawawa:  Boating, camping, hunting, snowmobiling
- Shearwater:  Lower Deck :)
- Victoria: Ski and surf on the same day
- Gagetown: Expensive beer and outrageous property taxes, but lots of time for family or socializing

Just to name a few......

Everything else has pretty much been covered.  There are a lot of opportunities to continue education or skills.  There are opportunities to get promoted (although some take longer than others :)  ).  There are opportunities to switch airframes, or even communities - however with the extended Grob direct to RW trg initiative, that may become a more rare occasion.

Bottom line there is no way to predict what your life is going to be like.  Take one step at a time and make the best of what you're presented with.  Most of the time, its a blessing in disguise.

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2013, 13:47:41 »
 ;D

Corruption in politics doesn't scare me.
What scares me is how comfortable people are doing nothing about it.

Offline Dimsum

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2013, 13:54:53 »

Bottom line there is no way to predict what your life is going to be like.  Take one step at a time and make the best of what you're presented with.  Most of the time, its a blessing in disguise.

QFMFT.  OP, the CF will involve lots of unforseen changes, both work and lifestyle.  Be honest with yourself; if you're the type of person who has to have everything perfectly planned in advance lifestyle/career-wise, the CF may not be the best career choice (and that's fine.)
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline Gunshark

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Re: Life of a Pilot: The Off-Duty Aspects
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2013, 15:03:25 »
Thank you for the insight guys. Apologies if my questions came across in the wrong way. I'm definitely not the type who must have his life fully planned out or even enjoys doing so. In fact, I love life for all its adventures and things that aren't predictable. I am also aware, and even more so now, that life in the CF is not something you can predict or have control over. I was asking questions more to get a general sense of things, just through your personal experiences, however specific they might be. I asked mainly for reasons such as being able to support my parents at old age, and being able to spend at least some quality time with the old and new friends and girls outside of work - the very folks I hope to help protect as part of my career. Once again, I appreciate all the insight you have given me. Cheers.