Posted by: Korry | February 2, 2012

A Year in the Life of a Pilot

When you travel for a living, you definitely don’t think about all the places you go. One trip leads to the next. One overnight blends with the next. And before you know it, you speak as cavalierly about going to Europe as your neighbor speaks about going to Wawa or 7-11!!

And then there are those occasions when you step back and look at all the places you go and you are amazed. As an airline pilot, I definitely rack up the miles! As part of the presentation I mentioned briefly on Monday, I put together a few PowerPoint slides that graphically show just how many places I do visit in a year.

Today, I’m going to show you what two busy years as a pilot look like…on a map.

In 2008, I was flying the Boeing 757 and 767, based in the New York City area, and flying mostly European routes while also covering some longer-haul domestic, Caribbean and South America trips. Check out this incredible map of my journeys:

2008 in Review (Flying the Boeing 757/767)

That year, I crossed 630 time zones and spent 119 nights away from home. That doesn’t even count the days I did one-day trips, or “turns” as we call them. Here’s a list of the cities I passed through in 2008:

2008 Cities

I think flying the 757/767 is about as good as it gets, at least when it comes to the variety of flying. International flying and domestic flying both have unique positives and negatives. Without a doubt, my favorite overnights have been in Europe. I mean, I basically became a local in London since I visited there so much. I knew the good pubs, the tiny eateries and the quiet park benches that were great for people watching or just enjoying a lazy afternoon. The big downside to so much international travel is the toll it takes on your body thanks to crazy time zone changes and all-night flights.

So after getting married in 2010, I decided it was time for a change, and I bid to the Boeing 737. My thinking was that I’d be more senior within my base, thus providing me more days off and the ability to avoid back-side-of-the-clock flights. That was a great theory, but I’m not sure it’s really worked out that way, especially given the number of west coast to east coast “red-eyes” I’ve done.

Additionally, instead of doing just one flight and then going to the hotel, now I often do two or three flights in a single day. Regional airline pilots will often fly even more legs per day than that! More flights means being subjected to more delays…something pilots dislike as much as you road warriors who buy tickets on our planes!

All told, I flew 255 flights measuring 336,758 statute miles. That’s enough to fly to the moon and about half way back! Here’s the map showing my travels in 2011:

2011 in Review (Flying the Boeing 737)

As you can see, a year on the 737 takes you to many more cities within the US, Mexico and Central America. Europe is a bit out of reach, especially in the wintertime when facing stiff headwinds on the return westward flight. My company flies a lot of trips on the 737 to South America, but those trips are almost all handled by pilots at a different base. We’ve also started trips to Hawaii from the west coast of the U.S. but I have yet to be assigned any of those trips.

Here’s the list of cities I made it to in 2011:

2011 Cities

The world definitely shrinks with this job. Far away cities become not once-in-a-lifetime destinations but everyday opportunities to really learn a new culture, become a “local”, sample exotic fare and truly make the world your playground. Now to be fair, I don’t always get to spend a lot of time in each city. Some overnights may be 24 or even 48 hours long, but others could be as little as 8 or 9. That’s barely enough time to go to the hotel and get a few hours to sleep. Thankfully, the new rest rules should provide some relief here.

Nevertheless, seeing a year of my life on a map is impressive (to me at least). I have a lot of good memories. I’ve tasted some amazing food. And I can’t wait to get back to (almost) every one of these cities to explore them some more.

Are you a frequent flier? How many miles would you estimate that you fly a year?

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