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Perhaps you've had a chance to read my first diary about my job flying freight at night.

Haulin' the Freight - Part 1

Maybe you'd like to know a little more about this unusual occupation. What made a (relatively) sane individual want to haul boxes at 3:00 AM in bad weather? I've asked that question myself once or twice.

Sometimes people will ask me "Do you want to fly passengers someday?"

The answer is no. Not because I don't like people. The main reason to fly freight is money. Both for me and for my employer. Freight is much more profitable than passengers. That's the main reason the US railroads got out of the passenger business.

A plane full of freight simply has a lot more money in the back than a plane full of passengers.

That's why passenger airlines tend to go boom and bust while freight companies tend to be pretty stable.

I'm very well paid for what I do. I make more than my counterparts at Delta and United and I have a pension. An actual defined-benefits plan, plus a 401K plus health care. Not many jobs like that any more I'm sad to say.

I also have a union. Needless to say those are getting scarce.

So how do you get a job like this? It takes years of hard work and a lot of luck. I spent 21 years flying in the military T-38s, B-52s and KC-135s. I had the kind of hours the airlines look for - heavy jet time, fast-mover time, aircraft commander, night, instrument, combat, instructor, heavy jet instructor. You name it, I had it.

But you know what? That's not enough. I also knew people at the company who sponsored me. Who walked my application through to the right people. If not, my resume would still be sitting in a pile with 5000 others exactly as qualified myself. People had to vouch that I'd be a good fit, someone you could spend a week-long trip with and not want to kill each other at the end of it.

Then I had to make it through a 2 day interview process.

Then I showed up for the job and found out that airline training is much more compressed than Air Force training. I spent six months learning to fly the B-52. I had six weeks to learn the 727. Time is money. If I'm in training I'm not out making money for the company.

Then I had to adjust to the nights. Some people can't do it. I've known people who quit because they just couldn't make themselves sleep in the daytime.

I also had to adjust to being away from home 15-19 days a month. If I do this job until I'm 65 (mandatory retirement age) I will spend roughly 8 of the next 15 years in hotels. I probably know enough about hotels to run one at this point.

The plus side is when I'm home, I'm home. No paperwork. No taking work home. My time is my own.

So have I enjoyed my 8 years so far of flying the line? Yes. I make good money, I mostly like the people I work with, I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule.

Are there things I don't like? Sure. Flying in bad weather is no fun. I don't like turbulence any more than you do. It's no fun trying to pick your way through a line of thunderstorms in the middle of the night or waiting to de-ice in a big winter storm or being number 20 in the conga-line at Newark waiting to take off.

Then I'll realize that I'm sitting at the controls of a jet airliner and my inner 8-year-old will say "This is really cool!"

Or as the joke goes:
"I want to be a pilot when I grow up".
"Well pick one or the other because you can't do both".

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