American Airlines Pilot Wives Share Tips for Navigating Aviation Lifestyle

pilot wife life

How Does One Prepare for the Pilot Wife Life?

If you are new to the aviation and pilot lifestyle, you may be wondering - What the heck have I gotten myself into? Is this for me? Am I the only one with these questions? What are the next 10 or 20 years going to be like?

What about kids and family?

I get it, these are common questions most of us had.

Marriage, kids, moving, furloughs, pay cuts, upgrades, aircraft changes, training, more training, check rides, medicals, loneliness, dealing with all the real life stuff that happens while they are flying.

 We have a funny joke in my house. Any time a conversation starts with “Mark was flying”, it’s going to be a train wreck. Trees falling on roofs, plumbing issues, power outages, garage door falling off the mounts -yep - “shiznit” happens.

On Today's show, I am thrilled to welcome 3 of my American Airlines Pilot Wife friends, who share their best tips and experiences for navigating the Aviation Lifestyle!

Welcome American Airlines Pilot Wife Friends: Hollie Magnuson, Liz Klein, and Elizabeth Whatley.

What is it like to be a pilot wife?

For some, it's the best life ever and all we have ever really known. For others, it is a huge adjustment!

We talk about the biggest "F" word of them all - flexibility! If it's not something you are used to, get used to it. You will forever be called upon to be flexible.

It's a give and take lifestyle for sure, and aren't they all?


What do you prepare for as an aviation family?

Prepare for the worst and alway hope for the best. Some years in aviation will be gold, and some not so much.

The beginning years as a Pilot wife can be stressful. And, what profession doesn't have that? Imagine a doctor - the education and student loan debt. Interning and then finding your current fit. It looks glamorous and like the perfect lifestyle to covet, but is it really?


Don't Pilots Make a Lot Of Money?

That's a loaded, trick question, to be honest. Yes, and no. It all depends. When a pilot is jut beginning, they don't typically make a lot of money. They are building time, knowledge, experience, skills and relationships within the professional aviation world.

Yes, it's pilot on the job training, but does not always pay so well. Those early years can be tough.

And, even when one hires on as a pilot at a major or Legacy airline, there tends to be an assumption that you are automatically a millionaire. That life is now sewn up solid and you are on easy street.

Well, the reality is, you are only ever as good as your current pilot contract, and that is subject to change and volatility. 

My recommendation is always be saving. Don't buy the big "captain's house" or fancy cars too fast. Max out your 401K or whatever you can contribute to, especially if the airline or company offers matching funds. Take the free money and plan.


What about furloughs, training, domicile changes?

We know all about the erratic schedules, disrupted plans, re-assignments at the most inopportune times, frustrating communication when they are flying, or in their “man cave.”

We know about domicile and airplane changes, flight medicals, uprooting and moving, just when you are making friends and settling in.

All of this is a part of the aviation lifestyle and honestly, will never change. The financial health of aviation will always be tied to the economy, oil prices, world strife, politics and pandemics, and more.

Growth means change, and often moving. Decisions must be made around how this will work within the family. Does everyone move? Just the pilot and will that mean commuting? Is it a commutable domicile change?

Here is the "Pilot Wife Life Boundaries Podcast" for more ideas on this topic and communicating about it!

Relocating can be challenging, especially if you have a career, too, and maybe one that doesn’t lend itself to moving. It can be frustrating to have to start all over as you chase your pilot from base to base.

As a pilot, upgrading and promoting can be tied to base changes, to move more quickly and sometimes for better schedules, pay, etc, so it can require some negotiation.

Relocating can be frustrating, lonely, and at the same time, AMAZING.


What about the holidays?

What day should Christmas and other holidays be celebrated if the pilot is not home?

How do kids adapt to this?

The best gift you can give your children when they have a pilot parent, is to always put your best face forward. Your pilot wants to be home, too. It's what you all want. And, in a profession like aviation, 

What about holidays with your inlaws without your pilot?

Here is a short checklist to get clear on before the holidays. And, the Pilot Wife Holiday Survival Guide Show!


  • Plan ahead and prepare as soon as you get their schedule


  • Handle your emotions ahead of time. Being sad and even angry is acceptable. Just not at them as they can’t help it either.


  • Call in your community, family and circle of friends


  • Be the “party starter”


  • Know that this too, shall pass


Since I was already part of the airline world, and already knew working holidays, so I was prepared. Sort of, and that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my frustrations. 

You may be too, if you have ever done shift work or anything outside of the norm of 8-5, corporate life.

Nothing new. Businesses run 24/7, and the airline world is no exception. 

Seniority based.

 Remember the 3 AAA's:





I cover this in the 7 Keys to a Fabulous Pilot Wife Life - 


Gosh, reflecting back there are so many memories; such fun times; challenging ones I thought would never end….and, such is life. 

My husband did manage to be home and there for the birth of both of our children.

He missed a lot of holidays, birthdays and special events and he was also there for a lot of them. I choose to focus on that.

We learned to celebrate the occasion and not the day, necessarily. Stay tuned for the holiday episode on those details.


How important are the Pilot Wife Facebook Groups and other online communities? 


We know about domicile and airplane changes, flight medicals, uprooting and moving, just when you are making friends and settling in.  

We’ve known the loneliness at times, and have found strength in our pilot wife community - a group who truly “gets” it.

One of the best parts of being a pilot wife are the friendships, support and community you can build.

I learned to value my friendships, other Pilot Wives, my community and find others in my same situation. Pilot Wives are great for that.

I've traveled all over the world with these friends, and built some amazing friendships that started in a Facebook group!

Ask around a do a search for the pilot wife groups.


How do we support them at home, keeping things under control?

Manage things. This is big! Manage your thoughts, feelings and emotions, first. And, then the physical situations you find yourself in.

 They aren’t always there or available when the Shiznit hits the fan.

 As best you can, decide on how household stuff will be dealt with - plumbers, electricians, handyman, etc, when trouble does come calling and your pilot is on a trip, and possibly unreachable.

Agree together how these situations will be handled and then agree together that when you must make decisions, they will be accepted and honored.  

Just like they get to do when flying, right?

You are the pilot in command when at home. 


What is a "Slam Clicker?"

It's the crewmember who goes straight to their hotel room, puts out the do not disturb sign, slams the door and clicks the lock. Some Pilot wive's and partners do not want their pilot socializing on trips. But, this can be a recipe for disaster and deception.

We understand the anxieties and worry of what they are up to in their “resort style life.” Ha, most of the time it’s not so “resort like!”

We’ve learned to make the most of the down times, and enjoy every bit of the good times.


Are the Travel Benefits Worth it?

YES, no question. Is it always perfect, no. But by remaining flexible, you might end up going to destinations you might have never imagined.  Teach your children how to navigate public transportation and foreign money and they can own the world!


Overall, we all agree - the Pilot Wife Life is a SWEET Lifestyle and we are all grateful for it!  And, proud members of the American Airlines Family and Pilot Wife Group!




Are you ready to live your best life?


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