Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ferry Flying As A Career?

It’s not the glamorous life everyone thinks it is

Flying the Atlantic, we ideally go into truly unglamorous Goose Bay, Labrador; then on to Narsarsuaq, Greenland; Reykjavik, Iceland—admittedly one of the nicer stops—and Wick, Scotland (no reason you should have heard of it, but it’s inexpensive). We’ll often spend many extra days on the North Atlantic route waiting for weather, since it’s sometimes simply unflyable for little guys at low altitude. That’s especially the case in spring and fall, when icing is the worst. When we do fly, we do so to the least expensive airports we can find, often arriving after the hotel restaurant has closed and leaving the next morning before it opens.

We’re not allowed the privilege of taking extra days off en route on most trips. When you’re delivering a buyer’s $1 million Malibu or Baron, much less a $2 million Caravan or Meridian, chances are the buyer won’t be too happy if you take a couple of extra days off in Reykjavik to visit the Blue Lagoon.

True, we may have the option of staying a few extra nights at our destination (on our own nickel, of course), but that destination may not be all that exciting. On Paris trips, for example, we usually deliver to Toussus-le-Noble Airport, which is halfway between Paris and Versailles, and 30 miles from anywhere. Flying to Japan, we never deliver to Narita (Tokyo)—way too expensive. Instead, we go into Sendai, which is 200 miles north. Profit rules.

If you want to make money in the ferry business, then you jump the first flight home (riding in coach, naturally), which is often in the middle of the night and includes two stops and plane changes to get the lowest fare.

Aw gee, Bill, that all sounds really tough, flying million-dollar airplanes overseas. No, it isn’t always. None of this is to suggest there aren’t some rewards to ferry flying. In 201 international trips so far, I’ve been paid to visit probably 60 countries in the last 32 years. Too often, however, all I’ve seen has been the local airport and the road back and forth to the hotel. Most of the time, ferry flights are days and days of hard work punctuated by brief moments of fun. And, yes, the view from on high has often been worth it. Just don’t call it glamorous.

Bill Cox is in his third decade as a senior contributor to Plane & Pilot. He provides consulting for media, entertainment and aviation concerns worldwide. E-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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