Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Pilot Careers 2010: A Brave New World
With the industry showing signs of life, preparation and training soon will meet opportunity for prospective pilots
For pilots attracted to new equipment, varying destinations and a bit more stability in crew scheduling, corporate flying is the ultimate. Corporate pilots fly aircraft owned by businesses or well-heeled individuals. Corporate flight departments usually employ small, fast jets or the latest turbo-prop aircraft to transport their executives to meetings and events across the country and around the world. Corporate flying could mean working for a giant corporation or, in the case of celebrities, a single client. The types of corporate flying jobs are as varied as the businesses themselves.
Corporate flying can be especially demanding, with the need to fly in almost any weather and with availability around the clock. Because destinations can be anywhere in the world, corporate pilots usually stay at least overnight and are frequently away from home for long stretches. Pilots who fly for corporate departments that have a fleet of airplanes might enjoy a more regular schedule than those flying for individuals or smaller companies. While airline pilots fly routine routes and know their schedules in advance, corporate pilots fly anything but routine. It might be a fishing trip in Baja today and a conference in Ohio tomorrow.
Another interesting revelation from the NTSB’s “Professionalism in Aviation” conference was that corporate hiring departments tend to be more subjective and thorough in hiring pilots than their airline counterparts. It seems corporate pilots frequently undergo deeper background checks, multiple interviews, and have to show greater flying proficiency than many airline new hires. This greater scrutiny highlights the fact that, in the corporate world, captains have to make final decisions about weather, loading and destinations themselves, without the benefit of dispatchers or large flight departments. Some corporate cockpits are single-pilot.
Landing a corporate flying job is very different from the commercial airline applicant system. Many corporate jobs aren’t even posted and rely on word of mouth between pilots. Networking is important for those seeking a corporate flying gig, and staying close to someone “on the inside” at a corporate flight department is a great idea. Pilot recruiters who specialize in business aviation are also an alternative (an Internet search will bring up many), as well as the NBAA and pilot organizations like Women in Aviation International (WAI—incidentally, not just for women). Salaries and benefits for corporate pilots are gaining—and sometimes surpassing—the airlines, so it’s an area with a bright future.
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