Plane & Pilot
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

The most accurate examples of real-world training costs are airline pilot graduates themselves. Of the 66 airline pilots hired in 2010 thus far, 23 of them have been from ATP. There are those like Daniel Castillo, who was hired by American Eagle some 30 months after he began training. His total training expenses were $58,990. Jeremy Hale was hired by Ameriflight after he spent a total of $61,490 on training, and Bryan Devicenzi spent $44,995 from zero hours to right seat with American Eagle. Also, many college aviation programs offer lower-cost alternatives to big-name schools. So while it’s possible to watch your dollars get sucked up by endless flight hours, there are alternatives to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.

Corporate Flying
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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