PURSUING A CORPORATE PILOT JOB
Ask most young pilots their ideal employer and nine times out of 10 they’ll answer flying for one of the major airlines, primarily because the airlines spend enormous amounts of money on branding and they usually get to fly the largest aircraft. They also pay pretty well. Business aviation, on the other hand, prefers a low profile for corporate privacy. So low is their visibility, in fact, many new aviators may have never heard of such a thing as corporate flying. But a segment where you can fly $50 million jets all across the globe deserves a close look.
Business aviation, sometimes referred to as private or corporate aviation, is the airborne transportation system used by hundreds of Fortune 500 companies to speed senior executives, midlevel employees and customers to and from locations often inaccessible on the airlines. Businesses operate their own or share a fractionally owned aircraft to buy back hours and often days of valuable time their employees waste trying to conduct business using the circuitous routes created by the airlines, a transportation system that serves approximately 500 or so general aviation airports around the United States.
Business aircraft normally fly direct from their home base to their destination, often one of the other 4,500 U.S. airports that airlines don’t use. Why fly from Colorado Springs to Denver to Chicago and switch aircraft again to end up in Peoria, Illinois, and later Moultrie, Georgia, an itinerary that would be agonizingly long on the airlines, when a business jet can carry a handful of executives from Colorado Springs direct to Peoria in a few hours and on to Moultrie long before dinner. If the meetings go well, the entire crew can be back home in time to read the kids a bedtime story. On the airlines, this trip would cover days of flying combined with lots of driving.
Many pilots are looking closely at business aviation because this segment — normally operated under Part 91 — doesn’t demand an ATP certificate to apply, and there’s no mandatory retirement age. That doesn’t mean business aviation’s standards are low. Pilots operating Gulfstream G650s or Falcon 8Xs on 14-hour segments around the globe are some of the most experienced aviators around. But not every company flies such heavy metal. A small manufacturing company might operate a King Air 200 with just two or three pilots on trips that keep the aircraft within a thousand miles of home. Qualifying for the right seat in a King Air 200 isn’t quite as difficult as a large jet, making the pilot with a commercial certificate, an instrument rating and less than 1,000 hours total time a possible candidate. Pay and benefits in a corporate job can be some of the best, including retirement.
Before you dive in thinking business aviation is everything you’ve been searching for, you should know this segment demands much more from a pilot than simply attendance, as some claim at the airlines. A business aviation pilot’s life is very hands-on and personal. These pilots are involved in every aspect of the flight, from checking
weather to filing flight plans to helping passengers stow their bags and golf clubs on board. Corporate pilots usually order the catering the boss’s wife prefers and ensure the cans of soda in the cabin remain in plentiful supply.
Because business aviation is so peoplefocused, pilot positions in this segment demand different job-hunting skills than those to secure an airline interview. The grapevine, one pilot talking to another, is often how the best job information is shared. That means an applicant must go where business aviation pilots gather, such as FBOS or business aviation events or bizav websites like nbaa .org. A business card with all the appropriate contact information is a necessity, as is a bit of personal salesmanship.