Flying - - Taking Wing -

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.

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