Many budding pilots identify flying for the airlines as their best career choice, but I would argue that a corporate pilot career could be an even better choice. For certain it is one of the 7 great careers in general aviation.
I was fortunate enough to have had a job as a corporate pilot; in fact, I was the chief pilot for the corporation I flew for. We had a variety of aircraft ranging from a Turbo Commander to Douglas DC-3s.
I did a lot of my initial training and flying while attending Michigan State University, not in a formal aviation program, but rather in the Winged Spartans Flying Club, a great organization which unfortunately does not exist anymore.
I was offered a chance at an airline job, but turned it down thinking that being a glorified bus driver was not where I wanted to go. Several of my fellow students did take airline jobs, and almost without exception faced layoffs at least twice during their careers. Some even decided not to go back, and one became a school teacher.
The Corporate Pilot Life
The corporate pilot career path will depend, in large part, on the size of the company you wind up flying for. A corporate job can range from a single engine aircraft to a multi-engine jet aircraft, and anything in between. Many corporations have a fleet of aircraft to serve different missions.
A career in corporate aviation can be very demanding in a small flight department, but quite rewarding on the other hand. A large corporate aviation department more closely resembles an airline position, including stewardesses on the larger jet aircraft.
On The Road
Corporations own aircraft in order to multiply the effectiveness of key personnel, not as a fringe benefit for the top corporate executives. Many times they are used to bring talented corporate officers to company headquarters when they don’t want to move their homes.
For the corporate pilot travel, by necessity, takes place early in the morning, late in the afternoon and even on some weekends. A corporate aircraft is a tool, and in order to be effective needs to be flexible in terms of mission and time.
Most corporate flight departments treat the corporate pilot as a professional, and during a corporate pilot’s career they will experience training similar to airline training. Simulators every 6 months, line checks from the chief pilot and close monitoring by the flight department manager are essential for safe operation of corporate aircraft.
Within corporate aviation there are many opportunities for advancement into more and more responsible roles, and there are any number of professional organizations which support these goals. One of the most prominent is the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) which works tirelessly to support and advance corporate flight departments and corporate pilots.
One of the major disadvantages to a corporate pilot career is the necessity to be flexible with your time. Often the mission demands on the aircraft require many consecutive days of flying, including some holidays and weekends.
An irregular schedule can play havoc with family life, and can place strain on a marriage. This is more of a problem in a smaller flight department, but is usually offset by extra time off and more family time.
A major advantage of a corporate pilot career is the varied routes and weather encountered completing company missions. Changes in aircraft, varied schedules and advancement opportunities abound for the corporate pilot.
Compensation for corporate pilots can, in many cases, rival the compensation for airline pilots. This is particularly true when comparing the long airline path from the right seat to the left seat.
As you examine the career opportunities in general aviation you may find that a career as a corporate pilot is an attractive and rewarding choice. It certainly was a great opportunity for me.
To learn more you should get Flying Airplanes: For Fun and Money! (A Practical Guide to Becoming a Professional Pilot) which is a great read!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
Don’t ever let an airplane take you someplace where your brain hasn’t arrived at least a couple of minutes earlier.
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