Early in my career I was an air taxi charter pilot, flying all kinds of aircraft from a Cherokee Six hauling GM parts to a Cessna 402, again hauling automotive parts. I suspect that with the “just in time” programs much of this kind of flying has gone by the wayside. None the less I still feel that one of the 7 great careers in general aviation is that of an air taxi charter pilot.
But there is still a lot of opportunity for the air taxi charter pilot. Today turbine powered aircraft are what most charter is flown in, and the level of skill required, the pay and benefits and the training requirements have all increased. With insurance companies dictating much of the training requirements, the days of jumping into an airplane, taking a 6 month check with a check airman and being “good to go” have mostly gone by the wayside.
Today’s customers are more sophisticated and knowledgeable about what they require when they charter an airplane. Even when the aircraft chosen is approved for single pilot operations, most customers demand there be 2 pilots in the cockpit, just like the airlines.
And, experience requirements have increased as well. Customers will check not only the price, but the accident history of the operator, question the crew qualifications and ask about recurrent training. All of this has added both to the safety of air tax/charter operations, and to the ability of good air taxi charter pilots incomes.
Air taxi pilots have a varied schedule and route, making the job both more challenging and more interesting at the same time. Unlike the airlines where pilots fly the same routes day after day, air taxi pilots can be all over the country on different days during the same week.
This leads to greater exposure to weather phenomenon, and most charter pilots get more instrument time than airline pilots do. As commercial pilot jobs go, being an air tax pilot flying charter is one of the most interesting careers you can have.
One of the most rewarding parts for air taxi charter pilots is the variety of tasks and people you meet along the way. Each day brings new challenges, new customers and new experiences. Whether you are a bush pilot flying sportsmen to a camp, or crewing a Citation taking a patient to the Mayo Clinic to save their life, your life is never boring.
With the transition into more complex aircraft salaries for commercial pilot jobs have increased as well. Over time, with more experience, the opportunity to fly larger, more complex aircraft comes along, and today many charter operators fly the best business jets and – in some cases – even airline equipment.
If you are thinking about a career in aviation, being an air tax charter pilot can be a great one!
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!
Even idiots get to offer their opinions, to wit:
“Why does every plane have two pilots? Really, you only need one pilot. Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.”
— Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO, regards eliminating co-pilots in airline operations. Interview in Bloomberg Businessweek, 2 September 2010.
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