Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

The VIP's pilot

Corporate flying jobs

There was a time when flying for the airlines was considered by many to be the most desirable job in aviation. It wasn't just the joy of flying the "heavy iron;" it was also the prestige, the uniform, the money, and the security. Yes, the all-important security. It was pretty much understood that if you "got on" with an airline, kept your nose clean, and supported the union, you would reap huge pay and a wonderful retirement.

Now? I wonder.

The world of the airline pilot has changed. The money is less, the security has vanished in the miasma of layoffs and cutbacks, and we have seen even the retirement programs disappear into the cumulus.

Is there today a "best piloting job" in aviation? Could it be as a corporate pilot?

Back in the day, many corporate jobs were flying Twin Beeches, Aztecs, Navajos, and the like. Then along came the propjets, followed by the "real" jets, and everything changed forever.

I recently visited a friend--a former CFI--who, as chief pilot and vice president in charge of the aviation department, operates several beautiful jets for a bank. If there ever was anyone who has income, prestige, and security, it is he.

I know at least one airline pilot of long standing who is hunting a corporate job. He says he has had enough.

Corporate flight departments today often have equipment equal to--perhaps even better than--the airlines. Pilots are under less pressure and stress, and they definitely have more influence over what the company flies and how.

If you are a CFI dreaming of the job of the future, you have to look at corporate aviation, and that could mean you want to change a few things. Corporate VIPs spend a lot of time in the company of their pilots. They want pilots who are business oriented and look the part. They really do want someone who can read and understand spreadsheets on the finances of the department, and provide good, honest advice on new equipment and maintenance.

That fellow who operates several jets? I was on hand when he got that job, and one reference told the exec that, "If you hire him you'll have him over to your home for dinner within six months, and you'll do it because you want to, not because you feel you should."

If you want to be competitive in this arena, you might want to learn more about business and how businesspeople think, act, and dress. It could pay off. Start with your current employer. Tell him/her that you want to learn about the business end. Ask questions. You'll be amazed how eager they are to teach you.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying since 1971 and has more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. Visit his Web site.

By Ralph Hood

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