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So you want to be a corporate/charter pilot? page 2

Career profile by Jock Williams

The range of experience and the level of qualifications presented by job applicants are wide and varying. On the low side, as a Transport Canada inspector I once did a checkride on a 300-hour private pilot who had just finished Westwind initial training at a well-known American simulator training facility. Admittedly, he had already written his commercial exams and had a single-engine instrument rating, but this pilot had mainly worked for the company paying for his training faithfully for over three years as a line boy, and had demonstrated his conscientiousness to their satisfaction. He was an unusually lucky young man. His company was betting on him big-time. He achieved good results on the simulator portion of his ride, and flew the real aircraft well enough on the actual airborne portion of the check. He had only to write the IATRA exam successfully in order to qualify himself for employment (as a copilot only of course) on a multi-crew aircraft.

Here was a pilot with a future ahead of him! He had successfully jumped about 10 steps ahead of many of his confrères who would have to build time instructing on Cessna 152s flying around the patch while he jetted about the countryside in his spiffy Westwind.

But maybe short-circuiting the more normal progression isn’t such a great idea. This young chap really didn’t have much to fall back on if by chance the guy in his left seat became incapacitated at a crucial moment. We have always chuckled at the “heartbeat in the right seat” theory apparently espoused by our American neighbours who do not necessarily demand that copilots even possess a type rating. In fact, companies often withhold such a rating in an attempt to ensure loyalty. Remember that time spent as a copilot only counts 50% toward the hours required for your ATPL. Instructor or light charter captain time (or para-dropping or glider towing) count 100%. Also remember that if all you’re allowed to do in the copilot seat is change radio frequencies and raise and lower the gear, it isn’t much of a learning experience. For those pilots who are really part of the crew, the experience is invaluable.

To be honest, I didn’t keep up with the progress of this young man, and have no idea what became of him. The company went out of business. By now he could be copilot of an Airbus–or flipping burgers. Such is the nature of civil aviation in Canada.

Most pilots entering the field have well over 1,000 hours, have at least passed their IATRA, and have gained their initial experience either through instructing or light charter operation. Both are excellent knowledge builders in their own way.

Instructing, although potentially repetitive, definitely hones airmanship although stick and rudder skills should, in the best of cases, be accrued by the student rather than the instructor. The major benefit is in the development of pilot-in-command time and in the fact that teaching usually leads to learning in better depth yourself.

Light charter work and bush flying both deliver stick and rudder skill, airmanship and breadth of experience, although such employment sometimes nurtures an inappropriate willingness to cut corners and skirt the edges of regulations.

There is good and bad in both approaches. It has always been said that the cream rises to the top. So, a good instructor or a good light charter person is a great candidate for hiring. But … need I say more? It does bring up a good point though. Throughout any career, pilots may be called upon by employers to undertake actions that can compromise safety. This may mean flying in conditions of lower ceiling and visibility than you’d like, putting up with aircraft unserviceabilities which are a little scary–you name it! Don’t. Resist the temptation by saying to yourself, “Is this trip/job worth dying for?” If the answer is “No”–and I suspect it always is–then don’t get sucked in. If the hour you’re building turns out to be your last, it’s not worth it!

Of course, there are other sources of “the flyers”–ex-air force pilots, guys who have dropped out of scheduled airlines or the major charter operations, former Transport Canada inspectors and pilots who have just naturally gravitated to corporate/charter because of its appeals.

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