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So you want to be a corporate/charter pilot? page 3

Career profile by Jock Williams

I have flown with a wide variety of these individuals and, in fact, fall into a couple of those categories myself. One individual had slowly worked his way up through the civilian instructor route, flew a Lear on charter for many years and finally made the move to the “heavies” on an A320, only to discover that he really didn’t like the lifestyle. This pilot had been used to spending most nights at home, or at worst being away maybe one or two nights a week. Suddenly, he was likely to be away for periods of three months or more. It just didn’t seem worthwhile to him, or to his wife. He stepped back to the Lear and the schedule he loved.

Another person was primarily a helicopter pilot, with vast experience in both the logging and exploration industries. He also had good fixed-wing qualifications and eventually landed a job flying a Challenger. Unfortunately, the working conditions with the jet operation were poor, the corporate environment was one in which the employees were constantly at battle with middle management, and were treated by upper management with disdain. A return to heli-logging was always an option, but he did not wish to spend all his time living in a bush camp. He could either fly as he wished, or live as he wished–but not both. Sometimes there are difficult choices to make.

Corporate aviation seems to be peopled largely by members at the far ends of aviation–the very new and the very old. Those of the very new group are hoping to increase their credentials and move on to the large carriers. At the other end of the spectrum are found pilots who have either aged themselves out of contention (the majors are not looking for 63-year-old new hires) or have tried the airlines and found that they are happier where they are. There are relatively few in between.

One thing that definitely should be stressed to those still on the upcurve of their careers is the absolutely priceless experience to be acquired in corporate aviation, where a pilot does all the planning, makes all the decisions and flies all the approaches. I assume that almost anyone can get into Toronto, but a last-minute circling into Chicago Midway or a midnight medevac with less than one hour’s notice can teach a pilot a lot in a very short time!

The good news in corporate/charter aviation is that the training now compares favourably with that offered by either the airlines or the military–a situation that did not necessarily exist 15 years ago. Gone are the days of a new-hire being handed the aircraft flight manual and told, “Read this, your test ride is in two days.” Today, the training requirements laid down by Transport Canada are strict and non-negotiable. Each candidate for a rating must receive suitable and approved groundschool and simulator time in accordance with the company’s approved operating manual. Basically, this training may be provided by a commercial training organization such as FlightSafety or Simuflite, or by the aircraft manufacturer itself. In any event, the level of instruction and the quality of the product will be uniformly high. This is good, because typically the cost of a checkout on something like a Lear or a Westwind will reach US$20,000, and a Challenger or Global Express might be almost twice that.

This brings up an interesting phenomenon known as the “training bond” wherein a new-hire may be required to sign a contract in which he or she promises to work for the company for two years (for example) after finishing training or repay a prorated portion of the training costs. If the candidate chooses to leave after one year instead of the contracted two, the company will be owed one half of the training cost. It’s not exactly indentured servitude, but it’s close.

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