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So you want to be a corporate/charter pilot? page 4

Career profile by Jock Williams

Anyway, you’d probably have to fly an aircraft for two years or more before your experience on type would be enough to make you attractive to another firm using that equipment. The fear on the part of the employer (and I quite understand this) is that a large sum will be invested in a pilot, only to lose this person when Air Canada starts hiring again. This is not an unknown occurrence. Tempting though premature departure might be, I suggest that loyalty is the best policy and that burning bridges is the worst. Aviation in Canada is a small fraternity indeed. Let someone down today and it’s a sure thing you’ll be asking that person for a job tomorrow. This happens with amazing regularity.

I have always been a little surprised, as an ex-air force guy, at the almost total lack of follow-on training made available in the corporate/charter field after you receive your type rating and PPC. In the air force, initial qualification signalled the beginning of the serious training and experience building. You have a licence to learn. We newly minted pilots then flew literally hundreds of hours gradually improving our skills and broadening our experience. Of course, the difference was the “profit motive.” A charter company owner is in business to make money, not to increase pilots’ qualifications.

Any employer other than Her Majesty the Queen expects to make money with aircraft, not blow it out the jetpipe. Accordingly, virtually every post-training flight will be revenue-based, with one takeoff and one landing and no enroute training events. Pilots were spoiled in the air force as 40% or more of our total flying was often used for training. This just doesn’t happen in any area of civilian life, except at Transport Canada where inspectors also receive hefty amounts of airborne training. In the corporate world, a pilot will train again a year after the initial checkout upon return to the simulator facility for renewal of his or her ticket. Beyond that, it’s up to you to study at home, or sitting in the cockpit between flights–on your own. Quite a difference from what I had become used to in 25 years of air force flying and another 13 with Transport.

Nonetheless, your career progression and self-preservation both depend upon professionalism. Home study is a requirement for the most experienced of pilots. Flying is a discipline, not a sport, and self-discipline will be required throughout a charter flying career.

The equipment and the job
Probably the largest variation within the industry is found in these areas. I have put them together because in reality the equipment dictates much of the rest of the job. At the top end (at least in the eyes of many) would be found the Bombardier Global Express and Boeing Business Jet. These types can represent an initial investment of $60 million or more. There is an old saying that applies here: “Big airplane, big suitcase.” What this means is, if you expect to fly one of the biggies, also expect to be on the road a lot. The person who buys, leases or charters one of these aircraft doesn’t want to leave Toronto in the morning and return later that same day. Instead, this high flyer wants to go to Hong Kong, spend a few days, then hop down to Melbourne, then maybe over to Capetown, up to Paris, and then finally fly home after a short overnight in London. Great trip!

Not so great, if you happen to be trying to bring up young kids, or have a wife who is pregnant and expects some supportive presence. You will live well on the road, your hotel and meals will be first class and you may have some time to enjoy the stopovers yourself–but you won’t be sharing the experience with your wife and children. This may explain the elevated divorce rate in our fraternity. But trans-Atlantic and international experience do look good in your c.v. if you’re sending it somewhere! It is odd that time spent on autopilot droning across the ocean counts the same or more than time flying demanding approaches into unique locations. Corporate/charter is likely to give you a pretty good mix of both.

At the bottom end (again in the eyes of many) is the Lear or Citation that does primarily “out-and-backs” from Toronto to Chicago or New York. You leave in the morning and often return by early evening. Sure, sometimes it’s an overnight–but nothing compared to the two-week or month-long scale of the “world travellers.” Still, maybe this fills the bill for you. Having done my share of both, I can see advantages to either.

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