In the first section of “Alternative Pilot Careers”, we asked cadets and pilots –
“Have you given serious thought as to what you are going to do next?”.
Captain Angelo Cunningham looked at options such as (1) Regional Carriers, (2) Air Taxi and (3) Specialist Operators. This this segment, he is looking at (1) Executive Jet Operators, (2) Freight Carriers and (3) General Aviation!
Executive Jet Operators:
No matter what airport you fly into, you will nearly always see a group of usually white painted executive jets parked up near the executive jet terminal. This is the high end of passenger flying. Some executive jets are operated by large companies to transport senior managers, some are owned by wealthy individuals for their own transport. Some are operated by wealthy ruling families whose fleet of private aircraft is something akin to a small airline.
Some are operated by companies who gather a large fleet of executive jets of various sizes and charter them out. Executive jets come in all sizes from a small 4 seat jet up to a Boeing 747-8. The operators usually look for experienced pilots and those operators who fly large wide-body aircraft usually look for very experienced airline pilots. Getting an executive jet rating can be a very expensive. Some operators offer the opportunity to gain a rating so you have to keep looking. Executive jet flying is usually a multi crew operation. Be prepared for long days and lots of hanging around.
The rosters can be very varied depending on the operators/owner’s requirements. On some rosters you could be very busy and do a lot of flying which could involve flying out somewhere as a passenger to pick up the aircraft. On others you may do very little flying. Because of the nature of the business and the people who use executive jets, discretion is required. Just because you fly a high spec executive jet doesn’t mean you don’t get to do the “other jobs” like looking after the air plane, cleaning out the inside, loading and unloading the bags and all the other jobs you have to do yourself when you do not have the benefit of a large operations centre to help you.
I enjoyed my time flying executive jets and I had the pleasure of flying with a captain who I first met in a hanger in Dublin when I was an apprentice engineer. He became my mentor and friend and when the opportunity came when I was qualified and he needed a co-pilot, I got the call. I had the honour of spending many hours sharing a cockpit with him and learned awful lot about being a pilot but more importantly how to interact with people. Flying Executive jets offers you the opportunity to fly interesting people to exotic places in very “nice” aircraft.
There was a time when flying freight was considered as not the most glamorous of flying. Usually the aircraft were old and leaked a lot. Perhaps I am being unkind with my last statement. However I started my flying career as a flight engineer with a charter freight company, which, I hasten to add was one of the good ones. Down the route we met crews from old and leaky aircraft which were, shall I say in a very sorry state. But for these crews, they were the only flying jobs available at the time.
These days however flying freight is completely different. Freight carriers offer pilots a career structure similar to major carriers. Freight carriers now buy their aircraft direct from the manufacture or use converted passenger aircraft as in the past. The range of aircraft vary from twin-engine turboprops to four engine widebody aircraft. The companies realise that to attract pilots they need to offer, good salaries, rosters and working conditions. Also they need to offer a career path for new hires to aspire to. I have spoken to pilots who work for such companies and they are happy with their choice.
Granted as in all types of flying there are good operators and bad operators. The bad ones are easily identified and generally don’t last too long. The days can be long but you are given the required rest periods between flights. Some freight carriers may operate a regional route structure feeding into a freight hub where the freight is transferred on to larger aircraft for worldwide distribution. So depending on your lifestyle requirements, like regional passenger carriers, this type of operator may be the one for you.
You may ask, what does general aviation have to do with me! After all I’m a qualified commercial pilot with a multi-engine, instrument rating. Ah yes, but have you managed to get a job flying a commercial aircraft. What are you going to do in the meantime?
Some of the larger reputable flying schools offer graduates the opportunity of becoming a flight instructor with them. You will have to commit to remaining with them for an agreed period of time. This would be a stop gap measure. Some also offer assistance with getting a job with one of their customer airlines after your time with them is over. There is nothing to stop you, apart from the cost, of getting an instructor rating. Traditionally this was the way many of today’s pilots built up hours while waiting for their first “airline” job.
You do need to maintain flying proficiency and General Aviation may be the only way for you do this, through, Instructing, glider towing or parachute drop pilot. You may get the offer to fly with aircraft owners who are looking for a “safety pilot” to fly with them. The owner may even ask you to fly their aircraft for them. Again, a lot of pilots have found themselves been offered other aircraft to fly once owners get to know them and some have even moved into flying light executive twin turboprops or jets. Sometimes it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
So! have I given you some food for thought. There are lots of opportunities out there. You have to go and look for them.
How you would answer a question from an interview board, when asked, “what have you done since you got your licence”. If you reply, “I have applied to various airlines and have been waiting for interview” or “I am flying for a Regional, Specialist, Executive jet operator or instructing at my school or local club”, which candidate do you think the interview board will be interested in?.
It’s all up to you. You have to convince the interview board of your commitment to your career. You may not be flying with one of the operators mentioned above but you need to show that your are maintaining your proficiency by booking time in a simulator on a reasonably frequent basis.
In no way am I saying that you will get the job of your dreams first time out. There will be ups and downs. But such is life. What I am saying is don’t limit your options. Getting that first job is the hard part. Once you get it and have gained some experience a lot of other “doors” may open for you. Your level of determination and commitment will soon become evident to the interview board. What may happen, is you may find another type of flying that gives you more satisfaction and enjoyment than you first thought and you may not yet be ready to settle down into that “airline” job, just like my friend.
So! What next, where do I go from here?
Maintain your proficiency in anyway you can. Before you go for interview get professional advice. You have spent all that money to get your licence, you have the practical skills but do you have the interpersonal and people skills to convince the interview board?
As for my career! I’m retired now and I have to admit that I miss flying wide body aircraft. I was lucky in that I worked for a very good international carrier before my last flight. Most of all I miss the wonderful people I worked with both on the ground and in the air. But life goes on, now, I’m an instructor both in the sim (Simtech Aviation) and as CFI at my club. I also get to do some “exotic” flying, as a display pilot flying an old multi engine warbird. I still work with wonderful people.
To sum up my 47 years in aviation:
I never worked a day in my life. I live my dream.
I hope that you will be able to say the same one day.
By the way! I’m still learning.
I wish you the best of luck with your career.