How to Become a Corporate Pilot
There are two ways to fly on expensive and exclusive private jets. You can work and earn a big pile of money to buy one. Or the simple, cheaper option. Become a corporate pilot.
Corporate pilots are commercial pilots who fly business aircraft around the world. Airplanes like Gulfstreams, Cessna Citations, Dassault Falcons, and Kingair turboprops. Unlike airline pilots, corporate pilots only deal with a few passengers and are not limited to large commercial airports. They typically fly airplanes smaller than airliners and work for companies or private individuals.
Corporate aviation, also called business aviation, is an exciting career path with excellent pay, benefits, and the ultimate perk, flying fast jets and exploring the world!
This article will describe the day in the life of a corporate pilot. It will cover job opportunities, the salary, and how to become a corporate pilot.
Corporate Pilot Jobs
Corporate pilots fly privately owned aircraft for private and public companies, private individuals, or private jet companies.
Many people assume corporate pilots are private pilots for rich folks and celebrities. There are some private jet pilots for these celebrities, but this only represents a small fraction of the available corporate pilot jobs.
Most business jets require two pilots to fly them. There is a captain and first officer, sometimes called a “co-pilot.” In larger flight departments, there is also a chief pilot and director of operations. These are positions that require more experience, flight hours, and sometimes higher education. They are also paid more than the other pilots.
Business Aviation Jobs
Corporate pilots that fly for companies are also called business aviation pilots. Many publicly traded companies and private companies operate a fleet of aircraft, called a flight department. Flight departments exist to serve the company. They do not sell seats on their airplanes. Only employees of the company are allowed to ride on these jets.
Despite the high cost of private airplanes, it is often cheaper for the company than buying airline tickets. Plus, they save valuable time by avoiding security lines, extra transportation, and airline delays.
It is common for corporate pilots to know the CEOs and other top executives on a first-name basis. Professionalism and safety is a top skill for all corporate pilots.
Private flight department pilots are responsible for nearly everything, from catering, fueling, flight-planning, and even acting as the flight attendant on the plane.
Charter Pilot Jobs
Usually, when people talk about flying on a private airplane, they are thinking of a charter. The cost of owning and operating a private jet is too expensive for most people and small companies. For those who infrequently travel, chartering an aircraft is a cost-effective option.
Charter pilots are commercial pilots that work for a company that owns the airplanes. These jobs are more similar to airline pilots. Since anyone from the public can charter an aircraft, it is highly regulated.
Charter pilot jobs may be easier to find than other corporate pilot jobs. Some charter companies employ hundreds of pilots and are run similarly to an airline. Wheels Up is an example of a charter airplane company.
Private Pilot Jobs
In the world of aviation, a private pilot is anyone who holds a private pilot license. This license allows them to fly themselves and others without compensation.
However, when discussing “private pilots” most are referring to an individual owning a plane and hiring personal pilots. Some high net-worth people will purchase an airplane and hire a management team to operate it. That will include personal pilots that only work for that individual.
If you want to get a “private pilot license” so that you can fly private jets, you may be disappointed to find out you’ll need a very different license. To see all of the pilot license types explained, check out this article here.
Corporate Pilot Life
A wonderful part of aviation is that no day is the same. There are always new views, challenges, and excitement. A corporate pilot may be gone for a single day or weeks at a time when traveling around the world. Below is an example of a corporate pilot that works for a company operating a day trip.
It is a corporate pilot’s job to operate the aircraft safely and maximize efficiency. Every minute counts.
Day in the Life of a Corporate Pilot
Let’s take a look at a corporate pilot named Steve, working for a Fortune 500 company’s flight department.
Two days before the trip starts, Steve receives an email and phone notification with details about the trip. He starts preparations the next day. Steve chooses the best airports, negotiates fuel prices, and gets the airplane stocked for the flight.
The morning of the trip, Steve arrives two hours before departure, or “wheels up.” He checks the weather with his first officer and files the flight plan. They perform a thorough preflight of the airplane. About 30 minutes before their flight, they start up the aircraft to have it ready the moment the passengers arrive.
Steve greets the passengers. Today the company’s CEO and some managers are heading to Chicago for a client meeting. As soon as they sit down, Steve starts the engines and begins taxiing out for takeoff.
Unlike airline flights, there is no security or waiting. A passenger can be dropped off at the airport and take off within minutes. For these people, time equals money. It is the pilot’s job to keep the operation running efficiently and quickly.
Steve flies the first flight. En route, his first officer assists and prepares breakfast for the passengers. Before landing, Steve calls ahead on radio to the airport to confirm their car to meet them at the plane.
After landing and taxiing to the private terminal, the passengers get out and drive to their business meeting. Steve and his first officer stay with the plane to prepare it for their flight home.
Their business meeting is scheduled to last three hours. Once Steve and his first officer have taken care of all the preparations for the next flight, they take the provided courtesy car out for lunch. They enjoy a nice meal, paid for by the company card, then head back to the airport. They are always ready to go in case the meeting finishes early.
Steve and his first officer enjoy a cup of free dark roast coffee from the airport before the passengers arrive. Once again, they have the plane ready, check the weather, file the flight plan, and set up the cabin.
Ding! Steve checks his iPhone. A message from the boss, “The meeting is over, be there in 15.” The passengers arrive at the plane and settle in, Steve closes the boarding door. Five minutes later, they are airborne. The first officer flies the leg back home.
They land back at their home base and taxi to their private hangar. A car is waiting to take the CEO and managers back to the office for the rest of their workday. Steve and his first officer help the ground crew put the airplane into the hangar. They clean the aircraft, keeping it sparkling. Then, they assist a few other pilots to prepare the airplane for its next flight tomorrow.
Steve heads home and keeps his phone on in case the scheduling team needs him for another flight. This month he has 12 days off and will spend ten nights in hotels.
Corporate Pilot Salary
|Average Pay||Gulfstream G5||Cessna Citation||Falcon 2000|
Corporate pilot salaries typically increase as the pilot gains more experience and takes on more responsibility within the flight department.
Corporate pilots are paid well for their flying experience and professionalism. The schedule can be challenging. Many pilots are required to be on-call, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. So even if they don’t fly, they are paid for being ready to fly.
The National Business Aviation Association, or NBAA, is a group that represents and advocates for all corporate pilots, flight departments, and non-airline flying. Every year they conduct a salary survey. Their recent salary surveys indicate pay is increasing over the past five years. There is more competition due to a growing pilot shortage.
The salaries vary depending on experience, the operation, and the type of aircraft flown. Experienced captains flying large business jets can earn over $200,000, while new first officers flying small or mid-sized business aircraft may earn $60,000 – $100,000.
Bizjetjobs.com reported the above salary results for 2019 based on a survey.
Unlike airlines, there is less of a pay gap between captains and first officers.
How to Become a Corporate Pilot
The pay is great, every day is unique and exciting, and you get to fly state-of-the-art aircraft! So, how do you start?
The first step is to start training to become a pilot.
To be a corporate pilot, you need to obtain your pilot’s license and build experience and hours. At a minimum, it will require a commercial pilot’s license. This license requires 250 hours of flight time plus a written and oral exam.
However, for insurance reasons, most companies require more experience than 250 hours. There are many options to build up flight time with low time pilot jobs.
While building up experience and logging flight time, you should start building your networking skills. Meet new people and look out for job openings. Finding a corporate aviation job can be challenging.
Networking as a Pilot
Often, corporate pilot jobs are not found online. It is more a matter of “who-you-know, not what-you-know.” Your resume and experience matter, but your personality and professionalism are more important. The chief pilot is looking for someone, who above all else, is a great person.
Flight departments may only be a few pilots. They want to make sure you are professional and someone they can spend hours with inside the small cockpit. They also want to make sure you conduct yourself professionally and politely with VIPs and passengers they fly.
The best way to find corporate pilot jobs is to learn the art of networking. Aviation is a small world. Your reputation is the biggest asset. Many pilots have found their current aviation job from a referral or tip by one of their contacts.
Even for flying jobs posted online, the chief pilot is more likely to interview a pilot they know and has glowing recommendations from the other pilots. Being a professional pilot is about your skills, but also who you know.
This advice applies to private pilots too. To become someone’s personal private pilot, you will need experience and a substantial network. Corporate pilots should always keep their resume updated because opportunities may come at any moment.
Become a Corporate Pilot
Corporate pilots have, arguably, the coolest jobs in the world. Other than maybe an astronaut, what is better? They fly amazing jets, meet interesting people, eat catered food, and make great money. It is a challenging and unique job. Every day is different, and you will explore the country and world.
The first step is to earn your pilot’s license and build experience. It is critical to network and to keep an excellent reputation.
Aviation is a small world. To become a corporate pilot, charter pilot, or someone’s personal private pilot, who you know is usually more important than what you know.
You can start the first step today, right here. Students from FLY8MA landed their dream corporate and business aviation jobs. The ground school and professionalism offered by FLY8MA is the best way to start preparing for your corporate aviation career.