Hi! This is my first post here at AOPA's Let's Go Flying blog and I thought I would start with a simple introduction.
Where to start? Well, my name is Paul and I am a flight instructor and corporate pilot from Dayton, Ohio. I am 30 years old and started flying when I was 18, which gives me 12 wonderful years of flying professionally. As my AOPA biography states, I have been very fortunate, in those 12 years, to try on many different pilot "hats" while working in many different fields of the aviation industry. Some may call that job hopping, I call it experience :).
I thought that for the theme of my first few blog posts here I could describe some of those pilot hats. This might be helpful for those who may be aspiring to learn to fly in order to make a career change. Or maybe for those who are just curious about what it means to be a "Professional Pilot".
I'll start today with a description of my current occupation: Corporate Pilot.
A good general definition of a corporate pilot is a pilot who works for a business and is responsible for the operation of corporate owned aircraft. Sometimes pilots who also work for wealthy individuals or pilots who work for large fractional operators will also fall under this umbrella. Most people think corporate pilots only fly jets, which isn't necessarily the case. I have corporate pilot friends who fly everything from a Cessna 172 to a Boeing 737.
Corporate flight departments have been getting a lot of (bad) press lately and I thought I'd take just a second to clear up a common misunderstanding; corporate flight departments are not toys for executives and are a very serious business. When companies decide to purchase an airplane it is usually made with the same undertaking as any other large capital purchase. There are strict requirements on the costs, return-on-investment time limits, and of course, the actual use of the aircraft.
There are a lot of advantages to being a corporate pilot. One of the things that I enjoy most is getting to know my passengers. I like knowing the names of my passengers and getting to know them as individuals. I also enjoy my schedule. Most corporate pilots usually have a pretty good idea of when they are going to be gone and for how long, which is important when you have a family. Another plus of being a corporate pilot is the type of airports you fly into. A lot of the airports served by corporate aircraft are not served by any airline and are situated near smaller towns. I enjoy the atmosphere of these airports and the history, people and towns near them.
Of course, not every job is perfect and there are some downsides as well. When companies get bought out by another company, downsize or experience some other downturn in their business, corporate flight departments are usually the first to experience the cut (see recent news about automakers to learn more about that). Corporate flying can also be rather mundane. You tend to get up early, fly to a destination, sit all day while passengers are in meetings and then return home when they are through. If you don't like sitting all day, corporate flying may not be the job for you. (I tend to try and fill the time by blogging about aviation!)
I hope this gives you a brief insight into the life of a corporate pilot and some of the advantages and disadvantages of this particular pro-pilot path. Learning to fly is literally opening a door to a wide range of possibilities and I hope to share some more of those possibilities with you soon.