Flying as a Corporate Pilot

In our newest series of blogs, the theme is “what it’s like to fly for” a particular airline.
The AirlinePrep team have accumulated thousands of hours working for major UK and international airlines and we are well connected through our previous clients to other airlines.
In this blog, we talk about ‘what it’s like to fly for a corporate operator’ and provide some basic recruitment info.

The Operators

Corporate airlines come in many different guises, big and small, and operating in a number of various ways. There are a handful of companies that operate their own collection of jets (e.g. VistaJet, Globe Air), whilst a majority tend to be referred to as “Management Companies” whereby they operate a collection of other people’s private jets under their own AOC (e.g. TAG Aviation, Luxaviation). Then there are the Fractional operators (e.g. NetJets) who operate a fleet of jets which are jointly owned by their customers (a bit like a flying version of a timeshare apartment). Some companies do a mix of both, and there are some subtle differences between operating privately with the owner on-board versus commercially with paying passengers on-board.

Aircraft, Routes and Flying 

The beauty of Corporate flying is the sheer variety but this of course depends on the type of operation that you are joining.

At the smaller end of the scale you will find the Kingair and PC-12 style operations, which could involve anything from a day-trip to Jersey for a board meeting or a hair-raising landing in Courchevel to collect some skiers. Then there are the Citation Mustang jets, typically being used like a flying Uber, bouncing around Europe on 1-2 hour sectors with perhaps a Businessman to collect in Dundee or a Musician to drop-off in Ibiza. 

Moving up the scale towards Challengers/Falcons/Gulfstream’s and so on (the list is endless) can involve crossing Continents and Oceans. There is no such thing as a typical day, but it wouldn’t be unheard of to ferry 15 minutes across hectic London airspace from Luton to Farnborough before embarking on a 10 hour sector across the Atlantic to a small Caribbean island where a customer plans to board their Yacht.

Most private jets have exceptional performance qualities, for example a Challenger 350 can take-off from a 1400m runway and climb to FL450 in less than 20 minutes. This opens up lots of airports that typical airlines can’t fly to, including some VFR examples in the Alps which really give pilots a chance to expand their skills without the use of Autopilot.

It’s not all good; there can be a lot of waiting around for late customers and additional duties tagged on before or after a long day. Pilots may be expected to meet/greet passengers in the terminal, load their suitcases, and perform minor maintenance tasks such as topping up the engine oil. Most jets smaller than a Challenger don’t tend to come with a Flight Attendant, and so you may even be expected during the cruise to hand out some snacks or pour a coffee for the passengers.

Rostering

Generally speaking, if you’re operating under a commercial AOC, flight time limitations are similar to those in the airlines. However, expect last minute changes of plan, split duties and/or unexpected wake-up calls as par of the course.


Depending on the operator, expect anything from no roster at all (being called out on a handful of days each month when the owner needs to fly), to 20 days on / 10 days off and any other combination in between. The larger the operator, the more stable their rostering tends to be. 

Some operators have a “home-base” for their aircraft and so you might fly somewhere for a night or two and then return home, whereas others such as NetJets and VistaJet allow their fleet to float around the World. You could start a duty in London, spend a couple of weeks on the road, and end the duty on the other side of the World before being flown home by airline. Rest times in between can vary from minimum rest, to several days in a hotel with time to go out exploring. The upside is that you can be more flexible in where you call home, with less commuting involved. The downside of course is that it could involve considerable periods away from family.

Opportunities and Training

The Corporate world can open up doors to those who don’t fancy typical airline style flying, and can allow them to mix flying with the chance to see places at the same time.

Most operators have a similar training set-up as the airlines, with bi-annual Simulator checks and regular CRM/Winter Ops/Dangerous Goods/PBN training and so on. The amount and quality of training can vary greatly from one operator to another; some of them are very closely aligned to airline-style SOP’s and checklists whereas others may be more relaxed or tailored to their style of flying. One way or another, at the very least they must comply with the regulations of the country in which their AOC is registered.

Entry level salaries tend to be a little lower than the larger airlines, but the top end of the private jet scale can command some very high salaries depending on experience. Stability can be an issue, and if you’re working for a private owner, there is always the chance that he/she sells their jet. Opportunities can depend highly on networking and reputation, with less emphasis on the seniority style systems seen in larger airlines.

Recruitment 

The crucial difference between airline and corporate recruitment is that corporate tends to rely much more on connections (and perseverance) within a particular area. You will probably have to start at the bottom, and work your way up. A great way to get started is applying for an office job within some of the smaller operators – get to know some people and figure out how the system works. 


The larger operators will normally have a more formal recruitment process. One known example starts with a telephone interview, followed by attendance to a recruitment day where a short technical exam is held (ATPL theory style) followed by a one-on-one interview with the CEO and finally a simulator assessment. The key thing to remember for these assessments is personality – they’re not looking for the perfect pilot but they need to know that you can happily spend 2 weeks in a confined space with another colleague, whilst having the people skills to deal with a VIP client who’s running late for his meeting.


Our courses are perfect preparation for your forthcoming Airline Pilot interview and assessment. Courses include:

  • 1 to 1 competency based interview
  • Group exercises
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Maths refresher training
  • Interview training
  • Group Exercise training
  • Career development and Pilot skills seminar
If you would like to know more about how we can support and help you with your Airline or Cadet Pilot interview, then please feel free to contact us.