Corporate pilots fly the business jets, helicopters and other aircraft owned and operated by companies for their own use, charter flights and similar purposes. Some work as test pilots for business aircraft manufacturers. As with an airline's crew members, corporate pilots are responsible for the safety and comfort of their passengers. A corporate pilot earns a good salary, and may eventually move up to a position with a regional or major airline.
Corporate Pilot Job Description
The corporate pilot is responsible for flying and navigating the aircraft, of course. Her job actually starts before takeoff, though, because she must plan the route and submit a flight plan. To prepare for the flight, the pilot needs to check the weather along the planned flight path, make sure the load is balanced and verify that the plane is not overweight. Just before and immediately following the flight, the corporate pilot checks the mechanical condition of the aircraft. She also monitors its performance during flight. Because companies don't maintain large numbers of ground crew like an airline, the pilot is usually tasked with meeting and greeting company executives and other passengers – and may even help load luggage.
Corporate Flying Work Environment
Corporate pilots are classified as commercial pilots, and 32 percent are employed providing nonscheduled flying services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eleven percent work for trade or technical schools, and another 11 percent provide support services. About 10 percent fly for air ambulance services. Business aircraft manufacturers employ another 4 percent. The work can be fatiguing and stressful, because corporate pilots are responsible for the lives of their passengers and may fly in all kinds of weather. Typically, a corporate pilot is on call and may need to fly various types of aircraft to unfamiliar airports on short notice. Hours can be irregular, and overnight stays are common. However, corporate pilots who work for companies with large fleets may have regular schedules.
Pilot Education and Training
You must earn a commercial pilot license to be employed as a corporate pilot. In general, you must be 18, a high school graduate and pass medical and vision exams. Some corporate pilots learn to fly in the military, but many attend independent flight schools. In some cases, flight training is part of a two- or four-year college program accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration. You must earn a series of licenses. Students start by qualifying for a private pilot's license, which is followed by the instrument flight rules license and commercial pilot's license. You may also need a multi-engine license. Once hired, corporate pilots typically undergo six to eight weeks of training that prepares them to fly the specific aircraft their employer uses.
Corporate Pilot Salary
A corporate pilot salary is very good. The BLS says that in 2017 the medial commercial pilot salary, which includes corporate pilots, was $78,740. The median is the salary level at which 50 percent make more and 50 percent make less. The top 10 percent earned more than $152,180, while the 10 percent making the least earned around $43,570.
Some corporate pilots make more, especially those who fly for aircraft manufacturers. For example, a Hawker 800 pilot salary averaged $104,252, and the best paid 25 percent of Hawker Beehcraft pilots earned an average of $113,259. The average Challenger 300 pilot salary was $124,401. The top paid 25 percent of Challenger pilots made an average of $135,861.
Job Growth Outlook
The number of jobs for corporate and commercial pilots is expected to increase by 4 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is slower than for occupations in general. However, job opportunities should be good, because many pilots will retire at the FAA's mandatory age limit of 65. In addition, many corporate pilots use this position as a springboard to getting a job with an airline. As they move up, their jobs will open up. Entry qualifications for corporate pilots are less stringent than for airline pilots, and there is less competition.