Real Answers from Real Pilots

Corporate vs. Airline

Hi, my name is Murphy and I’ve been looking into ATP and will probably attend around June/July. One of my main concerns is which route I should take (corporate or airline) after I get my licenses and hours to start flying for either. I know ATP offers the reimbursement program and sets you up with a regional after finishing so it sounds like it’s geared more toward an airline career. So I guess more specifically my question would be can you attend ATP and still fly corporate? I’m sure it doesn’t matter where you get your wings at but would it be more cost effective to go ATP then fly corporate instead of attending a different school?
Also, what are the main differences between flying corporate and flying for an airline? I’ve talked to a couple pilots that have flown both but no one has really given me a major reason for choosing one over the other. One thing I want to get out of my career is to explore a lot of different, cool places around the world and it seems that if I flew corporate, I would get to see more exotic locations since most airlines fly into major airports which are located in big cities. Is that true?

Thanks!

Hi Murphy,

The term “corporate” encompasses a very wide range of flying. Everything from flying KingAir props around the state for a private owner to flying a Global Express or G6 to Asia for a corporate flight dept. You talk about “cool places around the world” so I’m assuming ideally you’re talking larger long range jets like the Globals, Gulfstreams, Falcons etc. If that’s the case what you need to understand is you’re not going to graduate from ATP and get hired to fly someone’s $65million G5 to Dubai. Frankly even if you got the job you wouldn’t know how. You’re going to need to build time and experience. How? Well maybe you could get hired by that private owner flying his King Air and that’s fine but let me ask you a question? If you were looking to hire a pilot for your corporate flight dept which had maybe a Falcon, a Legacy and Gulfstream, would you hire the guy with 3500hrs who’s been flying a small turboprop from Atlanta to Jacksonville twice a week OR would you hire the Regional airline pilot who’s also got 3500hrs BUT he’s been flying the commercial version of your Legacy (E135/145) and has the type rating all across the US, Caribbean, Mexico and Canada. Has experience in the upper flight levels, has flown into large and small airports, has international experience etc? I could go on but hopefully you get my point. While your desire may be to eventually fly long range corporate, there’s no better way to build the type of experience you’ll need then to start at a Regional.

As to who flies where there’s no simple answer. As I said there are large corporate flight departments and there are private owners and fractionals like NetJets. Where you fly will depend entirely on where that dept or owner wants or needs to go. If your goal is to see the world you may have a much better chance of doing that flying for a Major that flies around the world. If you got hired at say United you KNOW where there fly and can bid the aircraft and routes that go there. If you get hired flying for IBM you’re only going where they need to fly. It may be some exotic locales but it may be from TEB-LHR-TEB once a week and it’s not like you can say “hey boss, I REALLY want to fly to Luxemburg, you don’t mind if we drop the $15-20k in gas do you?” :slight_smile:

Adam

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Murphy,

Yes, you can attend ATP and fly for a corporate carrier as the ratings and licenses needed for the corporate world are the as what is need for the airline world. Of course, you will need to build flight time for the corporate world just like you will need to for the airlines and this will typically be done via flight instructing.

The airlines go to plenty of exotic places. Sure, I was in Dallas last night, but tonight I am in Managua and next week I will be in Saint Marten. We fly to hundreds of destinations around the world, there is plenty of variety to be had here.

I would not worry too much right now about that path to take. As you start building your time flight instructing you will meet other pilots that are ahead you in their careers, some will be corporate and some regional pilots. Talk to them and get the latest information about both industries, you will hear enough of both sides that you will be able to easily make up your mind which path you want to start out on.

Chris

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Thanks guys! This is really helpful. I might be looking too far down the road right now but I want to get some sort of vision for my career and this was very useful.

Murphy,

Glad to help. Just focus on your training for now, you will have plenty of time to figure things out. That being said, it is always good to have some sense of what direxction you would like to go in.

Chris

Thomas,

First of whether we say “corporate” or “private” or “bizjet” you have to understand the job can vary dramatically. There are companies like NetJets and XOJets which operate very similar to airlines as far as pilots work for the company and have regular schedules, benefits etc. Then there are corporate gigs and individual owners where you work directly for an individual and what they say goes. Depending on which, what, where and who the job can either be very interesting taking you around the world or incredibly boring simply bringing an owner to home and back and little else. Biggest complaint I’ve heard as far as the small company or individual goes is the schedule. If it’s a small or single operation it’s just maybe a couple of pilots and you are on call 24/7. That means if the owner wants to fly to Brazil for coffee at midnight on Christmas Eve you’re going. It also means if the owner wants to go skiing in Vail and the weather’s bad you’re also going. There have been horror stories of owners threatening their pilots with termination if they didn’t get them “in” (something I personally would never like to encounter). You also often don’t know how long you’ll be wherever. If the owner decided to stay in Europe another week guess you’ll have to go buy more underwear because you ain’t going nowhere. Another problem is if a company falls on hard times the flight dept is often the first to take cuts. I had a friend who worked for a large corporate flight dept for many years. He was paid well and very happy. Unfortunately one day the company decided to move their headquarters. Unlike the airlines most corporate gigs require you to be in close proximity of the plane and he had to uproot his family or quit.

On the pro side the pay is usually excellent and you get to fly some incredible equipment. It’s individual preference I suppose but to bend an old adage I prefer to be a bus than a limo driver.

Adam

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Thomas,

As I said it all depends. What’s funny to me is unless your “dad knows a guy…” do they really think the CEO of XYZ Corp is sitting home tonight anxiously wondering “when is Toby the flight instructor gonna get his 1500hrs so I can hire him?!? There’s no one else out there who’s got his mad flying skills and boyish good looks!”. There are some great, high paying corporate gigs out there but just like UPS isn’t going to look at your resume until you’ve built some serious time, neither will they. A good friend who retired from flying ended his career flying G5/6’s and Globals to some serious A List Hollywood. Flew around the globe and got paid VERY well. His resume included combat service in Viet Nam, President Nixon’s Army One pilot, and Chief Pilot at a Dow Blue Chip. I wish your friends well but if that’s truly their goal they need to understand they’ll either need to build time at a boring Regional or putt along in a King Air before they get the call.

The other thing I’m curious about is will they be interviewing their prospectus employer? “I mean I really want to fly your G5 Mr CEO BUT you need to guarantee me that I’ll be flying to Asia, Australia, and Europe at least once a month. This TEB-LAX-TEB stuff just don’t cut it”. In corporate you’ll go where, when and for how long they want you to. Some fly to some exotic locals but most simply fly from one corporate headquarters to another.

Sure EWR-DCA can get old but so can TEB-LHR AND it’s a MUCH longer flight…

Adam

I have never really understood the desire to fly corporate aircraft. I have flown with many pilots who actually made the jump back to the airlines from the corporate world because the quality of life and pay in the airlines is so much higher.

I think that a lot of people think that it is cool to say that they don’t want to work for the airlines, but if they actually did some research into the matter they would see that the airlines are by far the way to go.

Chris

If you can find the right Corporate Department it can be pretty good. Good money, good overnights, impeccable aircraft, and the Airlines could learn a thing or two from the FBO’s regarding what a crew lounge should look like!! But like others have said, places like NetJets won’t look at you before you have real time.

Many of the cons listed are very true, and you’ll have to learn to live with them. One “pro” I’ll add is that I flew to more airports in 4 months at CitationShares than I did at 4 years at Mesa. The change of pace was nice.

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I was there from '04-'08. I flew for Air Midwest (under the Mesa Umbrella). We flew the 1900D all over, our bases were outstation bases most of which you’ve probably never heard of… I’ll make you google them for kicks.

KDUJ, KHRO, KFMN. I don’t know how this worked out for me, I never planned it, but all three of those bases had world class fly fishing within a hour of my house.

The quality of life and pay has DRAMATICALLY increased since my time there.