student looking for aviation insight

21Foxtrot

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New member here - though have really enjoyed reading the variouse posts - both for entertainment and education ;)

I have since contacted a senior member on the corp. aviation board (PM) and really appreciate all the help and insight he was able to provide. Just thought I'd throw out some questions to the "public" for some varied opinions...

I'm 29 (no kids/mortgage/wife) and considering changing careers to persue my passion for aviation (wow - sounds original, huh?) and would like to get a first hand opinion on the world of corporate aviation. Below are a FEW general questions.

PLEASE feel free to add anything that might be helpful...

NOTE: I know in corp. aviation, experiences vary quite a bit, but that's why I'm interested in hearing from all you on this board.


*Recommended route of education?
I already have a B.S. (not aviation related) & don't want to go back for another 4 years, so I'm considering 4 options: (1)FSI (2) ATP in SAC (3) Sierra Academy in OAK and (4) local FBO. As you might have realized, I live in the Bay area and would really prefer to stay local if possible (though I've heard nothing but good things about FSI).

*Typical career path for corporate?
From what I understand, (after my basic ratings) I'll be looking at 2-3 yrs as a CFI/II to build up to my 1500/ATP.... then what? Charter? Jet? What A/C type might I be in to start with? Entry Pay?

*What time frame should I figure until I might have a "good" job?

*What is considered a "good" job in this field? What type of salary ranges are out there?

*Overall pros Vs. Cons of the lifestyle and job. Any serious regrets? Family life - sounds like divorce rate is HIGH?

*How stable is corp. aviation? From the postings, it seems like times are reall tough now - esp for (relatively) low time guys.

*Possiblity of completing primary training, instructing and ulitmately finding a solid job - all here in the Bay area? (...this one goes out to those of you who are familiar with this market).


...Well, those are just a couple of quick questions off the top of my head. I know similar postings have gone up, but since my real interest is in persuing a career in corporate, I figured to post here where all you pros can tell it how is :D


Thanks in advance!
 

Hubie

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Hi there and welcome aboard!

Let me see if I can offer you some advice based on my experiences.

The education issue is important, but in most cases is not a make or break issue. Employers like a well-rounded employee and a four-year degree is usually enough regardless of your field of study or school attended.

I bounced around from two technical schools into a community college into a state college before I finally patched worked together enough credits to apply to graduate with a BA in BS. :D

About the flight training, here are some words of wisdom to keep you from getting caught up in a school run bay a crook as I did. If you can afford to go the FSI route DO IT!!! The Vero Beach Academy is even better, more structured.

I signed on to a small school in the southeast and did my private under part 61 at a cost of $3500.00, then I enrolled in a Level I Pro Pilots course (the schools title) and did my Commercial, Multi Instrument training. I had to refinance some land I owned to pay for the course, which was around 18000.00

It was a part 141 course, which allowed you to complete the training with 190 hrs, and you took a CMEL Instrument checkride all rolled up into one and let me tell you it was a blitch!!! First you do the CMEL maneuvers, your ME stuff then you open your IFR flight plan and head out on the INST portion. Once you complete the initial instrument stuff, then you jump back into the ME portion the stuff that is applicable to ME instrument flight. So you are back and forth. Not to mention you are kind of rushed to get thru the first portion of the ride so you don’t have FSS dump your IFR FP, which happened once which I was at the school.

My point is just check out the school thoroughly and talk to some students as well as some of the old hand instructors before you sign on the dotted line and fork over nearly $20,000 for a CMEL or $30,000 plus for a complete package with a CFII and MEI course.

My career path did not involve instructing. I came out of the program with right at 200 hrs and no job insight. The school had got me caught up in some stupid “working for flight credit” program which you worked the line at 8.00 per hr and it went into an account to which we could deduct rental fees from. But they were messing with the books and everyone got snowed over, I lost around $1,200 by my calculation.

I went to work for a small FBO in another town on the line and started helping out around the maintance end as well. I earned myself some ferry time and began to meet owner pilots also making some much-needed contacts that I would call upon later. I ferried planes for a local Mooney dealer, did some maintance flights for our A/P shop. Big thing was some Barons and some Chieftains we were doing pressurization work on, I would take them up and pump them up so some guy could crawl around the back with a lit cigarette blowing smoke at the seals looking for leaks.

After logging around 60 or so hrs of multi and a little over 100 of nice complex single time, I hooked up with a local business that ran a small operation which utilized two Barons and a Cessna 206 for a construction company. I flew three days a week, about 5 to 8 hrs a day usually making multiple stops dropping off and picking up everyone from owners to suppliers for the company and visiting outlying sites.

Built my time fairly fast and was looking at a regional job by late 1998 when a close friend of mine was hired by a good size company out of Birmingham flying a Lear 35, he had only a few hundred hrs more than I did and only a 150 hrs of turbo prop time and that got me thinking.

Here he was flying a Lear all over the place literally, I think his first official trip out of his SIC course was a three day excursion that took him to 6 cities on the west coast.
So I began looking into the corporate side of the house and really liked what I saw. It only took about 6 resumes before I got a call and an interview.

My first corporate job was in a King Air as a lot of flyers start out in, company upgraded me to SIC in a Falcon 50 within 12 months and then up to SIC on a CL-600, then PIC. I worked for them until they were purchased by my present employer who just absorbed us all and we hit the ground running because our flying went from 20 to 30 hrs a month before the acquisition to over 70 after.

As far a corporate life styles they will vary as much as the jobs themselves. Here we have it good, we have hard time off, we are only on call once week a month and everyone including the Chief Pilot sits reserve one month a year. You have a uniform allotment and all our stuff, (charts, pubs, FARs) etc are bought for us. We do some good flying with an average of 5 to 7 RONs per month. We see some good places and stay in some nice hotels. Travel passes for commuting to and from a plane on repositioning flights are Biz class on a major and the management is of the open door type. We hang out a lot, company cook outs, fishing trip, day excursions to Six Flags and the like which is nice.

Nice perks also; the company will pay for schooling and helped with my moving expenses. They also loaned through the credit union to my wife a sum of cash to help her move a small business she has (think tiny here, like one room of our house tiny).

As far as a time frame to a good job, its hard to say in this environment, but I would wager money that by the time you hit the magic mark things will be much better and you’ll probably have as good a shot as any.

Don’t worry about it till you have the ATP, but also don’t discount teaching beyond the ATP until that call comes in. Good rule of thumb? 1500 to 1800 hrs should do it, not counting a part 135 or night freight job. You’ll need to talk to a 135 or a freight dog and get the skinny on them.
What is a good job? Well that will depend on just who you talk to. Yes there are some really bad corporate ops out there but there are also some real dream jobs as well.

I love my job, but that’s not to saw I would move on to another corp. op or to the airlines but a lot would have to change before it came to that.

Divorce rate is high for pro pilots in general, not just corporate jocks. We are home much more than airline drivers are, usually…

Stability?

A good solid op is very stable, but hard to break into due to the pool of qualified applicants. Here I am with just a shad over 4,000 hrs and I personally saw a resume the other day for some poor guy tossed from a fair size airline (I won’t name names) with 737, 757/767 types and well over 8,000 hrs.

Just look at the pool over at Net Jets, its around 10,000 at last count.

You should be able to do it all in the bay area or at least within the state, remember California is pretty darn big and a lot of the big business is based out there, Chevron is out of OAK and I know those guys personally. Nice op to work for, but they are the competition where I come from.

Sorry for rambling but I enjoy chatting about my love, aviation.

Hubie
 

21Foxtrot

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Hey Hubie -

...only have a sec here - I'm on my way out.

Thanks so much for your detailed reply, it's exactly what I'm looking for. And I certainly wouldn't call it rambling - this is obviously what you love.

Looking forward to more informative posts!
 

501261

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21 Foxtrot,

I would not recommend aiming for the corporate world. If you fall into the great corporate job, by all means take it and keep it, but for a budding professional my advice would be to aim for the airlines.

Here's why, we all start out doing the same thing, getting our ratings, CFIing, charter. From then some get picked up by a regional airline, while some work their way up to better charter jobs. Eventually some become major 121 pilots and others get that great corporate job.

The difference is that you can live comfortably and retire at a regional airline, but good luck trying to retire on the benefits you get from a charter company. Most professional pilots get stuck at that level of the career ladder, working for a regional or charter building time to get to that next level.

If it doesn't work out I'd much rather be on the #1 on Skywest's seniority list, than the CP at Podunk Charter Inc.

The other piece of advice is to be mobile! Don't go looking for a job in Hebbronville, TX because your mom lives there! But do take that first Jet SIC job wherever it may be. When you’re paying your dues you have no quality of life.

I would also agree with Hubie on the FS place. Not because the training is any better than the local FBO, but because you have the possibility of having a job at the end of the pipeline. That would be my advice in choosing a school, some place that has some kind of flow-thru, internship, something that will get your foot in the door somewhere.
 

Hubie

Member 9.6 mile high club
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You need to point out one thing, the difference between a charter job and a corporate job.

And even then you still have good charter jobs and you have great charter jobs, Clay Lacy Aviation, TAG Aviation, EJI and Net Jets, and even some of the others have livable salaries and yes they have benefits and a retirement.

It sounds to me like you are trying to compare your typical small town two Lear charter op or a 135 operator to a Corporate flight department they are two entirely different animals.

We don’t do charter, never have and most likely never will. The company keeps us busy enough.

You will encounter all types in the charter field, but if you are aspiring to a Fortune 100 or even 500 company I bet you will more times than not find them to be solid, with good pay, benefits and retirement. A lot of companies even offer up management level perks to flight department employees. At our op we are considered management level, even the lowest of F/O’s. We can request a company car when at a company facility; we can receive travel discounts through our in-house travel agency reserved for management and senior staff. We even receive from day one company preferred stock options purchases that can be payroll deducted.

I’m just saying look hard and look deep before you completely walk away from a corporate job based on a few bad apples.

Even the regionals have rotten deals just ask any line holder at Eagle and see what you hear.

:)
 

501261

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Hubie,

The exact opposite is true! I love my corporate job, the benefits are incredible and I would never leave it for a 121 job (or any other job for that matter)! What I was talking about what to AIM for. In my humble opinion, you need to aim for a good 121 job. You can't PLAN for good corporate job, especially since most corporations already know who and when they are going to hire when they have an opening. If you get a good corporate job, consider yourself lucky and throw away all those 121 application, but until you do I would be sending all those 121 applications in.

As far as charter, I really despise charter, used to fly it quite a bit (used to be 119.71c and 135.337 qualified). I honestly don't think you can compare ANY charter job with a good corporate job. So I would always look at charter as being a stepping stone.

I would also venture to say that most professional pilots out there are doing some sort of stepping stone job right now (regionals charter, cargo). Also, a lot of professional pilots will never make it to that dream job (major, good corporate). So where are you better off if you don’t get that dream job?
 

Hubie

Member 9.6 mile high club
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Okay that makes sense.

I thought you were just saying to stay away completely due to the charter issue, but getting stuck on the career ladder, I agree can be a drag.

I was looking at the regionals before I was offered a corporate job and until then I really had no idea just what all was involved in the corporate world.
Being on the inside looking out now I see where the corporate side of the house is possibly the most misunderstood field of aviation. And it’s partly our own fault, we kind of hide behind our company maintaining a safe distance from folks in the name of company security etc…

We sometimes will fly into an out of the outlying airports just to avoid crowds and to keep a low profile and we usually run our company shuttles at night for various reasons as well, security being one of them.

When I was looking at a corporate option I really had very little to go on and at the time the Internet was still new to me, so I had to do it the hard way.
I am very glad I paused and took the time to investigate this field and ultimately avoided the airlines. Several of the guys and gals that I went to flight school with time built here and there, CFI’ing and hauling freight or charter then ran like mad to the commuters. COEX and Eagle were the two main lines.

COEX was hiring BE-1900 F/O’s at 800/50 and Eagle was around 1000/100 for a Saab F/O. One or two stayed at the commuters for a jet job and had the seniority to weather the furloughs after 9/11 but a couple jumped to the majors as soon as the could and have since found themselves back in a CFI job, one in a junk charter job flying a barely serviceable Navajo around the south and my former room mate is working as a managing a sporting goods store and working as a security guard just to make ends meet, he has a 2 year old girl and a mortgage. He’s got his app into Net Jets and is constantly swearing he’ll never-ever go back to the airlines again.

Once bitten, twice shy.

I’ve always heard that you’re not a real airline pilot till you’ve been furloughed three times.
No thanks I’ll stick to corporate, the only way I would go airline is if things got really bad on my end.
 

banned username 2

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Hubie said:
the corporate side of the house is possibly the most misunderstood field of aviation.

OH GEEZ!!!!!!!!!! Now you went and did it! You let our secret out!!! :eek:

For the last few years I have referred to Corporate Aviation as 'The Best Kept Secret in Aviation"...

So much for THAT secret!!! :rolleyes: ;)
 

CL60

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Feb 10, 2002
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21Foxtrot,

Corporate flying has been very good to me but it did take a while to get here. If this is really what you want, here is what you need to do.

Your education is fine. A BS in basket weaving would suffice.

Get your ratings with FSI if you have the bucks. I've heard many good things about their program. The brand name alone is great to have on your resume. This will also shave lots of time off your already late start.

Log around 4,000 or 5,000 hours total time. Lots of multi-engine time is a must. Turboprop and turbojet time as soon as possible. If you're starting with no time logged now, you're looking at 5 or 6 years of full-time flying... probably in some pretty undesirable jobs. If you get through this period without quitting, then you do want it badly enough. Some people land fortune jobs with less time but these are some of the minimums I've encountered.

Get some type ratings along the way. Let the employers pay for these.

Most of the pinnacle corporate jobs are looking for captains, not FO's. My flight department for example will hire only captains in order to make the pilot workforce, as well as the schedule, more flexible. Some may hire younger, lower time people to train but its pretty rare from what I've experienced.

Get corporate experience. You may have to fly for some pretty unsavory individuals but you could also get lucky and be in the right place at the right time. (You'll hear that phrase a lot).

Get some international experience if you can. It helps. I did this part with a lousy operator and found out just how long I could stay awake before I started halucinating. I quit that hell hole and cursed my young stupid self for allowing that to happen.

Most importantly... Network all the time with everyone you meet while you're working. This is the primary means by which people are hired in this business. If you don't know any insiders now, you will after the journey described above.

There is plenty more where that came from. I could write a novel for you but am runnung out of time. PM me if you need specific information. I've helped out a few others here and don't mind a bit.

When you do make it to a Fortune job, you'll know it was all worth it. Every time I strap on my aircraft, I always say to myself, "man... I love this."

You will never be a nine to fiver again.

Good luck,
 

CL60

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Fortune job

21Foxtrot,

My previous post pertained to landing that dream fortune job. The road to a very desireable forward facing window seat. You could get into a good deal with less time. Shoot for a fortune job as your primary goal though. You won't regret it.

Timing is everything. When I was trying to get into the business, things were bad all over. Took me years of scraping and starving before things turned around.

Check out Kaiser Air in OAK. I haven't been out there for a while but if they are still around they could be a good place to start.
 

21Foxtrot

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Hi all -

Thanks so much for everyone's input - I really appreciate your taking the time to help a budding flyer....

I'm at the pinacle trying to choose a new life path, hence I'm gathering as much info as possible from people like yourself so I can get a REALISTIC idea of what lies ahead. One of my greatest concerns is my age though - at 29, (from what I understand) it's not too late, but I guess that means I won't be earning a reasonable pay check for another 5 years? Oh well, everyone has to pay thier dues....

The mins seem a bit confusing to me though... CL60, you mention 4-5k, though I see alot of profiles on this board for pro jet pilots w/ alot less? "Right time/right place????" 4-5k sounds like forever, but can you knock that off at a decent pace? Some folks have told me that airline guys log ALOT more hrs and do so consistently.... Do regionals offer any advantage, or should I stay away since I have NO interest in commercial as a final goal?

-----------------------------------------

RE: schools
I too have heard nothing but good things about FSI, except for the fact that grads are NOT getting the CFI slots now - in fact the pool sounds quite large. So, if I go to FSI and get my CFI tkts, but have no FSI job at the end, I'm looking at teaching back at my FBO --- the fear in that is it may take 50 years at an FBO to log the TT let alone ME time before I can even think about an ATP and a turboprop job.... Am I way off base here or what? I have really come around in my approach to becoming a CFI and in fact look forward to the experience, BUT do not want to spend eternity there.

SO - another interesting option for training is ATP (in SAC). For about $5k less than FSI, I can get the following:

Private Single-Engine
Private Multi-Engine
Instrument Multi-Engine
Commercial Multi-Engine
Commerical Single-Engine
Certified Flight Instructor:
- Multi-Engine
- Instrument Airplane
- Single-Engine
High Altitude Endorsement (Citation)
High Performance Endorsement (Citation)

Which will leave me with the following times:

285 Hours Logged Time
190 Hours Multi-Engine Time
75 Hours Multi-Engine X-Country
62 Hours Multi-Engine Dual/Checks
3 Hours Citation 501 Jet
50 Hours Multi-Engine FTD
95 Hours Single-Engine Time

(http://www.allatps.com/ACPP/index.html)

When comparing that to FSI, you only get 55hrs multi (105hrs single). PLUS the following are ADD-ONS:
Commerical Single-Engine
Certified Flight Instructor:
- Multi-Engine
- Instrument Airplane
- Single-Engine

(http://www.flightsafetyacademy.com/career.htm)

Though I have heard that they will pay for your CFI tkts (after the initial) if you get a job w/FSI(?). Also, I don like the fact that FSI gives you 4 hrs of Unusual Attitude/Spin Recovery (but you can always get this on your own too).

-----------------------------------------

OK - so to me ATP is very appealing since not only is it cheaper, but it includes EVERYTHING (even housing). Now, having said that, I know course cost and time (needless to say ATP bases this on FAR mins - gulp!) are not the end all to selecting a training facility. From everything I've read/heard, FSI is truly top notch. Some pro pilots out there still tell me that while it might be nice to go there, in the end it really doesn't matter where you go for your primary ratings - any thoughts? Any opinions on ATP and thier programs???? Too good to be true? Too accelerated to make a good pilot?



...well, still mulling things over! Sorry for the long post. and Thanks again!


PS - CL60 can you explain in greater detail what you mean by "good deal " and "fortune job".... Not entirely clear on your last post
 

CL60

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information

21Foxtrot,

In corporate aviation there are various levels of flying jobs that graduate from the single airplane "T" hangar operation to the pinnacle of corporate aviation, Fortune jobs. (Fortune 500, 100, and 50 jobs). The top end Fortune flying jobs are literally the best corporate pilot jobs in the world. The compensation, bonuses, benefits, and retirement packages are, in many cases, better than going to a major airline if you average the total dollars out over a 20 or 30 year career.

Here's a list of the top 500 American companies based on annual revenues. I've worked for several of them and interviewed with a few more. It is a great life and the security is better than most flying jobs. Obviously, there were Enron and Global Crossing jobs out there that were not so great. Who could have forseen that? Its a chance we all have to take with any job.

http://www.fortune.com/lists/F500/index.html

All of my F500 jobs have offered excellent salaries to start, signing bonuses, an extra months salary up front, annual bonuses, full health benefits, pension plan, 401K, and fantastic relocation package among all the other bennies we get. I've corresponded with several other Fortune pilots on this message board and they have similar or better situations than I do. It just depends on the individual companies and management.

When I refered to a "good deal" I meant that some people get into non-Fortune flying jobs that treat them very well and are professionally run. Sorry about the ambiguity.

As far as the flight times I quoted to you, these are the basic minimums that I've had to meet in my Fortune jobs. It all depends on supply and demand. I got lucky with my first F500 job at around 4200 hours. They wanted 5,000 but I had a great deal of jet time logged and had lots of corporate and international experience. If you decide to instruct for a while in order to build time, try to log around 1,000 hours a year if you can. Multi-engine instruction is the most beneficial to you.

Don't sweat the school issue, just get quality training and get your certificates.

Hope this helps.

Never give up.
 
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