|Written by Jason Cutter|
1998 until July 1999 I worked as a corporate pilot in Indianapolis, IN
for a limited liabilities corporation that was formed to act as the flight
department for a commercial real estate development firm and a large insurance
It was a "typical" small flight department consisting of a Flight Services Coordinator (dispatcher) and three full time pilots. We operated out of an office at an FBO at Indianapolis International Airport. Our fleet consisted of a 1994 Beechcraft Starship (BE2000A), a 1997 King Air C90B (BE90), and a 1998 Super King Air 350(BE350). We also had use of a Beech Bonanza A36 (BE36) that we occasionally used on short trips.
Corporate flight departments vary on how they handle pilot scheduling. Some corporate pilots are required to basically be on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week with a pager while others have set days off and are not required to be contactable during those days. At my company I was required to carry a pager and be on call but most of trips were scheduled well in advance and I usually knew a week in advance what I was doing the following week. I had no guaranteed off days but it worked out that I usually flew an average of 4 days a week.
The flying went in cycles and there were times I would fly 6 days a week for a couple of weeks straight and then there were also times I didn't fly for over a week straight. In terms of hours I averaged 45 to 55 flight hours per month which is generally considered very busy for a corporate pilot. Many corporate pilots fly only 200 to 300 hours per year.
Corporate trips can vary from short "out and backs" to multiple day trips. I averaged 4 to 5 nights a month in a hotel away from base. Corporate pilots are also usually required to work weekends if necessary and I generally ended up working around 1 weekend a month.
The instruction was provided by Flight Safety International in their Raytheon Learning Center in Wichita, KS(the center of the corporate aviation world). The first week consisted of 3 full days of classroom instruction on aircraft systems followed by 2 days of half ground instruction/half simulator instruction. The first weekend was an "off" weekend for us to do with as we please. The following week consisted of 1 simulator session Monday thru Thursday with an oral exam and flight test in the simulator Friday afternoon.
Extensive high tech simulator training is no longer limited to multimillion-dollar turbine powered aircraft. There are several companies that now specialize in simulator/flight training for high performance single engine and light to medium twin engine aircraft. Pilots will typically complete an "Initial" training course as described above when they first begin operating a new type aircraft.
Most pilots also are required to attend "recurrent" or "refresher" training in each type of aircraft they fly every 6 or 12 months. Recurrent training sessions are typically 2 to 3 days long and can include a variety of training such as a classroom review of aircraft systems, new avionics equipment, new regulations or procedures as well as several simulator sessions designed to review emergency procedures, and a variety of equipment failures and can also include things such as wake turbulence and wind shear encounters and escape training.