How to Train to Become a Corporate Pilot

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March 15, 2021
How to Train to Become a Corporate Pilot
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Do you love the idea of a small and exclusive clientele? Whether you like the idea of working with a small local operator that allows you to sleep in your own bed at night, or to travel around ferrying clients by private jet, training for entry-level opportunities in corporate aviation might be something to consider.  

According to career experts at Zippia this is a path that is expected to grow around 6% over the next decade, producing 7,000 new opportunities in the United States. However, getting a foot in the door can sometimes be tricky.  If you want to train to possibly become one of those who qualifies to apply for one of these coveted positions, it is best to start positioning yourself early. 


What Is a Corporate Pilot? 

Corporate pilots (sometimes colloquially referred to as "private pilots") are pilots who fly for a living but who do not work for a large airline. In some cases, they work for corporations that have purchased private jets for the purpose of transporting executives. Private, corporate jets allow executives flexibility, privacy, and time savings compared to flying commercial. According to Zippia, about half of the top 1,000 companies in the United States have active flight departments.  

Other private pilots work, instead, for charter companies. These charter flight operators are hired by individuals, private organizations, government offices, and others. They may work a single flight at a time or under contract.  

Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology provides career-oriented training that teaches individuals entry-level piloting skills. It’s up to each person’s drive, networking, and skill to lead them to opportunities such as becoming a corporate pilot. 


How to Become a Corporate Pilot 

Becoming a corporate pilot is a path that will take significant time and dedication. It all begins with getting the training, certifications*, and experience needed for the types of aircraft that you want to fly, then securing the right opportunities. 


Education and Certification 

The qualifications to become a private pilot depend largely on what you want to do with the certificationsOne option for corporate pilots is to earn a degree of some sort. With Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology Bachelor’s of Science in Technology Management (BSTM), you could earn your bachelor’s degree in addition to your flying certifications. According to career research firm Zippia, nearly two-thirds of corporate pilots have a bachelor's degree. Around 16% have master's degrees. However, it is possible to become a commercial pilot without otherwise pursuing higher education. 

Anyone who wants to be paid to fly will need to attain an FAA commercial pilot certificate. You will need a certificate for every category and class of airplane that you wish to pilot. For instance, if you want to fly a small group of people in Cessna 182 single engine aircraft and also cargo in something like a King Air C90, you will need a commercial certificate with both the single engine and multi-engine rating. 

The training to become a commercial pilot starts with the basics of airmanship through hands-on training and understanding of safety in flight.  

Under Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61, a commercial pilot must obtain the following to get a commercial certificate that allows for working as a private pilot without passengers. The requirements for this certification include: 

  • 250 hours of flight time. This must include 100 in powered aircraft and 50 in airplanes as opposed to simulators. 
  • 50 hours of cross-country flight time, 50 of which must be in airplanes. 
  • 20 hours of training. This includes 10 on instruments, 10 on complex, or TAA, and additional hours in cross-country, and practical test preparation. 
  • 100 hours of pilot-in-command time. Half that must be in airplanes. 
  • 10 hours of solo training, which must include cross-country and night flying. 

If you've trained in an approved FAR Part 141 program, you can earn your commercial certificate through additional examinations and testing with a minimum of 190 hours of flight time.  

Those who wish to fly passengers will need additional training. Most air charter companies are governed by a part of the Code of Federal Aviation Regulations known as Part 135 of Title 14. As an aspiring corporate pilot works toward attaining enough experience, they may build flight hours through jobs that include flight instruction, aerial surveys, and pipeline patrols. 

Once a pilot wishes to move up to turbojets or turboprops, more flight time is required. The required time is dependent on the complexity of the systems of the aircraft. 

There are a number of paths to getting the schooling and experience needed for commercial certifications. Some people go directly to an FAA-certified flying school. To fly solo in an aircraft, students must be at least 16 years old. Additionally, the ability to pass a third-class medical examination is required to fly as the pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft 

In other cases, people get flight training by joining the armed forces. While this method has the advantage of being available at no out of pocket expense, it does require a five-year service obligation. Military pilots may also need to do additional study to qualify for the aircraft and jobs that they want upon release from enlistment. 

Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology offers flight classes that can be taken for credit toward a degree. Graduates can leave with a Commercial Pilot Certificate, as well as an associate’s degree.  


Soft Skills for Professional Private Pilots 

In addition to the certifications and flight hours, you need to cultivate the personality characteristics that make a successful corporate pilot. Pilots need to have strong critical thinking skills. Pilots need to be able to recognize problems and identify potential solutions. Since charter pilots will have more contact with clients than airline pilots, it is a must to have an open, calm, and friendly demeanor. On some flights with few passengers, there often will not be flight attendants, so the charter pilot is the face of the company. Strong communication skills are a must, not just to get your certificate, but also to work effectively on the job. 


Paths for Corporate or Charter Pilots 

Often, it can take some time to gather the credentials needed to apply for charter pilot positions. Someone who wishes to become pilot in command on charter flights will need the training and to build flight hours and related experiences. A few of the roles to look into while advancing your flying time. 


Flight Instructor 

If you are someone who is passionate about flight and wants to share the experience with others, working as a flight instructor can be a great step on your path toward becoming a private pilot. Becoming a flight instructor will require studying for and qualifying for your FAA Certified Flight Instructor certificate. To become a flight instructor in the US, you'll need to be at least 18 years old, hold either an airline transport pilot certificate or a commercial pilot certificate and be able to read, write and speak English. 

This job has the benefit for aspiring corporate pilots of allowing you to get paid while building your flight hours. Spartan College knows how important it is to continue training, so we offer opportunities for students to apply to become CFIs within the college after receiving the proper training. 


First Officer 

Often, someone who wishes to advance as a charter flight captain may start as a First Officer. This is a position that can allow a pilot who has not accrued much flight time to get more hours in the air. However, it's important to ensure that the hours will be logged. In some cases, flights do not legally require a First Officer in order to be legal, so the hours in the air will not count toward flight time. That said, spending time with a more experienced pilot can be a valuable learning experience. Just make sure that the time spent is helping you work toward your ultimate goals. 


Pilot in Command 

The pilot in command for a charter company governed by Part 135 will need at least some experience on the make and model of the aircraft that they'll be flying professionally.  

These pilots typically do not have a schedule. They fly on demand when passengers request a trip.  


Do Charter Pilots Fly Sports Teams? 

Although a number of sports teams have had their own private aircraft at one point in time or another, few do at this point in time. Pilots will bid on the opportunity to operate the flight. Often, the job involves being ready to leave as soon as the game is over, so few pilots for sports teams are able to watch those teams play. Airlines also have strict rules regarding talking to passengers on these pre-booked flights. On the plus side, flying sports teams means an opportunity to break from routine and fly into different, often smaller airports in locations they would not otherwise fly. 


Tips for Corporate Pilots 

No matter what sort of corporate or charter position you desire, there are a few consistent keys to consider. Many of the best opportunities are never advertised, and interviews are invitation-only. Cultivating a good reputation and a good network is key. The tips below can help you get on your way to the right connections for possible opportunities. 


It's Never too Early to Start 

If you know that you want to be a corporate pilot, start working on steps that will send you in that direction as early as possible. For instance, even before you have your commercial pilot certificate, look for work that will expose you to corporate jet operations.  


Network Frequently and Effectively 

Make a point of seeking mentors and offering thanks when someone is helpful. Connect with people in your industry on social media. And always, be cordial, respectful, and curious in your interactions. Having a congenial attitude and the ability to adapt to fit a company's culture is often a big factor in being considered for a job. 


Be Mindful of Your Image Online 

What you post online can help or hurt you. Avoid posting content that could put you at odds with the image that potential clients or employers might want. This will often mean avoiding posting politics, partying pictures, or other sorts of content that might make an image-conscious company blush. 


Keep Tabs on a Number of Job Search Options 

While many positions come through referrals, there are still plenty of publicly posted opportunities. Once you have started accruing experience, regularly check resources that include traditional job boards, aviation-specific boards, pilot staffing agencies, pilot recruiters, and job conferences for pilots. By including a range of options in your job search, you can find the positions that might not be advertised everywhere.  


Continually Build Your Experience and Skills 

As soon as you get your commercial certificate, start taking jobs that will allow you to expand your skills and knowledge. The more time you spend flying and working on related skills, the more marketable you will be. Often, a charter company's insurance will have minimum requirements for pilots that are higher than those required by law. Getting those flight hours down could make you more competitive in the market.  

Also, it is necessary to keep skills up in order to maintain your certifications. For instance, any time a charter pilot flies commercially, they must have performed three takeoffs and three landings within the previous three months. If any portion of a chartered flight will happen at night, those takeoffs and landings must also have occurred during night flights.  


Be Open to Opportunities 

You may have your heart set on a private pilot position that fits every one of your personal requirements. But, like any career field, it is uncommon to find a job that checks off everything on your wishlist. Instead, be flexible and open to opportunities that are different from the ones that you imagine. If each new job allows you to move up in experience and expands your qualifications, your chances of eventually working towards a position that checks more of your boxes is more likely. 


Never Stop Looking for New Opportunities 

The job market for private and corporate pilots is unpredictable. It is hard to know how long a position will last. Stay active in relevant communities and organizations. Keep your skills as fresh and up to date as you can. Periodically look at what job opportunities are being advertised. Things can change quickly, so having a plan to move forward at any time is vital.  

The life of a pilot can offer unexpected developments at any time. By being the type of person who is up for adventure and eager to learn, you can rise to meet these opportunities. Be open, curious, careful, and adventurous, and you will be in a position to have more options along the way.  

*Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology does not guarantee third-party certifications. Certification requirements for taking and passing certification examinations are not controlled by the College, but by outside agencies and are subject to change by the agencies without notice to the College. Therefore, the College cannot guarantee that graduates will be eligible to take certification examinations, regardless of their eligibility status upon enrollment. 

Interested in Learning More?
If you would like to learn more about Spartan College and our program offerings, fill out the form below to request information, and we will have one of our admissions representatives contact you.

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