A year ago this article would have had a very different focus. At the time finding qualified pilots for corporate aircraft companies was proving to be difficult, due to a pilot shortage. However today, as with many things during the Coronavirus pandemic, a shift has emerged in private aviation. In the long list of industries that have been affected by COVID, commercial airlines are definitely at the top, unfortunately leaving record numbers of pilots furloughed or unemployed. These unusual circumstances have caused an uptick in commercial, regional, and other types of pilots seeking a move across the aisle into the private industry.
At the root of it, airline and corporate flying jobs are similar as all pilots require years of training, experience, and passion, but after that, the two worlds diverge. Luke Bishop, Chief Pilot of Airshare, finds that a majority of the differences are seen in the customer experience. As an airline pilot, there is little relationship to speak of with passengers outside of the occasional overhead announcements; it is more of a drop and go scenario. For Airshare pilots, continually flying with the same business executives or sports figures and their families provides a sense of familiarity. Airshare strives to deliver the passengers where they need to go while delivering a unique and enjoyable experience. There’s a more hands-on approach as pilots see a flight through from start to finish and everything in between. They have the liberty to tailor the day to fit a customer’s agenda. That might result in decorating the cabin for a birthday or serving holiday-specific cocktails, getting to share in a customer’s joy after an important business meeting, a special family occasion, or a big game. These all create a rewarding bond not found in other areas of aviation. Success isn’t simply defined as getting a person safely from point A to B, rather it can be more accurately judged by whether or not the customer is happy.
Additionally, schedule planning is different when working for a corporate aviation company. Pilots are aware of their schedule one year in advance, allowing for easy planning in the other areas of life. The job is fun because no day is the same when flying a private jet. The morning might start with going from a busy airport then on to a small community airport and then in the evening back to a different busy airport. When a trip is several days, the crew may stay on location. Pilots typically have access to rental cars and then are free to explore the area.
When flying private, duties are more hands-on and can range from flight planning to working directly with the client to meet their needs, which makes it easy to provide workarounds for problems like weather concerns. The ability to make decisions and have flexibility makes it easier to come up with favorable solutions. Offering a flight delay or the option of going to a different airport ensures clients arrive at their destination with minimal interruption. Bishop explains that this intimate knowledge of everything as it relates to each specific trip provides the pilots with pride of ownership.
Trustworthy relationships are not only important between client and pilot. Since they live in the same market and work together all of the time, pilots and their co-pilots cultivate strong bonds as well. Pilots at Airshare understand they work in a serious business and that they are the face of the company for the customer, but they know behind the scenes it is a team effort to deliver unparalleled service. The camaraderie with everyone from flight control to the maintenance staff to marketing is what allows the professionalism to shine.
As described by Bishop, the key attributes of an Airshare pilot are integrity, aptitude, humility, and the ability to lift up those around you. A person who does the right thing while no one is looking, is willing to take on unique challenges every day, and offers mentorship to those with less experience is what Airshare seeks in an employee. He boasts that their pilots have a wide variety of backgrounds from “the military to 20-year airline pilots to regional pilots. Any walk of life is welcome. What matters is your personality and who you are as an aviator, not where you came from.”