Here is the third in our ‘A day in the life of’ series where we look at the varied, exciting and unpredictable life of pilots who fly corporate (or ‘business’) jets.
Flying a corporate jet could be classed as long or short haul, depending on the range of the aircraft. You could be flying a Gulfstream to Los Angeles, or a Learjet taking skiers to Chambray for the weekend. Whichever aircraft type you’re employed to fly, your roster is likely to be very changeable and you’ll regularly be on standby.
Corporate contracts often require pilots to be at the airport, ready to fly anywhere, within a short time frame. Sometimes there will be lots of waiting around, and other times you may be called in to work immediately. As a corporate jet pilot, you’ll fly to all sorts of airports, from quiet airstrips to major cities, often at very short notice. Private jet pilots often enjoy the huge variety of flying experience available in this sector, and the chance to be really involved in the operation. As well as always being ready to go somewhere new, meeting the customer’s high expectations is another important part of the job. You’ll probably clean the cabin yourself after a flight and may even find yourself searching an unfamiliar town for the customer’s favourite brand of champagne for the flight home while they’re in their meeting.
A typical day:
Yesterday we flew into Le Bourget, Paris (LBG) with 6 business people. There’s no Parisian glamour for us on this trip though – we are staying at an airport hotel – but we did find time to visit the excellent air museum at the other end of the airport. Today, over breakfast, the Captain and I plan today’s trip. We’re scheduled for an 11:00 departure from LBG with 2 passengers: a well-known singer, plus her Personal Assistant. We’re taking them to Trollhättan–Vänersborg, a small airport 50 miles north of Gothenburg in Sweden. We download the flight briefing onto our work iPads and the Captain phones the handling agent at the airport to arrange coffee, newspapers and lunch for the passengers.
10:00 Handling Agent
We prepare everything before the passengers even get to the airport. The Captain powers up the aircraft, checks the systems and loads the flight computer with the route. I get the cabin ready; we cleaned it last night, but I check everything is perfect, stow the catering in the small galley and arrange the fuel uplift. Finally, we brief how we’ll fly the departure, and the Captain goes back to the handling agent to pay the bill and await the passengers.
10:45 Passengers Arrive
I load their bags into the hold and deliver the pre-flight safety briefing. They’ve heard it before, of course, but it’s a regulatory requirement. I close the door, get into my seat, and the Captain immediately calls for the Before Start Checklist.
11:00 Start Up and Taxi for Departure
Our aim is to get going within minutes of the door being closed. Ideally, the passengers can be through security, onboard and taxiing within 15 minutes of their arrival at the airport. We often fly to LBG as it’s the main Paris airport for corporate aircraft, so we are familiar with the airport taxiways and departure routes. Even so, the Captain engages the autopilot after take-off to help with the high workload in the busy Paris airspace. We’ve never been to THN before; it’s a small airfield with a short runway in uncontrolled airspace and has no precision approaches. The arrival will need careful planning.
At the top of the climb, I go back to serve drinks and lunch. They have a few questions about the flight, and we chat for a while. I return to my seat, and we conduct fuel and navigation checks and consider contingencies. I use the satphone to call the handling agent at our destination for a taxi to meet the passengers on arrival. Then we plan the approach. As it’s a nice day, the Captain suggests a visual approach – it will save us a few minutes and avoids having to fly a complicated procedural NDB approach. One of the joys of corporate work is the vast variety of flying we get to do.
13:30 Arrival at THN
We park at the General Aviation Apron and complete our checks. I open the door while the Captain assists the passengers. The taxi pulls up next to the aircraft, and I load the bags straight into the car, while the Captain says goodbye. Our day is not over though. We shut the aircraft down, clean the cabin again and check in with the company. We were expecting to fly home today, but instead they tell us they have another job for us: we now need to stay the night and fly the passengers back early tomorrow morning. So we talk to handling agent who arranges us a hotel. We also set up the fuelling, catering and passenger handling ready for tomorrow.
14:30 Head to the hotel
Once everything is prepared for tomorrow, we get a taxi to our hotel. I call home to let them know I’ll be back tomorrow instead of tonight. They’re used to my unpredictable work pattern but know that I will have a few rostered days off after tomorrow’s shift. We go into town to stretch our legs and sample the local cuisine. After dinner, I prepare my uniform and flight bag and request a 06:00 alarm call for tomorrow’s flight home.
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Read about a day in the life of a short haul First Officer