Airline Captain – considered by many to be the ultimate flying job. But even though the pay and perks are outstanding for those who work their way up the system, the airline industry is very volatile and job security is not that great. One good alternative is corporate flying, and to get a view of that we talked to Brent Owens. Brent is a captain with Executive Jet Aviation, a successful, growing company that offers fractional ownership of its fleet of jets to corporate customers. He also flies the Citation X, the fastest business jet in the world.
Brent got started in aviation the traditional way. As a teenager, he worked the line at an FBO in exchange for flying lessons, went to two academies for his ratings, and then returned to the FBO to build time flying light twins. We’ll let Brent take it from here.
‘One day in April, 1995, I was at the FBO with another pilot named Greg when an Executive Jet Aviation Citation S2 landed. We asked the Citation pilots about Executive Jet Aviation and they told us it was a great company offering lots of opportunities. I didn’t have enough twin time to meet the minimum requirements, but Greg did and he was hired. I worked hard at building up my twin time and was hired a year later.
‘When I got hired, I had to pay to get a Citation type rating, so I went to the bank and plunked down my ten thousand dollars and got a Citation 500 type rating at FlightSafety in Wichita. That was my first turbine experience. The Citation is very docile and it was like flying a 182, except almost more simple because you don’t have to adjust the prop; you’ve got two levers and you push them up to go and pull them back to stop.
‘After I got the type rating, I went back to EJ’s home base at Columbus for two or three training flights, which included the required maneuvers, such as steep turns, stalls in different configurations, and all the approaches. After that, I went through ab initio training, including safety drills, security, and customer service skills. Then I was ready to go out on the road and do trips.
‘We fly these airplanes more than anybody else in the world – 700 to 1000 hours a year. If a customer lives in Burbank and wants to go golfing in Las Vegas, he calls and in a matter of hours we bring the plane to him and fly him there. The planes don’t have a dedicated base – they just go from one place to another, according to the demand. It’s very dynamic; the schedule can change on a minute’s notice.
‘We work several types of schedules. On a 17-day-a-month schedule, we work six days and we’re off four or five days, on a random basis. On another schedule, we work seven days and then we’re off seven days, etc. You may be living in Columbus or one of the gateways EJ has across the country, and at about seven or eight o’clock at night you’ll get a call from the company if you have a trip. They’ll tell you what time to be at work, who you’re flying with, what airplane you’re on, and where to go on your first leg.
‘Most guys upgrade from copilot to captain inside of a year. It took me a little longer to make captain – 13 months – because I wanted to get some time as a copilot on the larger Hawker jet. I started at $28,000 and stayed at that salary for a year. When I became a captain, the pay went to $36,000. I’ve been there for four years and right now our base pay is $58,000. On top of that there’s overtime, which adds $7000 to $10,000. Our top guy with 14 years is paid somewhere in the high 80s or low 90s. We’re getting Boeing business jets this year and inside of three or four years I’ll be eligible to fly them, and the unofficial word is that it’s a six-figure job.
‘I’m not interested in going with the airlines. Seeing this company grow, I think that my quality of life will be just as good or better if I stay here.
‘I got married last October. Even though I spend a lot of nights away from home, I’ve opted for the seventeen-day schedule and I can take off any day of the month I want, so my wife and I can plan on the times we want to do things together. Also, the pilots do recurrent training for the airplanes every six months and we’re home for that, as well as for the annual recurrency, and after five years we get three weeks off. Sometimes you’re scheduled for a six-day trip, but they don’t happen to need the crew, so you sit at home and get paid.
‘Executive Jet Aviation is running recruiting ads in FLYING and they’ve given us a bunch of brochures, so if we see an instructor who has the minimum requirements, the company wants us to talk to that person. But if a pilot wants to pad his logbook he would never make it here. The flight training is a full complement of all the emergencies you can possibly imagine and the check rides are right up to ATP standards.
‘For those who have the necessary experience, it’s a great opportunity. ‘My advice to anyone interested in a career as a commercial pilot is: Be persistent. It took me ten years to get to the point where I was making a living. The other piece of advice is to network. That got me where I am today.’
A representative of Executive Jet Aviation told us that the company will be acquiring more than 50 new aircraft during this year and will be actively recruiting pilots from now through 2001. Minimum requirements are: ATP with First Class medical and 2500 hours total time, of which 500 is multiengine and 250 IFR.
If you’re qualified and want to apply, send your résumé to Executive Jet Aviation, Att: Pilot Recruitment, 4111 Bridgeway, Columbus, OH 43219. You can also access their Web site at www.netjets.com.