private jet pilot versus airline pilot

Private jet pilot versus airline pilot

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Time literally flies. In 2010 I began my aviation career as a first officer on a private jet and it is already a half a year ago that I started my new job on the Airbus A300-600. My line training is not yet over and continues for another 40 flight sectors. I take the upcoming Labor Day as an occasion to share my first impressions about the new cockpit job.

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„The bad new times flies the good news you are the pilot“

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Private jet pilot versus airline pilot

Last December I revealed my new aircraft type to you and explained my reasons switching to a different employee. As much as I love the General Aviation, I decided to move on and to accept a new occupational challenge with a totally different operation. It was definitely a hard decision but in the end, I have to say that I decided correctly. As I promised to I will compare both types of operation and show you the differences of a life as a private jet pilot and airline pilot.

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Flight hours

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Airline

  • approximately 450 flight hours a year

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Business Aviation

  • 250 - 500 hours

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Usually, airline pilots fly more hours over the year. At my first job in the business jet company I only flew about 250-300 hours a year. This is about the average for this branch. Later I flew about 500 hours in one year on the Citation XLS+. (not common for this type of operation) Now I will fly about 450 hours in one year even though it is an airline. Especially low-cost airline pilots fly up to the maximum of 900 hours a year. This is great to gain flight hours in a minimum of time. The total flight hours entirely depends on the type of operation (private, charter, commercial) the airline is doing.

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Citation XLS+ Private Jet

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Destinations

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Airline

  • network primarily within Europe
  • fixed routes and destinations

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Business Aviation

  • flight primarily within Europe
  • always varying destinations
  • no fixed routes

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As a private jet pilot, I got to know a lot of different airports within Europe. I have been to over 100 different airports. Since the performance of the smaller business jets allow landing at shorter runways you get to approach many more destinations compared to an airline pilot. The customer decides which route he wants to fly and where he wants to land. I think almost every duty block I flew to a new airport I have not been to. The advantage to a have a limited network is that you become much more familiar with the airport, which helps a lot during adverse weather and high workload conditions.

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Sunset at Tivat airport

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Schedule / Roster

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Airline

  • Fix monthly roster with exact flights
  • Duty days stay but flight schedule may change
  • Publication of the new roster one month
  • ahead
  • Off days are your off days
  • Off request system
  • Additional off days over the year
  • Extra duty days are paid
  • Switching flights with colleagues possible

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Business Aviation

  • Monthly roaster
  • No fixed flight only either duty day or off day
  • High flexibility expected
  • Publication of the new roster only shortly prior
  • Off days may be changed last minute
  • Off requests are possible
  • Company phone so they can reach you anytime
  • Ad hoc flights and daily flight schedule changes

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Working in the business aviation requires you to be highly flexible during your duty days. You have to expect Ad hoc charter flight and last minute changes. The schedule itself is usually not as stable as the one of an airline. Now I have a monthly roster which shows me my flights and exact times and destinations. Previously I only had a roaster showing only stating duty or off.  Like in my previous company I am working maximum 7 days in a row. But I know from other business jet company where pilots work up to 20 days in a row. To sum it up you can plan your social life much better with an airline.

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A300-600 cockpit

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Layovers and Hotels

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Airline

  • Hotels and transport organized
  • Fixed crew hotels with discounts on food
  • Hotel room available for your entire stay
  • Usually only one night at a destination
  • Fixed duty check in times

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Business Aviation

  • Hotels and transported organized by crew
  • Had to stick to check in and check out times of the hotel
  • Consecutive nights at one destination
  • Early crew reporting times

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At first, I was a little overwhelmed that everything is already organized for you. Hotel and transport are booked by the company and after a flight, you leave the aircraft already 15 minutes later. This is quite relaxing if I compare to my previous job. After a day of flying, we had to book a hotel within in a budget ourselves.  Not easy during summer at a hot spot location. On the other hand, I liked it to decide in which hotel I was going to stay. This way we could decide if we stay in the city center or stay rather close to the airport to have as much rest as possible.

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Layover in Helsinki April 2017

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Aircraft and Training

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Airline

  • Wide-body Airliner (170t)
  • Complex aircraft
  • Extensive training
  • Extensive documentation
  • Regular Simulator flights

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Business Aviation

  • Small business jet below 10 tons
  • Less complex systems
  • Training on type

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I am feeling honored having the chance to fly the legendary A300-600. The aircraft is complex with its numerous systems. An extensive training including a type rating is necessary to be able to fly the aircraft. The airline puts a lot of emphasis on well-trained cockpit crew. Therefore every pilot goes to the simulator two times a year. I have the impression that the documentation is more extensive and all guidelines are written down.

At the beginning of my career I did all my checks on ferry flights, so the company wanted to save on expensive simulator flights. But the training effect was definitely not as good as in the simulator. As I mentioned before the weight category of aircraft is important for one's aviation career. That is why accepted the new occupational challenge on the big Airbus. The A300-600 needs to be flown very precisely. Especially the landing feels different since you sit up much higher and approach the runway at the faster speed.

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A300-600 engines

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Conclusion

I have to emphasize that I am only talking about my personal impressions and opinions. The operation of another airline might sound totally different and fellow pilots would share with you a completely different opinion.

For planning reasons, an airline pilot life is the better choice. Your duty schedule is more consistent and you can plan with off requests days better ahead. This gives your social life a better quality. In the business aviation, I liked the fact that I flew to much more destinations and that I sometimes did not know where will be on the next day. I really loved those surprises.

On the other hand, a much more stable roaster lets you plan your rest time during layovers much better. In 6 years business aviation I only visited downtown London only twice, even though I stayed there 100+ nights. Either there was not much time or I did not know when the next flight was going to be, so I was on standby in the hotel. Now I know my exact departure time which already allowed me to do sightseeing in Paris and London.

There is a lot of waiting time in the business aviation. Either for the passengers, the fuel, for the hotel room, next flight, or the taxi. This can be quite tiring. I liked the fact that you could wait and rest in VIP lounges. The preparation time in the private aviation is much longer and after the last flight, you can not leave the aircraft straight away. You still need to get everything back in shape again and maybe refuel this can take up to an hour. Additionally, in the business aviation, you have to go on many more commercial flights to start your duty where ever the jet is currently located.

In my opinion, an airline makes you a better pilot, since the training is more extensive and the standards are set to a higher level. The operating procedures are laid out in detail so every pilot operates the aircraft in the same way. In the business aviation, I have seen pilots which were not strict about procedures and interpreted regulations their own way.

In my opinion, the life of an airline is much more relaxed since a lot is already done and organized. Honestly speaking I can not tell which operation I favor because they are so different, but I admit that I definitely miss some aspects of the business aviation.

Let's see how my point of view will be a couple of months later.

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Which operation would you prefer? Airline or Private jet?

Happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick

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my way into the cockpit

My way into the cockpit + My 10 application tips

The blog posts of how I became a pilot have become to one of your favorite ones. So far I have published four parts in this series and yet there is more to come. In this blog post, I want to move up to one step further. I received a lot of questions asking me how I managed my way into the cockpit. I am going to explain exactly that and additionally, I want to give some general tips when applying for your dream job.

In Dublin with the beautiful business jet Citation XLS+

My way into the cockpit

In the end of 2009, I graduated from flight school. The training at Intercockpit was independent of any airline so I was able to apply at any company I wanted to. Unfortunately, the market situation at this moment was not the best. There were some jobs on the market Germanwings and Lufthansa City Line were searching for first officers at this moment. Those jobs were highly embattled. But for a good reason, I did not have the big desire to work for the Lufthansa group.

Unlike to my fellow flight student, I still was pretty much open to fly either for a big carrier or a small business jet company. But I felt that I was more willing to fly a private jet and to experience this kind of operation. I did not want to be the kind of pilot who does not have any layovers and returns to his home base every night. Moreover, I desired to be away from home to discover new places and new cultures.

Application

I applied at many airlines throughout Europe. Most applications to german operators I send as hard copy in a nice application folder. But the majority I send per email or filled out online which is the standard procedure. I found out that more than 50% did not send any feedback and that most airlines required flight experience on a certain type of aircraft. That became quite frustrating after around 40 applications. After a couple of months finishing flight school, I became impatient, because I wanted to be in the air and not on the ground waiting. In November 2009 I received my CPL(A) license by the authority, but the Muli Engine Instrument rating would already expire in July 2010 again. This rating is required for job applications and would cost around 1.000,-€ to revalidate.

pilot patrick in new first officer uniform in berlin
My new uniform for the career on the A300-600

I thought about doing something else besides writing applications. Unfortunately, I did not know anyone in the aviation branch, who could support me getting a job. So my idea was to get to know somebody who could help me. That is why I visited the aviation fair "Aero" in Friedrichshafen in April 2010. This fair is specialized on general aviation with numerous business jet companies attending. It was the best decision to go since I found my job that way. On a small booth, I got to know my former employer. Then things started to happen very fast.

I was invited to an interview in Berlin and a second time to do some kind of screening on a Cessna 172. The idea behind this was to show my practical flying skills. Everything went well in order to begin my type rating on the Citation XLS in the beginning of July 2010. The only down point was that I had to fund my type rating myself. The costs were around 20.000,-€. Fortunately, the german authority for employment sponsored 50% of the costs. I was lucky to be at the right spot at the right time.

Seven years ago during my first rotation on the Citation XLS in Nice, France

It has become quite common that pilots have to compensate for their type rating in the beginning of their career in the cockpit. In the end, it took me eight months to find a job. This was quite fast considering that 1/3 of my fellow student pilots are not in a First Officer position until now.

Backup plan

It is always useful to have a backup plan. Mine was to go study to the university of applied sciences in Bremen. I was already accepted as a student to start in the winter semester of 2010. I would have done a bachelor in aviation management and system knowledge. Then everything changed with the job commitment.

Links I used in the past to find job offers:
latest pilots job
carrer. aero
pilotjobsnetwork.com

My 10 application tips 

Over the years I gained many experiences writing applications to numerous companies. I am definitely not an expert, but the following tips are useful for any dream job you are longing for.

  • Contact Person: Find out the person, who receives and reads your application. This name should be stated in the cover letter. A direct appellation is better than 'Dear Ladies and Gentlemen'.  To find out the name give them a call and ask. You might even have the chance to talk to the person in charge. In this case, you can assign to this phone call in your cover letter. This gives the application a personal touch.
  • Requirements: Always check you if you meet the requirements of the job offer. If you have any doubts drop a line via email or give them a call.
  • Paper or digital: Check which form the employer prefers. Nowadays most companies prefer the digital form via email.
  • File format: The file format is of uttermost importance. This can already decide if the human resources department prints out your application and if they are even able to read it. I recommend sending your documents as PDF in one single file. Check that the file size is appropriate. Not more than 10 MB.
  • Photo: Use a clear, friendly and professional portrait for your application. It is worth the money to go to a photographer to get a nice shot. Wear clothing which suits your further job. I recommend attaching a full body photo if you have a lot of personal contact with customers.
first officer application tips
Application of 2013. Example of my cover page with my hard facts at the bottom
  • Appearance: The design and the formatting of your application are really important. Use the same font and a common layout throughout the application. Make it special through a design that sticks out. Use the colors of the company and try work with their motto.
  • Cover letter: Keep it short, precise and interesting. You should surprise your reader and you should try to arouse his curiosity, so he is willing to continue to read your application. Remember you are not the only applicant and there is only a little time available to read yours.  Use correct grammar and spelling!
  • Hard facts: Consider writing your hard facts on a cover page with your portrait photo. Mention five to seven facts about which really speak for you. (see picture above)
  • Call: If you have not received any feedback within 7 working days, I would call and ask for it. This shows that you are really interested in that position.
  • Be patient: Sometimes it requires a lot of effort and time to find your dream job. Do not get frustrated when you receive many denials in a row. Always believe in yourself and do not give up!

A dream is like a private jet! It only waits for you!

It is the combination of a good application, perfect timing and a little bit of luck to get your dream job. For all future aviators, I have 10 tips for you when you consider attending a flight school.

Happy landings and good luck!

Your Pilot Patrick

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pilot life vs private life

Pilot life vs. Private life How does this work together?

In my last aviation related blog post "How I became a pilot part II" I told you about my first flight training phase in beautiful Croatia. Now I want to show you how a pilot life and private life work together. 

Pilot life vs. private life

In the past many of you wondered how I can have a social/private life as pilot when traveling so much and being absent from home a lot. Especially those of you who strive to become a pilot in the future asked me this question and told me their concerns-

Here are examples of two snapchat users.

This solely depends on you dude. But do not worry if you want, you can have both options. ;-) 

It is true that I am absent from home for about half of the month. Usually I am on duty for a  maximum of eight days in a row. The operation in the Business Aviation requires to overnight at those locations wherever the last flight of the day takes you to. Whereas the flights of many low cost airlines end at their home base, which equals basically to a 9 to 5 job. At this moment I would not be a fan of this kind of operation since one reason for me of becoming a pilot is to travel and get to know new places. But I could imagine that an operation, which allows you to sleep at home every night, can be a big advantage once you want to build a family.

As you can see it really depends on the type of operation and airline how many days in a month you actually spend at home. A minimum of 8 days are granted by the aviation authority.

I have arranged myself with the absence from home quite well. I have a social life with friends and private activities like everyone else. Unfortunately I can not attend all events (like birthdays, concerts, parties and family events) but due to good organization skills I get the best of my free time and I never have a big feeling that I miss out on something.

Enjoying my off days! Here on top of Montserrat mountain in Catalonia, Spain

Pros and Cons of my pilot life:

PROS

  • Getting payed well to travel, to see new places and to fly airplanes
  • I leave work behind in the airplane and so I can use my off time at the fullest 
  • More than 3 days off in a row without taking leave (sometimes even 6 days)
  • Per diem are paid for every hour I am being away from home
  • I do my paper work during my work so I can enjoy my off days without distraction
  • Hotel gyms are free of use and I do not have a contract for a gym at home
  • I have more off days than a full time job (about 12 days)
  • Some passengers pay a tip to the crew for the flight and inflight service

CONS

  • Great flexibility expected and the schedule might change at last minute 
  • I only have either Christmas or New years off at home
  • For important events and appointments I have to take leave 
  • I can not attend classes or courses which take place on a regular basis
  • Irregular working hours and sometimes only little sleep during busy months
  • It is hard to keep a special diet while traveling 
  • Especially in the Business Aviation there is a lot of waiting time

Those are my subjective impressions about my life as a First officer and other pilots would definitely mention different aspects.

Ready for boarding the VIP passenger at the pole position in Olbia

As much as I enjoy being at home, after a couple of days at home my wanderlust kicks in and I want to go on a journey again. Striving for a position of a crew member you have to make sure that you have this desire as well. If not you might not be happy in the long term.

Which aspect would you do not like being a pilot? Comment below.

Please have a look on my aviation related Links, which may you find helpful!

Your Pilot Patrick

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