Now that you’ve chosen a jet for sale, you will discover that the choices don’t stop there, notes Rene Banglesdorf. One of the most important responsibilities you have is hiring the right pilot(s). How can you make the right pick?
Your life, and the lives of those you fly with, will be in the pilots’ hands. Should you hire older, more experienced pilots? Should you hire younger, more energetic pilots that fit with the image of your growing company? Do you need a team of pilots or just the number required by the FAA to operate the aircraft?
The first detail you should take into consideration when interviewing a potential pilot should be experience. Experience isn’t all about total flying time, although that’s important. You’ll want to know the different types of aircraft the pilot has flown. How many hours has he or she spent flying each aircraft, and for how many different companies has he or she flown?
It also is helpful to know if the pilot has commercial airliner or military experience, as those training requirements are more stringent, and the pilots that complete them likely have greater emergency response training.
The threshold for an experienced pilot, regarding total time, is 6,000 hours. A pilot that’s flown more than 6,000 hours will pretty much have seen it all.
The difference between a pilot with 2,000 hours and a pilot with 3,000 hours is huge, as is the difference between 3,000 and 4,000 hours. The difference between 6,000 and 9,000 hours of experience, however, is miniscule compared to the difference between 3,000 and 6,000 hours.
Mix & Match
If you’re hiring two pilots, however, more experience doesn’t necessarily mean a better experience for you. If your aircraft requires two pilots, or you fly legs long enough to require three, you should take into consideration hiring a team that’s complementary, perhaps one salty pilot and one that is young, energetic and eager to learn.
The key is finding a team that works well together and won’t create friction during weeks on end as travel companions.
One reason why it may be good to hire a combination of youth and experience is that a younger, more highly motivated co-pilot with a willingness to learn may notice some minor details that an experienced pilot with 6,000+ hours might overlook after years of the same monotonous pre-flight checks.
Another reason to hire both an older, more experienced pilot and a younger co-pilot is the fact that many older pilots tend to remain more engaged if they’re able to instruct a less experienced co-pilot during the flight.
If you will be flying a lot, it’s not a bad idea to have an extra pilot so that they can all have downtime in rotation.
If you don’t employ one full-time, having a few contract pilots who have experience in your type of airplane is valuable. When there’s a family emergency or illness among your regular crew, if you have a few contract pilots checked out and on the insurance, you’re less likely to miss or delay trips.
Above & Beyond…
Outside of the cockpit, you should focus on the pilots’ expectations and demeanor. Is he or she customer service-oriented, or willing to help with last-minute details that have nothing to do with the aircraft?
One of Charlie Bravo Aviation’s clients is an international speaker whose pilots (a husband and wife team) man the book table at his speaking engagements. Other pilots set up ground transportation, run errands and drop off Starbucks.
If you are particular about your drinks and the appearance of the cabin, a detail-oriented crew will make life easier.
Are the pilots fiscally conservative, making sure to save you money, or do they expect to stay at the Ritz if you are at the Ritz? It may or may not be important to you - but if you have an expectation of frugality, and the pilot enjoys his or her expense account, there may be friction in the making.
Finally, knowing you can trust your pilots’ discretion is vitally important. If you discuss proprietary business matters on board—or live in the spotlight and don’t want your personal affairs broadcast to the world, a tight-lipped – even protective – pilot is key…
Once you’ve recruited the pilot(s) suited to your mission need, remember that demand worldwide is increasing faster than the rate of pilots entering the workforce. If you have great pilots, be sure to do all you can to keep them!