At NetJets, first-year pilots are paid $29,000, but overtime brings the total close to $40,000. A fifth-year captain at NetJets is paid $5,082 per month. At Travel Air all pilots are hired in as SIC and are locked in the right seat for approximately one year. The starting pay is $32,000 (regardless of the aircraft type the pilot is hired to fly); first year PIC pay is $50,000, and the company pays overtime of $400 per day for all or part of a day pilots are on duty beyond the normal schedule. A captain flying jets for CitationShares will earn approximately $64,000.
Although the pay at the top of the salary scale isn't as good as that for the major airlines, flying for a fractional is flying the way many pilots feel it was meant to be-here, there, and everywhere. "Our brand of flying is addictive," Jim Peters, NetJets chief pilot, said. "It's definitely not point A to point B; it's a fun type of flying. It's not always La Guardia to Miami to Dallas to La Guardia to Miami. It's exciting and varied. There are all different types of challenges in the flying. We have some of the best pilots flying and the challenges keep them sharp."
A case in point: it's still dark at 0500 on a Monday morning when the NetJets crew of a Cessna Citation V Ultra reports to the airport at Charlotte, North Carolina, to begin their four-day tour of duty. The pilots have had their duty schedule for two months but had no idea exactly where they would fly until they got their schedule last evening. The day's itinerary shows them hopscotching the East Coast, either carrying different owners on each leg or repositioning the airplane for others who own shares in the airplane.
"The pilots we attract are professionals and they like the challenge of not flying a set schedule, they like that every day is different-different passengers, different destinations. They like to be problem solvers," said Bill Schultz, COO for CitationShares. Tim Gabriel, vice president of operations for Flexjet says, "Our pilots get to fly for six very interesting days never knowing where they'll be the next night. In six days they might get to see the U.S. and the world. They could have a -20? Canadian night and the next evening be 90? in the Bahamas. They're never bored."
Although fractional pilots do not know until the last minute where they are taking their airplanes, they do know their schedules well in advance. They know as much as a year in advance which days they'll have to work-not necessarily where they'll be flying-and can easily make family and personal plans around their duty days. In many traditional corporate flight departments, on the other hand, pilots typically carry a beeper and are often on call for last-minute schedule changes.
The duty schedules at the fractionals range from simple six-on/four-off, eight-on/seven-off, or seven-on/seven-off schedules to NetJets' system that offers pilots three types of quarterly schedules on which they can bid by seniority. In addition to a seven-on/seven-off schedule, NetJets pilots can bid on a 17-day schedule under which they would fly three or more tours that would total 17 days in a 30-day period, with none of the tours exceeding six days. The third option available to NetJets pilots is a 21-day flexible "volunteer" schedule under which the pilots carry a pager and are available on a standby basis for 21 days in a 30-day period. "Since the on-call schedule allows us to fill peaks and valleys in the schedule, the pilots who choose the on-call schedule are compensated for their flexibility with additional pay," Peters explained.