Flexjet's pilots flying Challengers get their basic schedule almost three months ahead of time; they don't know where they'll be flying, just when. "Each duty day when they shut down they're given a preliminary idea of the trips that are scheduled for the following day," explained Gabriel. "The schedule is optimized over the night and the next morning they get the schedule, but it's still subject to change."
For the moment, Challenger pilots fly a six-on/four-off duty schedule with no preference given for seniority, while Flexjet's Lear pilots, on the other hand, can bid three months out on a monthly schedule. But that's going to change when Flexjet finishes installing the Preferential Bid System, a software program that will allow pilots of all its fleets to bid on their schedules online. "The system will crunch their wish lists and satisfy 85 percent of the pilots' choices," Gabriel promised.
Another advantage that pilots with most of the fractionals enjoy is the freedom to choose where they want to live. Flight Options' crews are allowed to live anywhere in the lower 48 states, provided that they live near an airport that is serviced by at least three different airlines and that has a minimum of six outbound flights per day. Travel Air simply requires that its pilots live within one-and-a-half hours of a major airline airport (one commuter hop is allowed to get to the major hub).
Pilots flying for NetJets can choose to live near any one of 25 "gateway" airports. Pilots are required to be within three hours or 100 miles of their gateway airport by midnight of their first day of duty. Flexjet lets its pilots live anywhere they want, but they have to check in the night before their duty tour at one of three gateways: Dallas, Newark and West Palm/Fort Lauderdale. The gateway airports are connected with maintenance centers and new gateways are expected to eventually be opened on the West Coast and in Denver. CitationShares currently has two "domiciles" for its pilots, Orlando, Florida, and New York (Westchester Country Airport). "As our business continues to grow over the next five years we will evaluate the need for additional pilot domiciles," Schultz said. "Eventually, we hope to be able to eliminate the need to have domiciles at all."
The success of fractional ownership programs has contributed to the pilot hiring spree that's hastened the upward mobility of the professional pilot cadre. Many pilots on their career course to the left seat of an airliner are pausing-and even getting off the ladder-to fly with a fractional. Pilots clicking on the "career opportunities" or "employment" icons on the websites of several of the fractional operators can put their hat in the ring by e-mailing their r?sum? or filling in an employment application online. But although the fractionals are hiring many pilots, they have a lot to choose from and their minimum requirements for consideration are just that-only minimums.
The minimums range from Flight Options' requirement for 1,500 hours total time, 300 multiengine hours and 100 hours turbine time with a first class medical and the written for the ATP out of the way to the 3,500 hours total time, 1,500 hours multiengine time, 2,000 hours as pilot in command, 500 hours turbine time, 250 hours jet time, an ATP and first class medical required for pilots wanting to sign on with CitationShares in a captain's slot; requirements for second in command positions are proportionately less.