Being a pilot is about being a professional aviator, on the top of your game, well trained and constantly striving to improve your knowledge and skills. There are many different pilots jobs ranging from airlines, business jets, maritime patrol, military, search and rescue, survey, floatplanes… the list goes on and on and many have perks.
How you see perks depends on you and your job, you maybe a search and rescue pilot that has managed to save lives and airline pilot that gets to stay in their favourite city every month or a survey pilot that loves the pure hands on flying, as we say in Britain “horses for courses”.
My world is the biz jet world; glamour, money, fame and good looks - well for our clients anyway! This is an ever changing world, we could be flying a family to their holiday home, flying business people to meetings, medevac, taking the family dog to a specific vet, the list goes on and so does the destination list. We could be dropping off clients at Heathrow for a transcontinental flight in the morning, landing in the ski resorts that afternoon, Caribbean islands the day after or deepest darkest coldest Siberia.
At some airports performance is not a factor, others it is. At some airports weather isn’t a factor, at others it is. Some remote airports have a whole list of issues, but these challenging things: like trying to get edible catering in rural Africa, fuel on remote islands or having to bribe the locals to get part of your aircraft back; make it all the more enjoyable if you like that sort if thing.
To me, as a professional pilot, experiences and variety of flying are perks of the job. It’s not all about the physical flying of the aircraft. We don’t have closed cockpit doors. On biz jets we don’t even have a door to close and that can bring us close to the clients. I was once bouncing around over the Alps in turbulence when I looked back to find a wife and daughter clung to each other with terrified faces. All I had to do is smile and bounce around in my seat like a muppet, for them to realise that if I wasn’t worried about the turbulence then they shouldn’t worry either. The colour soon returned to their faces. Being able to get out of my seat and go back and chat can also help the nervous flier. Clients can still come up to the cockpit and see what they are getting for their money and many are surprisingly knowledgeable. Like any pilot I love taking about my machine.
Most clients are fabulous, interesting and polite people, but to succeed in this world you also have to be a good judge of character and know when to keep you head down and fly, or when you can take time and chat. Some clients treat the aircraft like a taxi others see it as a privileged way to travel and treat you accordingly.
Stories of large-tips to expensive-gifts circulate around the biz jet world and most are true. Taking a family to a tropical island for a holiday may mean you have to stay in the same location for the duration, and there are times when the clients make sure you get one of the best hotels. I have stayed in suites in NY bigger than my house, lodges on stilts in the pacific, former palaces, fabulous hidden retreats and hotels only accessible to the rich. Just don’t touch the mini-bar!