Freelance Pilot - What to Expect?

Freelance Pilot - What to Expect?

If you have never freelanced before the first trip or two might be a little daunting. The points below may help you prepare and hopefully answer some questions. Freelancing in the commercial world is a little more involved than in the private/corporate as more regulations are placed on the operator.  If you have read the article on “Private/Corporate Aviation Freelance Pilot – What to expect” much of the below will be familiar but will have the differences so please read.

In general, if you freelance with a commercial operator, you can expect future work from them due to the extra costs and requirements involved in them employing you. The private/corporate world can be exciting and is certainly varied, you maybe taking a family to some exotic destination for their holidays, a business person to a meeting and back or maybe many meetings in different locations, or simply flying the family dog (I’m not joking!).  Some days the routes are set, but others you may feel like a taxi driver arriving at one destination only to get a call from ops telling you go to another unplanned airport. This is where you take a deep breath, remind yourself that flexibility is what this job is about and keep smiling. Sometimes you won’t know which hotel or even which country you will spending the night in.

What do you need to Freelance?

As a professional pilot you will need to have a current license be it a CPL or ATPL, a current type rating, a Line Proficiency Check (LPC) an current Operators Proficiency Check (OPC) an in date medical and a current passport. If you are currently employed make sure that the small print on your current contract allows you to fly elsewhere and you don’t breach any clauses by doing so. Sign up to Freelance Aircrew and up load all of your details so you are highly visible to an operator.

What happens when you are contacted for a job?

If you are contacted by an operator through freelanceaircrew they will have seen all of your documents and already know that you are suited to the job but if you are contacted out side of this you will be asked to scan and send all the documents before they can ascertain your suitability for the position. Once the operator is satisfied with your credentials you will need to agree on some points before commencing some extra training.

The small print

Ascertain the duration of the assignment and agree on a daily rate and per diem. Find out who organises and pays for your positioning costs, who covers accommodation, and what clothing you will need to wear. Confirm the role you will fulfil, and agree how and when you will be paid.

Your homework

It is wise to confirm the aircraft type and registration, and likely destinations as soon as possible. You can then check any visa requirements and get the latest medical and security advice for those countries (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice). Ask the operator to send you the company’s operations manual, normal checklist, SOPS etc so you can make timely preparations.

Ensure you contact your captain/co-pilot and get as much information as possible; ask them about the aircraft (variations compared to your previous aircraft, cabin layout, particularities), and enquire about the passengers’ likes or dislikes (though the latter may be difficult due to confidentiality agreements).

What will the operator do before the flight

The operator is required in inform the hulls insurance company of your intention to fly it and provide them with your documentation for their approval. Depending on the country of aircraft registration they may need to apply for a validation from the Aviation Authority before you are able to operate as a member of the crew.

Pre-flight Training

This is where it varies from private/cooperate flying.  As an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holder the operator will require you to do an indoctrination course (INDOC) covering SOPS, CRM, manuals, company policy and other items – no two companies INDOC are the same as it is company specific. Next you will need an Operator Proficiency Check (OPC), this as the name suggest, is an operator specific check and are generally not carried over from one company to the next so it’s of to the sim. Once all of the above is completed and you are released to fly you will have to undergo the companies line training programme.  This can be done on live flights but will require the company to provide a line-training captain to complete the sectors.

As you can glen from the above requirements freelancing in the commercial world is more complex and the operators will want to use their investment (you) on a more regular basis, which can only be good.Some AOC holders may be able to operate a flight under private regulations depending on their structure, this may allow them to wave the OPC, INDOC and line check requirements making it easier to use freelancers.

All the boxes ticked – Day 1

Once all of the requirements have been met you will be ready for your first flight. You may have to proceed by airline to your aircraft’s location, so make sure you allow plenty of time on day one. It will be beneficial to meet your captain/co-pilot with time to spare, so you can address any questions or issues that arise when you see your particular aircraft for the first time. You may have a flight attendant, make sure you introduce yourself and gain any valuable information about the cabin, clients and how you may help them.

Flight No2

You should now be aware how the operation functions, and be in a position to start enjoying the world of freelancing. Work when you want by maximising the service we offer you at FreelanceAircrew; as well as sending you monthly reminders to update your availability, we also remind you to renew and update your qualifications before they expire – in effect, we are your pocket PA and HR assistant.

The process will be easier the next time you are contacted by a new operator, so you will probably be able to add to the advice given above. However, please remember that no two operators are identical. Welcome to the world of Freelance Aircrew!

The future

Should you return to the same operation things will be relatively simple, make sure you provide any changes to your paperwork like medicals, passport renewal etc. You may not be flying with the same crew so again contact them with plenty of time. If you get contacted by another operator you will now have a fair idea of how the process works so you will probably be able to add to the advise given above but please remember that no two operators are the same. 

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