Becoming a charter pilot requires the right kind of pilot’s license as well as a great deal of skill and dedication. Despite the rigors of the training and the job, being a charter pilot can be rewarding and exciting aviation career.
Today, we’re opening up the world of charter pilots, charter companies, and chart flights. Onwards and upwards!
What Is a Charter Company?
Charter companies are businesses that provide private flights. A customer could hire a charter company for any number of occasions — like business trips, sightseeing, or special events. In this scenario, the customer is hiring the whole aircraft with crew rather than just booking a single seat on a “regular” flight.
A charter company’s fleet may include a variety of aircraft. Many have a wide range of planes, ranging from tiny two-seaters to large corporate jets. Helicopters, seaplanes, and other specialty aircraft are available from some charter companies.
Charter companies are in demand because they can give customers more personalized service. They’re able to tailor flights to meet the needs of their clients. Plus, depending upon the circumstances, charter flights may be a more cost-effective alternative to traditional commercial air travel, with more flexibility in terms of scheduling and takeoff and landing points.
A Day in the Life of a Charter Pilot
A charter pilot is a professional pilot who’s employed by a charter company to fly customers to their destinations. Charter pilots are often hired as part of a broader flight crew.
Responsibilities may vary from job to job, but in general, charter pilots are tasked with ensuring the safe operation of the aircraft and providing the highest quality of service to their passengers. Many charter pilots also have scheduling and other operational or administrative duties. So, if you become a charter pilot — don’t be surprised if piloting the aircraft, managing the flight deck, and coordinating the activities of other team members is all in a day’s work!
Oh, the Places Go & Aircraft You’ll Fly
Light jets are the most frequently hired aircraft — mostly for shorter-haul business and air taxi jaunts. Cessna, Embraer, Beechcraft, and Gulfstream planes are commonly among charter companies’ fleets. For helicopters, Bell, Agusta Westland, and Airbus are popular makes.
However, the exact aircraft you’ll fly will depend on a number of factors.
- Your employer’s fleet
- The services offered by your employer
- Your skills, credentials, and preferences
- Market demands
Because you’re a commercial pilot, and likely operating an aircraft that’s smaller than an airline jet, you may have a greater range of possible destinations. For example, you may be flying to:
- Private airfields or corporate campuses instead of large public airports
- Remote locations not served by mainstream airport service
- Places where you’ll need to land on water, ice, unpaved surfaces, etc.
Charter Pilot Salary & Job Outlook
Anyone interested in becoming a charter pilot should be asking, “How much do charter pilots make?” and, “How easy will it be to get a job as a charter pilot?”. These are critical bits of information to have when considering this career path.
According to some of the big-name job and salary sites, the national average for charter pilot salary and bonuses was somewhere between $102,000-$122,000 in 2022. Even an entry-level charter pilot may rake in around $98,000-$101,000 a year! This is significantly above the average American income (which was approximately $54,000 in 2022).
But, a great compensation package is only good if you can get it. Are there actually any jobs in this field? The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects employment opportunities for airline and commercial pilots to grow about 6% through 2031, which is on par with other occupations. This amounts to about 18,000 job openings each year.
Thinking more holistically and longer term, there are plenty of career paths that stem from being a charter pilot. Many people in this position go on to be flight instructors, mechanics, engineers, airport managers, flight ops directors, and so on. The prospects for having a long, prosperous, and diverse work life are there!
How to Become a Pilot for a Charter Company
Before you can sit in the pilot’s seat, you need to get the proper training, experience, and certifications. You also need to meet certain basic requirements. Only then can you go after your first charter pilot job.
The first step to becoming a charter pilot is to attend an FAA-approved flight school.
Flight school can take anywhere from 6 months to several years, depending on your experience level and how quickly you want to finish. You’ll need to complete a variety of in-person and online courses, as well as take flight lessons, to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become a charter pilot.
Training to become a helicopter pilot versus an airplane pilot will differ to some degree due to the nature of each category of aircraft.
Charter Pilot Certification & Flight Experience
Once you’re done with flight school, you’ll need to continue accruing flight hours. This is because charter pilots must hold a commercial pilot’s license, which requires at least 150 hours of flight experience. This is many more airborne hours than is needed to get a student, sport, or private pilot’s certification.
Be aware, though, that the minimum number of hours can vary depending on the kind of flight school you attend and the aircraft you’ll be piloting. Advanced ratings and endorsements will usually necessitate supplemental flight time, too.
- Common advanced certifications and ratings may include:
- Instrument Rating (IFR)
- Multi-Engine Rating (MEL)
- Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI)
- Flight Instructor Certificate (CFI)
- Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
- Certified Flight Instructor-Instrument (CFII)
Some employers or jobs may demand more flight experience as well.
Additional Charter Pilot Requirements
On top of having your commercial pilot’s license, you must pass a medical exam and have knowledge of the regulations and safety requirements that apply to charter flights. Charter pilots must be over the age of 17 and able to read, write, and understand English.
Operators require you to carry special forms of aviation insurance. These policies, and the coverage they offer, provide liability and other protection while you’re on the job. Policies are generally paid for by the charter flight company and/or the owner of the aircraft.
Not a requisite, but a nice-to-have, is the ability to communicate effectively with customers and respond to their needs throughout the flight. “Charter Pilot” is a people-oriented role as much as it’s a technical or mechanical one.
Get Your High-Flying Career Off the Ground with Pureflight
If this all sounds awesome, and you’re raring to go, now’s the perfect time to get started. And, with Purflight, it may be easier and quicker than you might think!
We’re here to help you every leg of your journey to becoming a charter pilot. Contact us today for more details.