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Career Spotlight: Corner office

Corporate pilots roll with the business

If you want to be at home every night, be a flight instructor. If you want the glamour of travel and don’t mind being away from home for days at a time, be an airline pilot. But is there a flying job that offers a bit of both worlds?
Advanced Pilot August 2020
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Yes, and it’s called corporate flying. Corporate pilots fly aircraft for businesses, frequently acting as a sort of aerial car service for executives and other employees, transporting them to business functions at far-flung locations. Corporate pilots can work for a huge corporation that has its own fleet, such as Walmart, or a regional construction company whose owner has one airplane but sees the value of being able to travel to one state for a morning client meeting and to another state for an afternoon meeting with a supplier.

Erin Johnston (inset) flies for California-based Clif Bar & Co., maker of the eponymous energy bars. Clif Bar’s fleet includes a Dassault Falcon jet and a Beechcraft King Air 350 turboprop, which Johnston flies primarily to bakeries located in California and Oregon. Johnston joined the company as a part-time contract employee, flying about four to five days a month for a prorated day rate of $450. To supplement her income, she took Part 91 and Part 135 jobs until offered full-time employment with Clif Bar. She now receives an annual salary and employee benefits.

Johnston enjoys the flexibility that a corporate schedule provides. Days off during the week allow her to pursue outside interests such as a yoga training certificate. She enjoys the ability to visit friends for lunch in Los Angeles when her schedule takes her there for the day. Unlike an airline pilot, Johnston doesn’t have to work holidays because her company doesn’t work them, either. She also praises Clif Bar because, in addition to carbon offsetting, the company plants a tree for each mile flown in the King Air.

As someone who originally planned to go to medical school, Johnston enjoys working for Clif Bar and doesn’t think she’ll make that drastic career switch. She’s especially thankful that Clif Bar paid for her to receive a type rating in the King Air—not all employers are so generous—and will do the same when it’s time to learn how to fly the Falcon. FT

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Jill W. Tallman
Jill W. Tallman
AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.

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