Be your own boss

Contract flying has its perks

It sounds too good to be true. Set your own schedule, work only as often as you like, make good money, have a fulfilling career, and be accountable to no one when you’re not working.
Advanced Pilot
Photography by Mike Fizer

If this sounds good to you, contract flying may be a good career option. Corey Gerulis is living this dream. He flies a Hawker business jet on contract for a few companies in the Nashville, Tennessee, area, makes $1,000 per day plus expenses, and gets to pick and choose which trips he wants to take. Often he knows his schedule far in advance, and the company paid for his training. But it wasn’t always easy.

Gerulis used to fly for a regional airline. When they closed his pilot base, he decided to quit rather than commute. It wasn’t a difficult decision given that he had a busy construction business he had started while still at the airline. But he also wanted to keep flying, so he started filling in for friends and other pilots flying corporate jets when they asked.

With a market that has few job prospects, a contract pilot will have to take jobs she may not want in order to be called again in the future. That can lead to a completely unpredictable schedule, having to chase down payments, questionable equipment and safety oversight, and no benefits. But when things are good for pilots, as they are now, the pilot is in control and can ask for more money, turn down trips, and generally control the process.

Because of his construction business, Gerulis is in a position where he doesn’t have to fly, but he enjoys the change in pace. “It’s my getaway,” he said. “You can relax on the road.”

His advice for pilots trying to break into contract work is to negotiate for a company to pay for your training. His recurrent training is more than $20,000, which would take him two months to recoup. But by having the company pay for his training and agreeing to fly five days a month as payment, he’s essentially getting a 50-percent discount on training and the company gets a guaranteed pilot for a few days. Getting the right gig is all about networking and meeting all the pilots at your local flight departments, he said.

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Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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