Pilot has always been a dream job for many people since their childhood. Unlike many other professions, this career may not require outstanding academic results, but it is never easy to become a professional pilot. AERO LINK has been working closely with different aviators. We have great pleasure interviewing one of our most experienced captains, Newton Wan, to find out what it is like working as a corporate pilot. For those who aspire to getting into the field, read on!
Newton has been working as a professional pilot in 6 different countries flying both commercial planes and corporate jets during different stages of his career for more than 20 years. Newton was born in Canada and he is now based in Hong Kong as a private jet pilot. Just like many other aviators, Newton has always wanted to become a pilot since he was a young boy. By the time he turned 17, Newton began to learn to fly. Soon he obtained his Private Pilot License (PPL) in New Zealand, followed by a Commercial Pilots License (CPL) for land and seaplanes in the United States. Newton has also worked as a flight instructor since the early stage of his career and he has won the FAA Gold Seal Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) award for exemplary teaching standards. Newton currently holds Airline Transport Pilot Licenses (ATPL) from several countries, qualified to operate different jet models including the Airbus A320, Gulfstream G450/G550, and the Bombardier Challenger 605/850.
Duties of a pilot
Flying passengers to their destinations – affirm! Pilots are responsible for the safety and comfort of all passengers and crews on board an aircraft. To ensure maximum safety throughout the journey, it is the pilot’s responsibility to inspect an aircraft before and after the flight, select a safe and efficient route to arrive at the destination, and keep accurate records for compliance purposes. Pilots often need to communicate with many regulatory agencies and personnel to take care of every possible aspect related to an operation.
Flying commercial vs flying private jet
Flying different aircraft models requires different types of training and licenses. Unlike a driver license which allows a driver to handle both a Porsche Cayenne and a Porsche 911, in the aviation world, flying a Boeing 787 and a Dassault Falcon 7X requires two totally different licenses to ensure the pilots are knowledgeable to control a specific aircraft type.
Flying commercial plane is like working for a big company where you are required to handle your part of the operation, which is flying, while flying a private jet can be compared to working for a small company where you need to handle many different things related to the operation with a small team. Generally speaking, there are more areas that a private jet pilot needs to manage before, during and after an operation. From flight planning, catering to aircraft cleaning, everything that happens on a plane is under a private jet pilot’s supervision.
The upside and downside of being a pilot
The biggest challenge of being a full-time pilot is that its workhour and workplace are highly irregular as flight operations can take place anytime, anywhere. Commercial pilots usually have a more regular schedule compared to private jet pilots who need to be on standby for operations assigned in short notice. Either way, oftentimes pilots are required to leave home for days or even weeks to perform duties, which affect their normal routines in many ways.
Even so, becoming a pilot is like “a dream comes true”. Apart from the attractive income and enviable social status associated with the job title, Newton enjoys his work and feels gratified every time he puts a smile on his passengers’ face by flying them to their destinations. This job also gives Newton excellent opportunities to meet people and travel to different parts of the world. As private jets are smaller in size and are able to fly to airports where commercial airlines cannot, this allows Newton to explore many new places and see countries from a different angle.
Strange things happen from time after time in a pilot’s career. According to Newton, sometimes customers may come up with mission impossible such as requesting a Michelin 3-star meal from the middle of nowhere; police officers may suddenly request an inspection of a plane’s cabin to check if there are illegal substances after landing near the US – Mexican borders. The most shocking moment occurred when Newton found out there was no fuel to refill his plane for a return flight after he landed on an airport in Kazakhstan because a heavy snowstorm had blocked the way for fuel trucks to transport fuel to the airport. There are all kinds of uncertainties pilots have to face in their career. A competent pilot should always be able to find the best solution to handle all kinds of situations.
Tips for those who wish to become a pilot
Demonstrating enthusiasm and a proven track record in flying are keys to getting into an airline or any cadet pilot training programs. Being a flight instructor, Newton strongly recommends that people who wish to become a pilot to take introduction flying lessons from a flying school, and get a taste of handling a real aircraft before applying for any pilot training programs offered by airlines. One of the best introduction flights is nothing different from an airline flight, take off from say, London, and fly to Manchester for lunch, then fly back! Theories and hands-on practice are both crucial to prepare you to become a pilot.
Regarding the quality of a pilot, Newton considers a suitable candidate to be someone who possesses a calm and stable disposition and is good at decision making and problem solving. Although flight operations nowadays are exceptionally safe as a result of advanced technology, a well-trained pilot still needs to prepare for every extreme situation and react quickly to ensure the highest safety standard.