As a charter pilot typically you are hired to do much more than flying. Your job will include other roles as well. You are responsible for anything to do with flight and your aircraft but you are also the baggage handler, the refueller and the one who provides passenger service.
As a charter pilot it is normally up to you to ensure smooth operations with regard to your flights. Careful planning and time management is essential and quickly learnt.
Quite often students from flying schools will start their flying career in a charter role. The transition from flying school student to charter pilot in many ways is a learning curve. One of the first things you’ll learn is that nothing is spoon fed to you. If the plane needs gas you and only you will need to fill it up. If there are no life jackets in the aircraft then you and only you need to go get some.
Depending on the company you work for you may fly the same passengers every week or a new bunch every time. If a regular contract is held with the charter company you could be going back and forth between the same destinations throughout the job. Passengers service, of course, is still important because indirectly they are paying your wages.
Some passengers are absolutely terrible flyers. They may also tell you this only a few minutes before being strapped in for that two-hour flight! Did you remember to put some sick bags on board the aircraft? It helps to remember that just because your passenger threw up in the back of the plane it doesn’t mean you did a bad job at flying!
As far as aircraft and flying are concerned, you will have fun. Becoming a charter pilot often means hands on flying the entire time unless you are flying a twin that has an autopilot. In most single engine aircraft involved in charter operations you would be lucky to have an autopilot. Depending on the company’s fleet you may have the opportunity to fly a range of aircraft. The secret to finding such employment is to have time on various types of aircraft. A company needing to train a pilot on several different aircraft won’t generate as much income as one that employs a pilot who has experience on those types and meets all the insurance requirements.
As for the choice of company – Australia has more charter companies than New Zealand. In the Outback you will find charter operations scattered all over, flying around people from the different communities. Around the Northern Territory places like Broome and Jabiru operate scenic tours and charter. At Darwin airport alone there would be around 5 charter companies.
Charter flying is a great step towards airline flying. Charter is similar to airline flying in some ways. Being able to demonstrate time in your logbook flying a range of aircraft gives you a distinct advantage over the pilot with less varied experience, when it comes to applying for a position as a charter pilot.
Ultimately, different flying careers open different doors and charter is usually the last step before launching into an airline career.