I spent almost all of my aviation career in corporate and general aviation.
Most large corporations have their own flight department and their pilots are full time employees, a lot of corporations even have their own maintenance staff, with some even capable of doing the major inspections on the company aircraft.
Because pilots do not work a 9 to 5 schedule, their days off are usually between flights. Corporate aircraft do not fly anywhere near the time airliners fly, some corporations only have one airplane and one flight crew. A flight department with 2 or more airplanes will usually have an extra pilot to allow for ample time off and cover vacations and sick days, otherwise they would hire a contract pilot by the day to fill in.
In my corporate days on the Lockheed JetStar, we had 2 rated captains who flew most of the trips. They would swap seats every leg and sometimes would be out on the road all week. When they were out on the road and I was not flying my time was mine. As long as the paper work was up to date and the shop was clean I could do whatever I wanted. I did all the maintenance and even rebuilt the engine on my Cessna 150 during these periods the JetStar was on the road using the company shop.
I was officially hired as the Director of Maintenance, but because I had a commercial pilots license with multi and instrument ratings, I was sent to Flight Safety and qualified as co-pilot and often flew trips either to give one of the pilots time off or as a third pilot on long one day trips or very busy multi leg week trips. Because about 20 percent of our flying was ferry flights, I got to fly the JetStar from the left seat, if I had stayed long enough I probably would have built up enough time to get my JetStar type rating.
Our trips were usually scheduled 2 weeks in advance so we basically knew what our schedule was. Some of our week long trips left on Sunday afternoon and returned on Friday, others could be just overnights to 3 day trips. Some week long trips were back to back so I would have to work the weekend to service and work off any maintenance issues that came up on the previous trip. Occasionally I would fly these weeklong trips, work on the airplane during the weekend at home and fly out again on another weeklong tips. Sometimes if it was slow, we would not have any trips for 2 or more weeks so the chief pilot would check with the company and if there was no need for the airplane he would take it out of service for a few days so I could do the mandatory inspections and maintenance.
Unlike the airlines, fractional or charter pilots, corporate pilots jobs are to fly the executives to their destination and then wait until they are ready to fly out, sometimes this could take a few days so during this time the pilots are off, but are available in case of an emergency, which basically means no drinking during the day. A lot of corporate pilots play golf and it was not uncommon for our JetStar to have 2 sets of pilot’s golf clubs in the aft storage compartment. I knew another JetStar operator that there was always 2 sets of golf clubs permanently on board. When I interviewed for the job the first question was did I have an A&P license and JetStar experience, the second was did I play golf, yes to the first and no to the second but I still got the job.
I spent many days off on the road, some were good like sitting on the beaches in Florida in the winter, or bad like staying in Helena Montana for 3 days in January when it was –6 degrees outside or in Houston Texas during a hot humid August summer day. Almost always we had a car so during the day we would go sightseeing, if there were any aviation related museums we would go there, if not then drive around to see the local area. Since I didn’t play golf, sometimes I would drop the pilot or pilots off at a local golf course and pick them up at an arranged time later in the day so I was free to do whatever I wanted to do, usually returned back to the hotel and sat around the pool or watched TV
or did some shopping at the local malls. At that time I was single and so was one of the other pilots and when I flew with him we would check out the local night spots.
Some cities we were there quite often so we got to know some of the local people and would go out on the town with them, I made friends in a lot of cities and even was dating a girl in a city we went to very often in Florida.
I also spent many days sitting around the FBO where we would park if it was a one day trip, some were good with great pilots lounges and TV
’s and others were horrible with nothing to do. Some had crew cars so we would go out to a local restaurant for lunch sometimes we had lunch at the airport restaurant if it had one if not get our food from the vending machines. If there was nothing else around then lunch was peanuts, crackers, cookies and soda from our airplane.
It was a great experience during my nearly ten years in corporate aviation, especially for a singly guy. I flew to almost every state in the country, plus Canada, Europe, Bermuda and Mexico, went to a lot of great places, saw a lot of the country, ate in interesting restaurants, met some really neat people and got paid to do this, plus all expenses like hotels, cars and meals.
Plus I got to fly and work on the 4 engine Lockheed JetStar, which I still consider to be one of the ultimate corporate jets ever built. Today’s modern corporate jets can fly much farther, are quieter and easier to fly with all the computers and glass cockpits, but there is no greater feeling for me as a pilot than pushing a handful of throttles forward when taking off.