When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Contract Pilot

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Contract Pilot

  • August
  • 08
  • 2023
  • Advanced Aircrew Academy

There is a growing community of pilots who only fly on a contract basis and intend to make an entire career out of freelance flying. Sounds glamorous, and it can be lucrative, but becoming a contract pilot requires a different mindset that most aren't used to, so here are some mind shifts that come with the process.

Finding Jobs

Even though pilots like to talk about being a pilot, most don't have a strong network of business aviation contacts, so you may hear more crickets than ringtones when first starting out. Unless you get your name on a list with a contract flying company, which will get a portion of your pay in return, you'll have to find a platform to advertise yourself. It might be worth paying to get your resume on a profile directory until you get yourself established or stick with a placement service who can manage the coordination. Once you work for a handful of companies, you may find that your schedule fills in nicely.

The Only Benefits are Pay and Schedule Freedom

Once you commit to this lifestyle, you are your own company LLC (limited liability corporation). Contract pilots get paid exponentially more per day than their salaried full-time counterparts, but the balance is that you are your own Human Resources Department. You must provide your own health insurance, set aside money for taxes, and pay for your own training, which is a significant cost and burden.

You'll also need to verify if you are an "approved pilot" and/or "insured pilot." It's not enough to be qualified under the open-pilot clause, but purchasing insurance covering your exposures to operating an aircraft you do not own is sometimes impossible or too expensive, so make sure you obtain protection under the aircraft owner's policy by being additional insured. This is done by an endorsement issued by the company, so keep this item on your radar and talk to an insurance professional.

Most companies you contract with will pay for your travel and hotel expenses, but you'll have to float the expenses until you get reimbursed, and it could take months. Use credit cards that have rewards and join hotel memberships that get you discounted rates. Check with the company you're flying for because often they will book for you and have better rates.

Enjoy The Right Seat

If you are contracted to fill in for a member of an existing flight department, you will often serve as second-in-command, but you must keep your captain qualifications. For most opportunities, you must maintain 12-month currencies for both domestic and international trip coverage, even if you never leave CONUS. You must also have a 1st Class FAA Medical, Part 61.58 or Part 135 recurrent certificates with complete records of training. You'll also need training in CRM, Hazmat, International Procedures, or any other internal requirements of the company. Your licenses, type ratings, and Pilot Record Database will be researched and reviewed, so be forthcoming of any flags on your record.

Typical type rating costs vary widely depending on the equipment and Part 142 sim training center. The conundrum is that you could go out and pay big bucks for a fancy type rating on a new Falcon 10X, but the insurance companies secretly rule the business aviation industry. More than likely, you won't get a contract job without time in type, so know your market. Do your research and find out the most requested pilot qualifications/type rating and contrast that with potential income. You may even want to contact some flight departments in your area and see if they'd be interested in having a "standby backup" pilot. They only need to pay you when you're needed. If you have enough in your area with the same make/model, you could be the go-to pilot enough times to keep you busy all year.


According to in a random sample, Global Express pilots are garnering between $3-$4K/day. Gulfstream IV pilots are $1500-$1700/day, and Citation X pilots are $1300-$1500/day. These are 2022 averages and will vary by base location. It will also change based on supply and demand—it depends on how desperate the flight department is to fill the seat. If you manage to land a high-end contract in a Global Express for just seven days out of each month, you will pull in $336,000/year. That would be rare, but that's the carrot that hangs out there. But don't forget, a type rating in a Global is north of $70k and recurrent training, without the backing of a flight department, can be a challenge to find training slots.

Getting a Foot in the Door

How do you stand out in this crowd of growing contract pilots? Have a safety mindset and a resume full of completed training. Advanced Aircrew Academy offers numerous training modules that, once completed, produce a training certificate that you can turn in with your resume bundle. CRM, Hazmat, International Procedures (Initial/Recurrent) for Worldwide Operations or North America are among the 100+ eLearning topics to choose from.

If you're not sure, just email or call 1-843-557-1266 and they'll get you set up. Being safe will open doors for you.