Vetting new hires is an important task for a flight operation, but it behooves business aviation flight departments to be even more vigilant when utilizing contract pilots on international trips, given the additional complexities, requirements and time involved.
“This goes far beyond finding the first available pilot,” said Don Chupp, president and CEO of Fireside Partners. “You must find an individual congruent with your company’s organizational culture and safety program. You don’t want to discover you’ve contracted with the wrong candidate right after taking off on a 14-hour international flight.”
Forwarding the appropriate checklists and operating procedures can help familiarize a contract pilot with your operation. Ideally, they will have several days to prepare for the trip.
“Sometimes you need a person tomorrow morning,” said Pat Dunn, a former contract pilot and past chair of NBAA’s International Operations Committee. “Personal contacts throughout the industry can help you quickly find a recommended candidate.”
Chupp agreed. “The ability to tap someone’s shoulder and ask who’d they recommend for a pop-up trip is a definite feature in our industry,” he said.
“Follow your established onboarding procedures as closely as you can without running afoul of labor laws and bring them into your safety culture. ”
DON CHUPP President and CEO of Fireside Partners
Even under a compressed timeframe, flight operations must perform due diligence on potential candidates.
Dunn also recommended speaking with the contract pilot’s last trainer to quickly gain insights on their skill level and behavior.
“A pilot might claim experience as an international pilot because they’ve flown to Cancun, which is quite a different animal from transoceanic operations,” he added.
Flight departments might also utilize contract aviation staffing companies to assist with finding the right candidate when time is of the essence.
“In my experience, higher-performing organizations have pre-existing relationships with reputable crew-staffing organizations familiar with their cultural and professional requirements,” Chupp said.
“A pilot might claim experience as an international pilot because they've flown to Cancun, which is quite a different animal from transoceanic operations. ”
PAT DUNN Former Contract Pilot and Past Chair NBAA International Operations Committee
As a flight department or staffing agency delves into a contract pilot’s background, Dunn noted the ideal candidate will also be doing their own homework about your operation.
“Things are better today than they were when I started out in the 1970s and 1980s and some flight departments clearly wanted only a warm body to fill a seat and flip the [landing] gear,” Dunn said. “But I still had people call occasionally and tell me they’d heard through a mutual friend that I flew Gulfstreams… and that was it!
“So, I asked them if they wanted my records,” Dunn continued. “How did they know I was current? How did they know what international procedures training I had for their destination? Seeing them rush through the process was an automatic red flag.”
Chupp also warned against shortcuts or otherwise compromising your department’s established hiring processes.
“Whatever is important within your own operation must carry through when looking for contract staff,” Chupp said. “Follow your established onboarding procedures as closely as you can without running afoul of labor laws and bring them into your safety culture.
“If you don’t, you’re admitting your most stringent requirements end at the front door, and that will be hard to defend if something goes wrong.”
Look for contract pilots or post your resume on NBAA’s Business Aviation Jobs board at jobs.nbaa.org.