Middle East Careers: why be a business jet pilot?

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The pleasures and pitfalls of flying the rich and powerful

Being a business jet pilot has its rewards. You get to fly state-of-the-art equipment on what is likely to be a much more flexible and possibly less intense roster than your commercial airline counterparts, although you often have to be available to travel at short notice. One day you might be flying to Geneva or Paris, the next to an airstrip in the Russian far east, the Maldives or an obscure city in central Africa.

But being a chauffeur for the ultra-rich and powerful is not everyone's cup of tea. As well as being a much more visible representative of your employer than a rarely-seen-by-passengers airliner pilot, you have to be constantly aware of your customers' needs. After all, they are likely to be paying thousands of dollars for the privilege of sharing your aircraft.

Although the business jet captain remains the undisputed commander of the aircraft in all aviation matters, the paying passenger is king, or queen, in terms of service. With his or her cabin crew, it is often the captain's and his co-pilot's job to ensure catering is on board in remote locations and passengers are not just seen off the aircraft, but to their final destination. In many remote airports, with little or no ground handling available, making arrangments for the security of the aircraft during any layover will be the captain's task.

Cabin crew on business aircraft are often lured from first-class service on the airlines because of bigger rewards. But with that comes huge amounts of responsibility, too. The best pursers make it their job to know their regular clients intimately, knowing what drinks to serve, what magazines to have available and to achieve that fine balance between friendliness and over-familiarity.