I am currently working for a company called Alpha Flying, out of Manchester, NH. It's a fractional-ownership company that operates Pilatus PC-12s for individuals and corporations.

The Plane

The plane is called a Pilatus. They are turboprop (meaning: jet engines turning big propellers) corporate aircraft that carry two pilots and six to eight passengers. They go more than 300 miles an hour, for a range of about 2,000 miles. Its cabin is bigger than that of a Citation Jet, but the plane could land and take off at Middlebury Airport. They cost $3.5 million apiece. Pilatus planes are being used in the same way that small jets are - for transporting executives and wealthy people to their meetings and vacations. And that's what I do, too. Scott Todd, limo driver to the rich.


The Company
Alpha Flying is a "fractional ownership" company, which means that people buy into a share of an airplane. For tax purposes, they buy an actual 1/8 or 1/4 or 1/2 of a single plane, but for practical purposes they're buying their way into the fleet of Alpha's aircraft. (As of April 2007, Alpha Flying has about 25 of these planes, and continues to grow by 6-7 planes a year.) What they get for their money is a certain number of hours in any of the planes, and they use these hours to go on medium-range trips (i.e. not to California) and into smaller airports that are closer to their destinations than are the big airports. The company has been growing steadily since its founding 14 years ago.  


My Job


I used to sit in the right seat and fly the plane half the time. I then upgraded to captain, so now I sit in the left seat and fly the plane half the time.

I have an odd schedule: my "weeks" are ten days long: six days on duty, four days off. This is pretty standard stuff in the corporate flying world.

The day before a flight, the operations people will call and tell me a "showtime." Showtime is one hour prior to the first flight of the day, which gives room for pre-flighting the plane, gathering together the appropriate navigation charts, getting catering organized, etc.

Alpha flies mostly up and down the East Coast, often as far down as Florida, occasionally as far west as Denver.

My job description was put this way by one of the managers: "Arrive at your showtime, and expect to be gone for six days."

Though not the norm, it is possible for me to spend five consecutive nights in hotels. I have also gone an entire six-day work cycle without ever being called in to work at all. On average, I probably work five of my six days, and am away from home four days out of ten.


A typical duty cycle for me might go something like this:

A dispatcher calls between 6 and 7 p.m. on the evening of my last day off, and tells me when to arrive at Manchester to start my first duty day. They send a "trip sheet" that indicates what my first day's flights are. I arrive at the airport an hour before we're scheduled to leave, so that I can make flight plans, check weather, order fuel, and do the appropriate log work and checks of the aircraft. The captain and first officer depart without passengers, to our first destination.

Our aircraft owners will have telephoned dispatch to say, "I need to be picked up in Bedford and taken to Teterboro, on Tuesday at 10 a.m." So we fly to Bedford, pick them up and take them to Teterboro. Then we go somewhere else to pick up someone else and take them somewhere else. This continues until either there are no more flights for us, or we reach the end of our duty day (14 hours, restricted by law). Common destinations: Winston-Salem, NC; Boston, MA; Atlanta, GA; Cincinatti, OH; Chicago, IL; etc. etc. etc. During the winter we go to Florida a lot. During the summer it's mostly Teterboro to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket.

At the end of the day, if we're within an hour of Manchester, we go home. If not, we go to a hotel. I wake up in hotels a lot, wondering where I am. We'll often fly to 15 airports in six states and spend four nights in hotels, in a given duty cycle.