Early this morning, waaaay too early, we flew east for the day. I didn't bring my camera's data cable so I can't upload the cool pics I took until I get home.
So I'll briefly talk about a tiny little niche of aviation politics, which has to do with crewing other operator's aircraft.
We aren't the only people who operate this type of plane out of Toronto Pearson, and from time to time we get phone calls from other operators asking if we can provide a flight crew member for an upcoming trip they have, filling in for a sick pilot or a pilot on vacation or whatnot.
It's a delicate little dance all-around. Some background info:
A hypothetical standard daily rate for a Citation 550 Captain might be around $500/day plus expenses (meals, hotels, etc).
A hypothetical daily rate for a Citation 550 First Officer might be in the neighborhood $350/day plus expenses.
It sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that a Captain making, say, 70k/year with full benefits and on-duty 5 days a week costs the company roughly $350/day. If the company keeps the money, it isn't much more than the actual daily cost of employing the pilot. But we don't have access to the pilot for that day, either.
That's part of the rub - when it comes down to it, the other aircraft operators around here are our competitors. We don't do a whole lot of charter - the majority of our flights are in-house ones, but we are available for charter and we make more money on a 2-hour charter than we would by donating a Captain to another operator and charging them $500/day.
It's a tough call - do we help another operator out so they can do a charter and make lots of money, or do we decline to help them and hope that they can't do the trip at all, and perhaps the client will call us instead so we can make the big charter bucks? Keep in mind that our guys get sick and go on vacation from time to time also. It isn't entirely prudent to declare open war on our competitors because we go on vacation and get sick also, and we might need their help crewing our aircraft in the future. That, and some of the operators here are friends of mine, guys I hang out after work. I try to keep it in perspective the best I can; we are all brothers and sisters in aviation, just trying to do the job as best we can so we can make a living and go home to our families at the end of the day.
Oh, and one more thing to add into the mix - who gets the money? Normally I think the company should, and here's why: If I send a pilot out to fly for a competitor for the day, I can't use that pilot if a trip comes up for us, and I can't use them in the office for that day either. We pay for the pilot's training and it's because of our training dollars that they are qualified on the airplane.
But what if the pilot wants to fly for the competition on their guaranteed days off? What if they want to fly for the competition for a day while they happen to be on vacation?
Or conversely, suppose our plane is down for maintenance for a week. Can I demand that our pilots fly for the competition during that time and have our company keep the money so we can make a few bucks?
It's tough calls all-around, and I have not come up with a perfect system that addresses all of that. I just wanted to let you in on some of the stuff that we deal with on a fairly regular basis.