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Aviation Careers: Rod Kellogg, Corporate King Air Pilot

On a regular basis, the Boldmethod team brings you a new career and pilot through our "Aviation Careers" series. If you're an aspiring aviator, this is a great way for you to explore different career options.

Rod Kellogg is a 14,000 hour pilot located in Gulf Shores, Alabama who's done everything from manatee spotting and oil tracking after the BP Gulf Oil Spill, to flying relief missions after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He has his CFI/MEI and is commercially rated in: SEL, MEL, SES, Helicopters, and Gliders. Today, Rod flies as a single pilot on a King Air F90 dubbed "Shrimp Force One" for the Shrimp Basket, a local seafood restaurant chain.

Why You Should Be Interested

On the corporate side, you have to have a sort of "server spirit." I'm used to having one-on-one relationships with people; it's what I love about flying corporate. My job is one part flying and two parts other stuff. Whether it's making arrangements for the boss and management team upon arrival, getting hotels, or setting up cars, there's a lot of interaction that goes on each and every day.

It's a lot different than an airline pilot style career, where you sort of check in, get the dispatch sheet, and board the plane. Every day in my life is a sort of new adventure. I didn't feel like I would get that same personal relationship with my passengers as I do on the corporate side.

Rod Kellogg

The Typical Flight

Most of our flights are under 55 minutes long, since all of the restaurants are within a 4 state area around Alabama. Our typical mission is a check up inspection on a restaurant location, but sometimes we end up using the plane for longer trips to Boston in the Northeast or to Central America. I'm a single pilot on the company King Air, so the responsibility for a safe flight fully rests on my shoulders.

The Passengers

With a growing company like the Shrimp Basket, we've seen a big diversification of the management team. I normally carry the owner, the director of operations, and a maintenance expert. There are times when we'll carry real estate scouts when we're looking to purchase a new property, or carry construction contractors when a new restaurant is under construction. When we go out of the country on a personal trip or something like that, I'm often very involved with the boss and his family. You almost become family with the people you're working with. It's not like that with every job, so I count myself as lucky!

A Day At Work

When I get up in the morning, I shoot a text or email to the boss asking what we have going on for the day. Our typical mission is to hit at least 2 to 3 stores in one day for routine inspections, maintenance work, etc. It's nice for the owner to have a plane so he and his team can travel around to check up on restaurants without notice. In a way, it keeps people on their top game, knowing that the owner could fly in at any time. But some stuff we plan and some stuff we don't plan.

In a business with 25 restaurants, everything is dynamic. We recently had a fire at one of our stores, so the whole plan for that day was adjusted based on that one event. Weather is where things get really interesting. If storms pop up, we'll completely adjust the flight schedule and might end up switching the order of locations to hit that day, or cut some out altogether. Luckily, I don't have too many overnights and end up getting home by 5pm nearly every day.

The Pros

I'm a pretty laid back guy who likes to live at the beach. It's a good personal fit for my lifestyle. I get to wear flip flops, shorts, and a Bermuda shirt in the summer. It's very relaxed as corporate jobs go. I enjoy the freedom and one on one relationships with the owner, management team, and passengers. We are one big family and they're counting on me to get them places. I feel involved and responsible for the company's success, so I don't feel removed from the needs of my passengers - I really like that.

The Cons

The economy is a huge player in corporate flying departments. When the cards start falling in a company, the first thing to go is the flight department. From that standpoint, it doesn't matter how big of a company you fly for sometimes, there's not always guaranteed job security. A big transition is happening in many corporate flight departments from owning planes to buying shares or flight hours in NetJets for instance, and that can affect a corporate pilot like me very much.

Pilot Retention And Qualifications

For me, I love this and have been flying corporate for over 10 years. It can be harder for younger guys to get into the corporate field. Companies like to hire the pilots with grey hair because of the experience; it makes them feel more comfortable to have someone a little older flying them and their families around. While I'm single with no kids, I know that this job would be great for a guy who's married. I'm not really on overnights that often and am always home by 5 or 6 in the evening. I'm really happy where I am now and am excited to stay for a long time.

As far as qualifications go, a major factor in getting hired into a corporate flying job is just being in the right place at the right time. I had about 5 years of turbine experience flying Pilatus PC12s before I was hired, and I enough multi-engine time to get on the insurance. The insurance company requirements are often much more restrictive when it comes to pilot hiring than the FAA regulations themselves.

Salary Ranges And Benefits

For my work with the Shrimp Basket, I'm on a retainer as a contractor. I'm not technically an employee of the company, so I don't get any formal benefits. I just charge them a monthly retainer fee. Then they reimburse me for any additional expenses that I have. I'm making about $60,000 per year with the job. In addition to my work as a local CFI, I'm getting to fly a whole lot and get to make a great living. It's different for every company, but when we're on the road or on trips, I don't have any personal expenses. I carry a company credit card under my name, and charge my trip-related expenses to it. Since we're a restaurant business, I'm also eating for free all the time, which I love. You can tell by the varied sizes of clothes in my closet!

The Company

Shrimp Basket restaurants can be found across Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle. And with 25 restaurants, if you're on the Gulf Coast, you'll have no trouble finding one.

The Airplane

I fly the King Air F90, the hot-rod model of the -90 family. It has a T-tail, like the -200, so it's sort of the odd ball in the -90 family. It's an early 1980s airplane with two 750shp PT6A-135 engines with four-bladed propellers. The new C90GT model aircraft were evolved from the legacy of the F90. They offer very similar performance to Pilatus PC12s. It's about a 260 knot aircraft. At this time of year, I'm seeing climb rates of 2,500 feet per minute no problem. Because of the large engines and small fuselage, I rarely have to worry about whether or not we're going to make it in and out of airports.

Specific Qualifications

To be in a corporate position like mine, you need to feel comfortable being in complete command of the aircraft. When you've got a passenger load of company employees and executives who need to be somewhere, it can put a real pressure on you to perform and get the flight done. But to be a safe pilot, you need to have the confidence to cancel or delay a flight when things aren't working out weather wise or mechanically. Single pilot flying is very challenging but also very rewarding. For me, crew flying can be a challenge; I sometimes feel disoriented when I have someone flying next to me. I'm most "in the zone" when I'm alone in the cockpit. But of course, that doesn't work for every pilot.

Advice

If I was to talk to someone young, I would say definitely get some maintenance experience. That's one thing when you're on the road that will make or break a trip. You will break down, and when it happens, you won't want to be totally reliant upon the local mechanics. Being a single pilot on the road, those are the emergency skills that often come most in handy. When I fly in clear weather, I always perform approaches end to end, practicing for when I may not be able to see the ground from my window. Try to establish those good habits early on. Some stuff you won't be able to avoid along the way, but always try to keep the odds on your side and be proactive in the way you fly.

Thanks, Rod for showing us what happens when you mix a laid-back beach lifestyle with a professional pilot career. We think it's totally awesome that you get to wear flip flops to work everyday! To read about a flight I took with Rod over Gulf Shores, click here

Is this a job you'd like to have? Tell us in the comments below.


Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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