Ferry Pilot FAQ
I get a lot of questions both on YouTube and Twitter, so I figured it made sense to answer most of them here! Of course I'm also happy to interact with fans and aviation enthusiasts - and often do so both in the comments of each video and on Twitter - my preferred method of interaction - so you can follow me there as @JTTsteve
Q: How many type ratings do you have? and how can you possibly be rated on so many aircraft types at the same time?
A: Personally I (Steve) am currently rated on 10 types: B737, B757, B767, B777, A320, A330, A340, DC-9, DHC-8, and CE500. In the spring of '22 I'll be adding my eleventh type (B787) and hoping to add A350 in the next 12-24 months as well. In my airline career, I flew the DHC-8, DC-9 (MD-80), SF340, and A320 - and that's where I received training on those types, but the rest of my ratings were earned through private Part 61 training programs consisting of ground training and simulator training just like any other pilot receives through their airline. In the United States (FAA), an airman can hold multiple type ratings (no limit) on their ATP certificate. Although the airlines typically only allow pilots to operate one type at a time, Nomadic flies under Part 91 of the regulations which has no such limitation. Most "ferry pilots" have multiple types, and the average Nomadic pilot holds 6-8 PIC types, some some having as many as 15.
Q: How do you stay current on all these types:
A: Just like anybody else with a type rating - only on a larger scale! Under Part 91, we must complete a 61.58 aircraft proficiency check (PC) every 24 months in a simulator for each type; and at least one PC every 12 months. The way we do it is that we stagger the checks over the course of the year and typically cover each type about every 14 months. We utilize private training facilities around the world, and try to get as many checks done as we can during the slower months as to maintain continuous readiness for what may come up for Nomadic. With 10 type ratings, we often find ourselves in the simulator about 4-5 times per year. It's a lot!
Q: Is it really difficult to maintain currency and proficiency on different types?
A: Like anything else, it takes some practice. Ferry flying is very different from airline flying in a lot of ways, but one of the major differences is that we bounce around from type to type. Over the years we've adapted some special company SOPs that make it possible to move between aircraft types and still have some level of standardization. That said, it's next to impossible to have Part 121 level standardization when changing types. We do what works for this type of flying, an airline pilots do what works for that kind of flying. There are few similarities between the two jobs and it's apples to oranges to compare the way we do things to the way procedures work in an airline cockpit.
Q: Why don't the airlines move their own aircraft with their own pilots?
A: Some do, some don't - but in most cases the aircraft that we're operating aren't yet (or are no longer) on the airlines operating certificate - therefore they must be flown with a special one-time ferry permit called an SFP. Flying on SFP is non-standard in the airline world, but exactly the type of operations we are accustomed to dealing with. Most of our clients are aircraft leasing companies - in other words - they OWN the aircraft and essentially "rent" them to the airlines on a monthly basis for a term of 5-10 years. 50-60% of the world's airline fleet is leased. When we operate an aircraft, it is in most cases in transition from lessor to operator or the reverse. In cases where our clients are the air carriers themselves, there's a variety or reasons we are hired: 1) maybe the airline operates short-haul domestic B737s or A320s, and their crews and flight support departments don't have oceanic/international operating experience or lack the resources to plan and obtain vendor credits in different parts of the world. 2) In some cases an airline saves money by hiring us to move their aircraft into/out of maintenance because it frees up their crews to be utilized in revenue service. When an airline pilot flies even an empty leg - that time counts against their daily/monthly/yearly max duty totals.
Q: Aren't you worried about an aircraft's maintenance status after it's been operating in a 3rd world country or coming out of years of storage?
A: No - the actual flying is just the tail end / culmination of a project most of the time. Often there is on-site maintenance being performed and there's ALWAYS an inspection and function check performed by licensed maintenance personnel before an SFP is issued and before we fly.
Q: Where do your callsigns/flight numbers come from?
A: Our registered company ICAO identifier is "OMD" and callsign is "Nomadic". The flight numbers are assigned in sequence starting at 100 each year (i.e. OMD100, OMD101....OMD133......OMD221). This is the order they are entered into the system and not the order in which they are flown. It's that simple.
Q: How much flight time do you have? How much flight time/experience is required to ferry planes?
A: I personally have a little over 20,000 hours total time with over 15,000 as Pilot in Command of transport category jets. Nomadic PICs generally have between 10,000-30,000 hours of flight time, and we require a minimum of an ATP/ATPL and at least 5,000 hours total time with at least 500-1000 hours time on type and a PIC type rating with currency in the past 24 months.
Q: How do you (insert a variety of operational questions here)?
A: Bob and I have been operating in the Ferry/Flight-test space for nearly 20 years, and Nomadic is the product of millions of dollars of investment in infrastructure, years of experience, and client relationships going back to the beginning. While I understand that there's a lot of curiosity about how we operate, who our vendors and clients are, why we do things a certain way, etc - I'm not at liberty to go into much detail about our operations. We've invested our life into this business and rely on it to survive. There are a lot of tricks of the trade that took a very long time to figure out and we're not about to give away our sources and methods so that someone can go out and try to replicate our business model.
Q: I'm a pilot and I'm interested in working for Nomadic! How do I go about that?
A: We get about 20-30 inquiries and resumes per week. There is definitely no shortage of willing professionals interested in getting involved. Unlike other ferry providers, Nomadic leans mainly on our full time crews (Steve, Bob, Chris, Wes) and a pool of about 15 contract pilots that we've been working with for decades. That doesn't mean there are no opportunities to get involved. the Nomadic Aviation Group is growing an currently operating at a pace of 250-300 flight operations per year. As we grow, we do need to contract crews more often to support the operations. That said, the ferry business generally isn't something that an airline pilot (even with 20-30 years of experience) can jump into and succeed without some guidance and training, and we almost never employ a PIC without a real sense of their track record of operating ferry flights. The typical way our base of contract pilots expands, is: we pull names from a list that match the particular experience criteria for a given mission. If selected, we make contact with the pilots and conduct a simple interview and assessment of experience and skills. If selected, a new contractor is paired with an experienced ferry pilot for the mission. If the contractor performs well, and possesses the right skills and experience to succeed in this business, they are moved up on the list and will be offered work when a trip is available that is aligned with that pilot's credentials. We don't really have minimum experience requirements - a pilot is assessed based on their performance, attitude, drive, and personality! We have 30,000+ hour retired airline captains with 20 years of fighter-pilot experience and we have 2500 hour regional FOs on the contractor list - it's really about the person. There's admittedly a bit of luck involved in getting selected for a trip for the first time - but if your patient, it could happen. To get on the list you should follow the Nomadic Aviation Group's LinkedIn page where we post a link to get on the list from time to time.