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So You Think You Want To Be A Pilot: The International Corporate Pilot

by keely 5. March 2013 09:13
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    On the thirtieth day of March, in 1984, a Palestinian leader comfortably traveled from Tunis, Tunisia on to Conakry, Guinea in a private Gulfstream jet. The Palestinian leader plans to attend a funeral ceremony to pay respects to the recently deceased Guinean president, Ahmed Sekou Toure. The Gulfstream jet made its way from Tunis all the way to the Conakry Airport and was near final approach to land before ever encountering any error.

    Somewhere around five thousand feet on the decent, the captain of the Gulfstream aircraft became aware of an immensely overflowing pattern. At that point, the Gulfstream pilot had no choice but to hold in the pattern, this lasted for nearly an hour. Suddenly, the president of Nigeria entered the pattern from some thirty-five hundred feet in a 707 aircraft and he was not stopping. “Nigeria is landing, NOW” the 707 calls out! At this point, the air traffic control tower lost all control of the small runway and in mere moments the airport became amidst in utter chaos. The Pilot of the Gulfstream jet was rapidly running out of options and fuel, as he made an abrupt but necessary executive decision. The Gulfstream simply could not wade through this mess any longer; they would have to make an attempt to land and refuel elsewhere. The nearest FBO was located approximately 90 miles Southeast of Conakry, in a place called Freetown, located in Sierra Leone. The Gulfstream pilot immediately diverted his aircraft to Freetown, and upon arrival he was given the approval to land. On final approach however, his passengers demanded that he hold back and change course. “We cannot land here” said one of the Palestinian guards. His voice is stern and he was not budging, the pilot and his copilot, unsure as why they were unable to land in this town, had to come up with another plan. They MUST land somewhere or they were sure to deplete of fuel completely. The Gulfstream jet has no choice but to around, backtracking the 90 miles northwest to the Conakry airport.

    Upon returning back to the Conakry airport the pilots were less than enthused to learn that the FBO had completely sold out of fuel and the FBO would remain out of service until sometime around midnight. At this point, the Gulfstream crew had been on duty for thirty hours, they were completely exhausted and they had yet another flight to make prior to their shift ending. Once The Gulfstream was able to be refueled and serviced the crew made their way to Casablanca where the airplane was finally shut down and the crew was able to rest. “Think that sounds like fun? Because I certainly do! “

     As a small child, we all have dreams. Children are adventurous and fascinated by the world, developing new questions and ideas every single day. Unfortunately, the things we dream of most as children rarely last the entirety of our lives. The things you wanted most are likely to change with age and wisdom and what you thought you wanted to become when you were grown had a tendency to change. This however, was not the case for the strong pilot in charge of the Palestinian leader’s Gulfstream jet. The pilot in command of that particular ship was a man by the name of Gregory Hundrup. As a young boy, Greg would look up into the sky whenever he would dream of his future. As a child his very favorite television show was “Sky King” and as far back as Greg can remember he says that he knew one thing for certain and that was his love for airplanes; they fascinated him. He knew, even as a child that he was willing to do whatever it would take to become a pilot; and that is exactly what he did.

     Greg started flying while he was still in high school. Working a part time job in a machine shop, he saved every penny he made and spent them all on flying lessons. In less than one year Greg was able to successfully pass his check ride and in 1967 Greg received his private pilot’s license. Once he graduated from high school in 1970, Greg joined the military, where he worked as an air traffic controller. In 1975, Greg completed his time as an active duty soldier and began working full time as a flight instructor in Dothan, Alabama. In 1977 Greg retired from instruction and took a job flying the co-pilot’s seat of a Learjet 25 for a private charter company.

     Some three years later, Greg stumbled across an advertisement inquiring for a Gulfstream pilot in Saudi Arabia, thinking it was surely a longshot, he applied anyway. “Go big or go home, right?” Greg applied and Greg got it! He was in the big leagues now, hired on as a first officer. Greg Moved to Saudi Arabia and flew the captain’s seat for ten years, then one day, Greg decided to make a career change. He then jumped ship and began flying in Southeast Asia for a family owned flight department where he flew for yet another ten years. Finally, in 2000, Greg went to work for a company known as Franklin Templeton Investments where his job was and still is to fly the company’s international fund manager around the world in search of investment opportunities. The company caters to four individual pilots specifically, and together they make up the fund manager’s personal flight crew, trading on and off shifts every twenty-one days. This means that Greg routinely flies a Gulfstream jet around the entire world for twenty-one days; then he is sent home via airline for another twenty-one days of rest.

    Imagine taking a day trip to Switzerland, then on to dinner in Paris, France; traveling throughout Europe in a week’s time, then on to the Far East for the following weekend. Greg’s life rapidly whips and turns him all the way around the globe; frequently taking trips through multiple countries in a single day. The countries that Greg sees on a daily basis are often places that an average person could never even dream of visiting. Interesting thought; although Europe fascinates me (personally) the most, Greg stated that his favorite part of the world is the Far East. He enjoys the friendly, warm and inviting people of Thailand; the seemingly spotless and safe, international city of Singapore; the lovely and tropical countryside of the Philippines; as well as the variety, shopping and Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong.

    Living this life sounds extravagant and surreal to me; upon asking Greg how he feels about his career, I received the perfect and most ideal answer imaginable. Greg loves his career. Throughout his endeavors, aviation has brought many great things into Greg’s life, including fantastic benefits, a rewarding salary, close friendships and even a loving wife. I asked Greg if he had a “least favorite” thing about his career as an international corporate jet pilot and his answers were “Africa, Russia and India.” (I found that comical.) It is my understanding that the air traffic controllers are less than easy to communicate English with in some of these places; specifically places where Portuguese is the primary language. Fortunately, at the end of the day, all is great on Greg’s end. He had absolutely no complaints regarding his career and that was stand-out fabulous for me to hear! C’mon, how many people do you know that are excited to get up and go to work each day?

    Greg’s twenty-one days in the air are of course followed by twenty-one days on the ground. When Greg is on what he refers to as his “holiday,” he resides at home with his adoring and ever so patient wife in small-town, East Washington State. This is also the place he calls home for his personal Cessna 210 aircraft that he flies recreationally with friends and family.

    Greg’s career is mind blowing to me. Just think, he has adventured completely around the world and then back again; says his company typically travels to an average seventy countries per year and will cruise the entire world in a matter of two-hundred days. We’re not finished yet though pilots, if you’ve got the story, I’ve got the skills. Just sent me an email to email to keely@globalair.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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