Are there still bank pilots?

Bank pilots fly (or flew) cancelled checks to… wherever they flew them to. Are there still pilots doing this work?

Some of them have transitioned into moving other important cargo. A firm called AirNet was in the check transporting business and now advertise “organs for transplant, blood products, media and tapes for distribution, aircraft parts, security sensitive material”. They also do charter flights. Medical testing firms like Quest Diagnostics would also make use of pilots in transporting samples to their labs.

Yep. I have a handful of pilot buddies, a few of which flew the canceled checks around, as recently as a couple of years ago. I never heard them use the term “Bank pilot”, ever. Maybe the term has fallen out of favor recently.

Some of those guys get to fly some bad-ass planes these days. One flies a Citation X, one trains European pilots on a superbad sim that is booked 20 hours a day, and is one of maybe five of its kind in the world. Another guy flies a medium capacity badass jet, but I can’t remember the type. I should really start remembering those. It’s been a long while since they were bragging about flying King air’s. They do jets now. Mmmmmm, jeeets.

It’s now five years ago, but a small plane carrying canceled checks etc. crashed into the channel 40 TV tower near Fayetteville, North Carolina:

Our company does them between Northwestern Ontario and Southern Manitoba. We call it “the bag run”.

We use a small twin piston. Single pilot. This is a great training platform for junior captains. They do the run for about 6 months or so and then transition to taking passengers on small twin turbines.

I hadn’t thought about it in years, but yesterday it popped into my head. My dad was in the FAA and occasionally he’d mention ‘So-and-so is a bank pilot.’ I only vaguely remember one person he mentioned. That guy flew a single and was known for scud-running through the Tehachapis. I got the impression that this guy wasn’t working toward a different kind of flying. (Although it did seem to be one of the several traditional stepping stones.)

Follow-up question: If this is still being done, why? I know that at least some banks scan cancelled checks and will email the images on request. I haven’t received cancelled checks in the mail in over a decade.

We run nothing bigger than 19 seat aircraft. The way the market is for pilots right now, we’re the equivalent of a puppy mill. As soon as they’re qualified for a bigger aircraft - they’re gone. The airlines in Canada have even started taking FOs straight from flight schools. It’s a very good time to be a pilot right now. But this is another discussion.

Canceled cheques are just one type of tangible item that need to move within the banking system. There are other items in the bags.

First I’ve heard of this.

Why are cancelled cheques being flown about?

There are companies in Australia that do “bank runs.” I’m not exactly sure what they carry.

In the US until just a couple of years ago, the check as a physical piece of paper had to be returned from the bank where it was deposited to the bank it was written against. When the source bank got the piece of paper, it would then dispatch money electronically to the depositing bank & remove the same amount from its customer’s account.

Then when the monthly statements were sent out to the customers, the checks that customer had written would be included with the statement. So the physical piece of paper made a full circle back to the person who initially filled it out.

In order to make the system as fast as possible, given the constraint to move physical paper, an elaborate logistical network was set up to carry deposited checks every night from every bank branch in the US (~50,000) to a few central clearing houses where they were then sorted & sent on to the HQs of the banks they were written on. This network mostly relied on small-ish planes flown from thousands of smaller towns to the major cities, and some airliner-size aircraft to move the stuff between big cities.

Just now the country is transitioning to a system where the depositing bank scans the paper check, shreds it, and sends the picture electronically to the source bank for payment. All large banks have been using this system for a couple years, and it is now spreading to the smaller ones. I think the old paper system will be completely gone in a couple more years.

For more info …

Aah OK. Thank you.

I still get my cancelled checks and my online bill payment checks included in my statement.