Cool: Airbaltic’s CEO Becomes A220 Captain

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Here’s a pretty cool avgeek story, if you ask me.

Airbaltic’s CEO becomes an A220 pilot

Airbaltic is a nifty Latvian airline that operates a fleet consisting of 23 Airbus A220-300s. Airbaltic is the only airline in the world to exclusively fly the A220, which is such a cool plane for both passengers and airlines.

Airbaltic A220-300

Well, Airbaltic’s CEO, Martin Gauss, has just become the first airline CEO to become type rated on the Airbus A220-300, so he’s now officially also a captain for the airline. Gauss’ training included time in the simulator, as well as some takeoffs and landings on a “real” A220.

His final training flights were completed on October 1, when Gauss flew an A220-300 with the registration code YL-AAT. He flew for a total of 56 minutes, performing several takeoffs and landings at Riga Airport.

The flight path for Airbaltic CEO’s training flight

Here’s a video of some of Gauss’ training:

This isn’t the CEO’s first time as a pilot

Before you think that it might sound random for Gauss to get type rated on the plane his airline flies, he actually started his career as a pilot:

  • Gauss has been CEO of Airbaltic for nine years, and was previously type rated on the 737, which used to be Airbaltic’s primary aircraft
  • Gauss had started his career as a pilot — from 1992 to 1995 he was a 737 pilot at British Airways subsidiary Deutsche BA (he is actually from Germany)
  • He then worked in management at the airline, becoming the manager of flight operations
  • He kept working his way up there, and in 2006 the company was sold to airberlin

Personally I think this gives him a really unique perspective, since a lot of executives at companies have no firsthand experience working on the “frontlines,” even if it’s in the cockpit.

Gauss plans on only flying enough to maintain his rating, so there’s a (small) chance he could be the pilot on your next Airbaltic flight.

Airbaltic used to fly the 737

Several airline executives started as pilots

Purely as an avgeek, I have respect for airline executives who have spent their entire career in the airline industry. Then I have even more respect (again, only as an avgeek) for those who started their careers as pilots, because what a cool way to grow your career in the industry.

There are several prominent airline CEOs who started as pilots, including:

  • Former British Airways and IAG CEO Willie Walsh, who started his career as an Aer Lingus pilot
  • Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, who got his commercial pilots license but then couldn’t get a job at Lufthansa initially, but eventually ended up at the company and became CEO

Ironically both of them haven’t exactly been known for great labor relations.

Personally I’d argue perhaps the most interesting pilot to CEO progression belongs to the CEO of Somon Air, Tajikistan’s private airline. The only reason I know this is because I flew with the airline a few years ago from Dushanbe to Dubai, and was reading the inflight magazine. The guy has a fascinating career:

  • He spent over 27 years as a Delta pilot
  • Then he was a captain at Ethiopian Airlines for less than a year
  • Then he became head of flight operations for Kazakhstan’s Air Astana for less than a year
  • Then he became a flight training instructor at Delta for nearly five years
  • Then he worked for Aruba’s Department of Civil Aviation for three years
  • Then he became director of flight operations at Somon Air
  • And then he become CEO of Somon Air

What a fascinating life he must have had (and boy that’s a lot of years of working).

Somon Air’s CEO spent most of his career as a pilot

Bottom line

Airbaltic’s CEO has become the first airline CEO to be type rated on the A220. While his focus is on running the company, he’ll be operating enough flights to stay current on the plane, so he could be the pilot on your next Airbaltic flight.

  1. So cool. Air Baltic is my favorite regional airline in Europe. From the roomy A220s to the cool regional onboard meal options to the great transfer experience in Riga, it’s top-notch all the way.

    Riga is also well worth a long layover! Awesome city in a less traveled corner of Europe.

  2. Oh man, this story became way less cool when it was mentioned that he is actually a pilot. I thought this was a CEO who never flew decided to learn to become a pilot, that would have been super cool

  3. Nice story, no doubt.
    Just one thing, I hope he really stops being a CEO and becomes 100% pilot and captain when he steps into the cockpit. Meaning FOs are not intimidated – and for example, will have no problem deciding to go around and “waste fuel” in front of the CEO.

  4. I’ve had fantastic experiences on AirBaltic, which were highly unmemorable. I mean that in a good way. It’s a very reliable little airline and they actually operate a lot of routes, so it’s a great way to bounce around Europe/Eastern Europe. Riga is also a fantastic city to do an extended layover in.

  5. Air Baltic could very well be my favourite airline to fly with. Excellent product (especially now that they’re A220-only) and usually very nice fares. And I think they actually perform very well financially.

    They are always my choice for Baltics and usually also for Finland (I rarely fly further to the east, but if I would, I wouldn’t look any further).

  6. @Samo they have been doing fine the last couple of years but they received a monster bailout around 2011. It was a major scandal in Latvia that such a small airline at the time could lose over 170 million euros in 2 years and how massively the old CEO was paid for running the airline while owing a part of it. Receive something in the region of 142 million euro rescue and has been doing fine since. Lets see how this year goes.

  7. Starlux Airlines’ Chairman and CEO is a A320/321- rated captain. When he ran EVA AIR previously, he was a 777-rated captain

  8. Following Dennis note, Starlux’s CEO Chang Kuo-wei actually fly Starlux’s first A321neo from Hamburg to its new home himself. China Eastern’s Chairman is also a 350-rated pilot who flew for China Eastern and before that, China Southern.

  9. this is the way it should be. those passionate about aviation becoming CO’S, not greedy former rental car company CO’S running big airline companies

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