Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a private pilot, flying the rich and famous around the world to exotic places while they sip on champagne in the back of a private plane?
I decided to interview my good friend Maxim Dockx who has been a pilot for 4 years, flying private jets for ASL NV an airline company, based in Belgium, in order to see what it is really like to be a pilot and if it is as glamorous as we all think.
Interview with Maxim Dockx – Private Pilot
What made you become a Pilot?
I always dreamt of flying and exploring the world for as long as I can remember. It is a fantastic feeling being in charge of take off and within an hour or so you land the plane in another country.
I was 14 years old when I decided to start with my aviation dream and started a course as a glider pilot. Then at the age of 16 years, I took a private pilot course which allowed me to fly with small Cessna aircraft and by 21years old I had graduated as a private pilot.
What is your favourite route to fly?
That’s a difficult question as most of the time I fly within Europe with some exceptions to North Africa.
If I have to choose I like flying from Brussels to Côte d’Azur, as the views are stunning all year round. Firstly, you fly over the French Alps with views of Mont Blanc covered with snow (even during the Summertime) and shortly later you start your descent over the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
I also like flying to Croatia as you have a magnificent view of the scattered islands and the landscape looks amazing especially when approaching and landing in Dubrovnik.
What does a typical day consist of?
There is no typical day in the aviation business especially for private pilots because it is full of surprises. Sometimes our destination changes twice a day or we have some delays because the clients (passengers) want to leave a bit later, or they are suddenly 30 min. too early. It is all up to what they want and if we can accommodate them.
In general, when I fly, I arrive 1.5 hours in advance at the airport, which is usually at a smaller airport than the big international ones. I check the flight plan with the other pilot ( which consists of routing weather and fuel planning), then once this is complete we go to the airplane and check that all the systems are working.
Myself or my colleague (the other pilot) will then wait for the clients at the terminal, while the other will stays in the cockpit double checking everything so we can leave as quickly as possible. The time between the client arriving at the airport, checking in, take off and being air-bone is around 15 min.
It really can be an adventure, some days.
Who is the most famous person you have flown?
Unfortunately due to the statuses of most of the clients we fly privately, we are very restricted in regards to privacy regulations, especially as most of these clients want their privacy kept quiet.
I can, however, let you know that I often fly VIPs, famous footballers, pop-stars, DJs and members of European Royal families around.
What is the most countries you have flown to in one day?
If I remember it was 4 different countries. The routing was Brussels ( Belgium ) to Sion ( Swiss ) to pick up a client, fly them to Cannes (France) for a meeting which we needed to wait around for a few hours before flying them to Dublin ( Ireland ). After we dropped the client off, we flew with an empty plane to London ( UK ) for our next flight the following day.
The best part of your job?
Flying all the different routes and getting a birds eye view of some of the world’s most stunning landmarks and sites like the Palace of Versailles which gives you a whole different perspective.
I often have to do an overnight stop in a different place, which allows me time to explore the city or beach. It also gives me the chance to enjoy the local life and meet some new people. I love having the chance to meet new people and make friends through my job.
Also, I get to fly organs for life or death situations, which is great that I can help in saving someone’s life or making it better.
What is the worst part of your job?
I can never plan or commit too far ahead with family and friends, as I don’t have a fixed schedule and things can change within a few hours especially if I am on call.
Also, due to the nature of my job, everything can be unpredictable so I never know where I am going to be, which can make it hard to meet someone.
What has been your scariest moment flying?
I am lucky enough that I have never had any real major malfunctions but during the summer period, there are a lot of thunderstorms that we need to circumnavigate around. With our cockpit instruments, we have a clear view of the thunderstorm cells, which usually allows plenty of time to divert.
We receive a lot of flight training to solve the most difficult situations that can occur.
What advice do you give to anyone wanting to become a pilot?
I think being a pilot is one of the best professions in the world, you get to travel the world and see the most amazing things especially from up above.
If you are like me and knew from an early age that you want to be a pilot, you can attend airline pilot school straight after you have finished high school which is what I did. I graduated as a private pilot at the age of 17 years and was legally allowed to fly planes before I was legal to drive a car!
You can follow Maxim on his journey through his pictures on his Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/maxim.dockx/
Never give up your dream, if you work hard enough and you are motivated you will make it!
Leonardo da Vinci described it as : “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”