Flight

Growing up just under the arrival corridor to old Oslo airport, and with regular intercontinental expeditions to antipodean lands, the dream of flight has been alive as long as I can remember. My first word was an attempt to describe an aeroplane, and as my father trollied me around, every time one would fly overhead – I would point to it and exclaim ‘bakkedus!’ Later in life, he would be looking up in the sky, spotting his son flying overhead, into the new Oslo airport.

“If you fly fast enough, the sun never sets.”

The first small steps towards realising the dream was to make contact with my local flying club. I did so in 2005, and had an introduction flight with a friend accompanying me in the back seat. We brought the SLR, and he captured this image – which so perfectly encapsulates the magic of that flight – with Oslo visible to the far left .

Climbing out of Kjeller aerodrome with LN-DAX on 5. March 2005.

Two months later I graduated from high school and the following autumn I found myself in the Royal Norwegian Air Force for national military service. Once completed, I spent a year working, studying, being a board member – and getting my Private Pilot Licence. Thereafter I headed off to South Carolina and North American Institute of Aviation (NAIA) to become a commercial pilot. Here is yours truly, just having soloed, proudly holding up a ‘Solo’ soda bottle, received upon completion as per Norwegian tradition:

Solo completed, Kjeller aerodrome, 26. November 2007.

The US is where the adventure kicks in to high gear. Flying out of Conway, SC and following a derivative of the old SAS training program was a thrill. I came to become a commercial pilot, and that I did. After an intensive FAA and JAA parallel track training program, I eventually did my checkride with “Fast-finger Freddy” (he lived up to his name):

“Mr. Fred” handing me my Temporary Airman Certificate as a newly minted FAA certificated Commercial Pilot. 19. August 2008, Conway, SC, USA.

NAIA eventually closed and I transferred to Pelican Airways Flight Training Center in Florida, where I also worked as a flight instructor. As my students started being grounded due to a lack of funds from the partner school in Norway, I jumped on a flight back to get my licence conversion going before the second bankruptcy set in. Here is the full story, in motion:

North American Institute of Aviation, Class 73-B, the full story.

A seperate video below shows life at Pelican Airways. During the beginning of my time there we unfortunately experienced a tragedy, when my instructor, the Asst. Chief Flight Instructor, Stuart, was on an instruction flight with an instrument student. An off-radio twin, climbing out of the next door airport collided with our aircraft, callsign “Pelican 69”. The NTSB report suggested neither aircraft could have been aware of the other, due to the prevailing line of sight before impact. Both aircraft ended in the Everglades with no survivors. I remember Stuart with fondness. He challenged me to have confidence in my abilities and encouraged me throughout the instructor training. Rest in peace, Stuart.

“The Few. The Proud. The Pelicans.”

Returning to Norway and having completed the conversion to a European licence and ratings, I started working in diplomatic security for the U.S. Department of State. Simultaneously I studied for my MBA at the University of Nordland, Bodø Graduate School of Business. The master thesis, “Bank into the wind – Pilot motivation in Widerøe and the global paradigm shift in aviation” was graded ‘A’.

Before the thesis was completed, and through a recommendation from a good friend in Denmark, I was put in touch with the Chief Pilot and COO at Bioflight for a planned administrative position. It would also mean flying, especially during peak season around Europe, but also in the off-season for biological survey flights throughout the Nordics. I landed the job and was made Operations Manager. By week two, I was sitting alone at HQ and running the show, as everyone else was out flying. When I was checked out, I too spent a lot more time on the road. Here is a promo video I made for Bioflight:

Bioflight promotional video.

After a year of execution and rapid growth, expanding the operation from 3 to 7 aircraft, and as the COO moved on, I was promoted to Senior Operating Officer. The position consisted of the operational responsibilities of the COO position, alongside my colleague who took over the commercial aspects as Senior Marketing Officer. The Danish newspaper Børsen publishes the “Gazelle list” every year, recognizing high growth companies with revenues that have at least doubled over a 4 year period. Our efforts during this time earned Bioflight a position on this list in 2017.

The flying we were doing was something quite different than the instruction flights I had been doing previously, with photogrammetric, LiDAR mapping and biological survey operations. I flew as far south as Italy and as far north as Finland, and in multiple countries in between. I spent a disproportional amount of time in Finland and have developed a great affection for the Finns. My impression is that Finland is one of Europe’s most underrated countries – they get things done, they get them right, and have a fiercly independent mindset – and I felt welcomed everywhere we went. Am also excited about having landed at both of Helsinki’s airports – old Malmi as a survey pilot and at Vantaa when I returned as an airline pilot. A short selection of clips from my time in Finland, including as a company line trainer:

“Finlandia”

With 1000 hours total flying time, SAS reached out. We were 2500 applicants at the time, whereof 6 were interviewed and 3 were offered a position. I was checked out on the Boeing 737 at the Oslo base, from which I spent the next 4 years flying around Europe with the most incredible colleagues.

2. March 2017, almost 10 years to the day for my first solo flight, I was released as First Officer.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, it was the biggest downturn in aviation history. KLM reported traffic numbers not seen since 1933. My airline made permanently redundant 5.000 employees of well over 11.000 total, the rest mostly being made temporarily redundant and supported by government furlough schemes. Out of the permanently downsized group, 560 were pilots, with seniority stretching back to 2001. Naturally, I was one of them. Aviation is cyclical and downturns happen every 7-10 years. It’s always for a different reason, and I had been wondering when the next downturn would hit. Little did I expect how deep it would be.

ICAO: COVID-19 impact on world air traffic.

I had been doing some volunteer work as an Industrial Expert for the Cockpit Association of Norway (Norsk Flygerforbund) prior to the crisis. When my notice period expired on New Year’s Eve 2021, I transitioned to the role of Deputy Director of the association’s Industrial Committee. NF is the umbrella organisation of pilot unions in Norway, and is the local member association of the European Cockpit Association (ECA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA). NF is made up of a board, a secretariat, political leadership and two committees – the other one being the Flight Safety Committee.

Over the course of the following months I would be deeply engaged in industrial challenges – and mid-pandemic, there were not few. One of the biggest challenges was the entry of Wizz Air into the Norway domestic market, utilising air crew on foreign terms and conditions. When my superior left for a position with the Civil Aviation Authority, I accepted the position as committee Director. In this role I organised the committee into three subsections – Professional & Government Affairs, Education & Training and Statistics & Research – and we grew to a total of twenty-two team members, with a wide variety of backgrounds from across the aviation spectrum.

From a mid-pandemic article by
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK. [link]

Through the combined efforts of the entire committee we made substantial progress across political issues, including regulatory reform, protection of labour rights, engagement on European issues, public service obligation tender requirements, public opinion and policy development. Our in-depth expertise on all issues related to civil aviation, across the organisation, has semented NF as the go-to organisation for the authorities. Personally I have signed more letters to the Minister of Transport than I can keep track of and I am proud of the work my team has accomplished in this time of upheaval.

The last big project before election day 2021 was completing and delivering on NF’s consultation response on the pandemic’s effects on the aviation sector and our inputs for an upcoming national aviation strategy. With the Norwegian parliamentary election held in September and the Labour Party seeking to form a new government after eight years of conservative rule, I have been working closely with our political leadership on forming industrial policy inputs for the coming government platform.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which was a disruptive period for the airline industry, I dedicated my time to the Cockpit Association of Norway to drive positive change. Returning to the skies I transitioned from Director to an advisory role as a Special Adviser on industrial policy issues. I remain particularly interested in national and European professional and government affairs.

On the 21st March 2021, a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, I attended a simulator assessment with start-up airline Flyr. I passed, and after a round of interviews and tests I was offered the position of pilot and joined as Senior First Officer. While Flyr operate the same aircraft I had been flying previously, the Boeing 737, when one starts flying for a new airline, one must go through an Operator’s Conversion Course. My course was due to start in September, but I was offered an earlier start to sequence me in line for command upgrade. I leapt at the opportunity. Passing the proficiency check precisely to the date 15 years since I started flight training, I am now looking forward to once again go flying.