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INTERVIEW: Pauls Calitis, senior vice-president airBaltic

How did you get started in the aviation industry?

It's the pretty usual story – as a youth, for me, aviation, airlines and airline pilots had a very appealing mystique and fascination. This interested me and provided motivation to find a way to become part of it. The career path and opportunities for becoming an airline pilot back then where much different than now. But back then, as it is still now, creating a career in aviation was not easy and you definitely did not have a secure outcome at the outset. Thankfully, I went through a very professional and high standard-setting college aviation program, which set the foundation for my career. I very much appreciate that I had exposure to some “old school” training and instructors.

Tell us about your career so far?

I have had the unique opportunity to combine an airline pilot career with the challenges of modern day operational and business management. This has resulted in a very interesting developments and experiences in all mentioned areas. As a pilot, I started “bush flying” float planes in Canada. I was lucky to also experience some classic airplanes, even having flown a short while as flight engineer on the Boeing 727. Over the years, I have had operational experience flying worldwide and still maintain Senior TRI/E qualification.

I am proud to have been at airBaltic from the very beginning, starting out as a flight officer. Now, for many years, I have been Postholder Flight Operations – that is very much about the operations, people and business. Unbelievable to be in a company from the outset, to have great colleagues for so many years and to have a part in the growth, development and success.

I had the opportunity to an Aviation MBA early enough in my career, which gave valuable business knowledge and insight and was a great starting point for new challenges. Over time, I have been involved in dealing with and experienced the challenges of the inevitable different business cycles in aviation. I have personally been in the creation of a new company that now has matured into independent, profitable and professional airline training centre.

What have been the highlights?

To just mention a few specifics – flying into Paro (one of world’s most challenging airports), which I organised and flew myself for a wet-lease we did in the lovely Kingdom of Bhutan. Instruction in both classroom and simulator – a way to persistently challenge yourself and pass your knowledge and experience to others. Aviation MBA – a challenge to complete while still maintaining the regular job, but a great experience that resulted in friends for life. Lead for SESAR funded project – starting from initiating the project to final completion. This not only proved the value of modern technology in aviation (RNP approaches), but also served as great lesson in the difficulties and the reward of keeping people motivated.

Introduction of the CSeries – how often does an airline employee get to fly a brand new, yet-to-be-certificated, state-of-the-art aircraft? Establishing a training company – seven years and running airBaltic Training, that is strong and professional with more to come.

What does your current job involve?

To be a member of the management team, particularly working together with the COO or accountable manager, and other operational area managers. I rely on my great colleagues, who form the flight operations management – unbelievable level of dedication and capability. A daily effort for safe, punctual and efficient operations.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The opportunity to combine an airline pilot career with other business and operational skills. Working with and meeting many people. Implementing and creating processes that utilise modern technology, work well and are efficient. Achieving successful operational and business results.

The least?

Encountering non value-adding bureaucracy and people.

How have the Bombardier CS300s been received?

It has been a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to be involved in bringing all new aircraft into operations. Over the last five years, not only did I get to learn the aircraft, but also the many people behind this newly-certificated airliner. We had the chance to be in working groups and had the chance to directly influence procedures, for example, structure and contents of checklists. However, after many years of planning and effort, finally landing the first CSeries in Riga was momentous occasion. Now with the aircraft in operations, it is delivering everything that was expected: performance is unbelievable, passenger comfort brings us to a new league, and we have the most modern airliner to serve as our aircraft already today and going forward into the future.

What are Air Baltic’s plans going forward?

Further strengthening of our position as a very professional and successful airline in our region.

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