From old school to state of the art

Pauls Cālītis is senior vice-president, flight operations for Latvian low-cost carrier Air Baltic. The airline was a launch customer for Bombardier's CSeries, and he has been closely involved with its introduction.

How did you get started in the aviation industry?

It’s the usual story – as a youth, aviation, airlines and airline pilots had a mystique and fascination. This gave me the motivation to find a way to become part of it. The career path and opportunities for becoming an airline pilot back then were very different from today. Thankfully, I went through a very professional and high-standard college aviation programme, 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's career with the challenges of modern day operational and business management. This has resulted in some very interesting developments and experiences. As a pilot, I started bush flying float planes in Canada. I was lucky to also experience some classic aircraft, even working for a short while as flight engineer on the Boeing 727. I have had operational experience flying worldwide and still maintain Senior TRI/E qualification. I am proud to have been at Air Baltic from the very beginning, starting out as a flight officer. For many years now I have been Postholder, Flight Operations – very much involved with operations, people and business. It has been unbelievable to be in a company from the outset, to have great colleagues for so many years and to have played a part in the growth, development and success. I had the opportunity to study for an aviation MBA early enough in my career, which gave valuable business knowledge and insight and was a great starting point for new challenges.

What have been the highlights?

To just mention just a few: flying into Paro (one of world’s most challenging airports), which I organised and flew myself for a wetlease 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 on to others. My aviation MBA – a challenge to complete while still maintaining the regular job, but a great experience that resulted in friends for life. Lead for a SESAR-funded project – from initiating the project to final completion. This not only proved the value of modern technology in aviation (RNP approaches), but also served as a great lesson in the difficulties and rewards of keeping people motivated. Introduction of the CSeries: how often does an airline employee get to fly a brand new, yetto-be-certificated, state-of-the-art aircraft? Establishing a training company – Air Baltic Training – and turning it into a strong and professional operation.

What does your job involve?

I am a member of the management team, working closely with the chief operating officer or accountable manager and other operational area managers. I rely on my great colleagues, who form the flight operations management and deliver an unbelievable level of dedication and capability.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Combining a pilot's 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.

The least?

Encountering non-value-adding bureaucracy and people.

How has the Bombardier CS300 been received?

It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in bringing all-new aircraft into operations. I have got to learn about the aircraft and the many people behind this newly certificated airliner. We were involved in working groups and had the chance to directly influence procedures, for example, the structure and contents of checklists. After many years of planning and effort, finally landing the first CSeries in Riga was a momentous occasion. The aircraft is delivering everything that was expected: performance is unbelievable, passenger comfort brings us into a new league, and we have the most modern airliner to serve our customers.

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