Soufian was not expecting that his whole life’s goal of becoming a commercial airline pilot could slip out of his hands so easily.

“It was a catastrophe. All [the] work that I have been doing for ten years to [get] this position was broken down in one week. It was a very difficult period for me,” started his story Soufian Saadaoui. Instead of wearing rank stripes on the pilot uniform, the passionate French-Tunisian aviator now is ready to dress up in the uniform of a taxi driver.

In the late end of 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the aviation sector, Soufian had been successfully following his dream to become a pilot in the commercial airline. It seemed that nothing could stop the young man from reaching his goal to take a chair in the cockpit.

A bumpy runway to reach the dream

Soufian’s road into the skies began in early childhood. Having a double French-Tunisian nationality, Soufian used to travel a lot between the two countries and more broadly. Unlike other peers, he started discovering the secrets of the flight deck at a very young age since Soufian’s uncle had been working in aviation for years. The little boy had already made his life decision to follow his uncle’s footsteps and become an airline pilot.

“I had a chance to live in the [aviation] world from my very young age. [...] I was really passionate and from my young age I always had this mind inside of my head that I want to be a pilot,” told Soufian.

However, the runway to the pilot chair was long and bumpy. After finishing a private pilot school and getting the commercial pilot license in the South of France, Soufian had amassed too few flight hours for any airline to employ him. Having collected only 250 flight hours, the future pilot found another way to get closer to the world of aviation and got a position in the aircraft maintenance industry. Over time, Sofian improved his competencies as a specialist and became a member of certifying staff for large commercial engines at a huge French maintenance company. 

“[After finishing the flight school], I had just 250 hours, so I’ve just got unemployed and I [joined] the maintenance industry. I started from lower levels and finished as a certified staff in a big company in France. I was certifying engines on Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 jets,” he shared the experience.

“I completed all the training, [...] everything was done and then the Covid-19 came. It was a catastrophe."

After years in the maintenance field, Soufian returned to his main dream of life and finished the type rating for the Airbus A320 aircraft in 2018. The real fight for a pilot had started in Atlas Global, a Turkish airline, which was looking for young pilots at the time. However, the skies were not as favorable for Soufian as he wanted. Despite having gained more than 500 hours on the type, the young pilot was forced to change its employer-company soon. Facing financial troubles since 2018, Atlas Global filed for bankruptcy in the early beginning of 2020. 

From pilot rank stripes to casual uniform of a taxi driver

“The end of 2019 was a great period for the aviation industry and I gained many offers. [I gained] 800 hours in total and 500 hours on type, [...] and many airlines offered me some screening selections,” said Soufian.

After choosing the airline, the young man soon finished all the necessary pilot training, and then it seemed that only a few steps left for Soufian to reach his dream but the pandemic changed both his and the airline’s plans. Instead of a pilot chair in the cockpit of the A320 jet, Soufian was forced to return to Paris, his home city, where he began a slightly different lifestyle.

“I completed all the training, [...] everything was done and then the Covid-19 came. It was a catastrophe. All the work that I have done for ten years to [get to] this position was broken down in one week. I was hoping that my airline would survive. [...] Unfortunately, [the company] can not take us back at the moment.”

Keeping a positive mind, Soufian decided to change his career and started a preparation course for a taxi driver’s position. It could seem that being a taxi driver in Paris is much easier than piloting a commercial jet. However, Soufian has a slightly different opinion. 

“I have decided to do a taxi driving training in Paris. So, now I’m studying the map of Paris, all the addresses. I’m always learning. Now I’m preparing for an exam for being a taxi driver after being an airline pilot. It’s no problem. I have no problem doing all sorts of jobs,” the pilot shared his immediate future plans.

Persistently prepares for recovery

Despite the unpredictable situation in the global aviation industry severely impacting the pilot’s lifestyle, Soufian still does not lose hope to catch another chance for taking-off to the skies as soon as the sector recovers. Even though the recovery might take some time, the zealous aviator seeks to be prepared to jump back into his pilot uniform at any moment when the industry bounces back.

For this aim, Soufian has joined Register for Recovery campaign, the new initiative launched by  AeroTime Hub together with the aviation job board AviationCV.com. Soufian, as well as the thousands of aviation professionals and enthusiasts around the world, who have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, joined the community impatiently waiting for updates on opportunities of new job openings.