It was the job Maxim De Leeuw, a 22-year-old former First Officer at Corendon Dutch Airlines, was dreaming of his whole life. Only a month after the first flight, his career was placed on hold for an indefinite time. Having finally fulfilled his childhood dream to become an airline pilot, now Maxim has refocused his future plans and took an ambitious plan to get his own startup off the ground.
Having been always fascinated with technology and air transport, in March 2020, after more than two years of training, Maxim finished the type-rating training on Boeing 737-8000 and started to fly passengers to various holiday destinations. However, Maxim’s pilot career lasted only a month. The airline terminated his contract due to the Covid hit despite the company’s huge investment in his training process.
“When I started flying for the airline there were talks about the pandemic. […] At first, I was disappointed when I heard I was terminated but […] it is a logical thing for them to do because I would rather have them fire me than keep me in the check-books and go bankrupt. […]The company made a huge investment in me and I know that if they could keep me they would do it,” Maxim said.
Even when Maxim realized that his future plans to get a flight instructor rating and later become a Captain shattered, the young first officer did not lose hope to return to the flight deck of the same airline.
“I left the airline knowing that at any moment I will be picked up again and will start flying for the company again,” Maxim added.
After the disappointing news, the pilot figured out that getting a job in another industry would require enormous effort as employers understood that when the opportunity arose, Maxim would return to his dream job. The pilot moved back to his parents’ home in Belgium and soon received an offer to return to his previous job as a salesman in a furniture store.
“When everything is on hold, every plan you have foreseen is put on pause. But there might open other opportunities that I might not think of. The pandemic gave me time to think about certain things,” the pilot says.
The uncertainty in the aviation industry encouraged Maxim to start a side business. After long months of considerations, the pilot realized that he needed to find other profitable activities besides aviation. Therefore, Maxim decided to start an advertising and consulting business called the Flight Goal.
Maxim says that the main goal of his business is to bring the specific mental model that pilots use in aviation to other businesses as well as to create specific content such as shooting and editing corporate advertising movies.
Even though the business is still very much in its infancy, Maxim does not need significant initial investments.
“I have taken time to see what I could do if aviation would not be an option for me anymore. That is why I recently decided to start my own self-employed business, which I will also be able to run next to flying. Basically, I am bringing the aviation mindset to everyday businesses. […] Once I will get flying again, I will still be able to combine these two activities while offering my customers services from my own skill package.”
While having ambitions to develop and expand his startup to gain more customers in the next couple of years, Maxim says the pilot chair still takes first place on his priority list. In order to remain a competitive professional, Maxim keeps learning the secrets of aviation.
“There are still some positive outlooks and I think the most important thing when you have your plan A on hold is to look for other opportunities to adapt to the current situation and see if there are any other options. I’m looking to further develop my business [but] my main goal in the future is to start flying again.”