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PROFILE: Flying high with @maaikethepilot

PROFILE: Flying high with @maaikethepilot

Saturday 23 March 2024

PROFILE: Flying high with @maaikethepilot

Saturday 23 March 2024


A Channel Islands pilot who shares her adventures with her 13,000 followers has opened up about her journey to becoming an accidental "aviation influencer".

Using her account, @maaikethepilot on Instagram, ATR Captain Maaike Capazario shares regular updates on her flying career with her 13,000 followers.

Working for Aurigny, based in Guernsey, she flies the flag not only for her airline, and her island home, but for budding pilots everywhere.

Spreading her wings

Her own flying career started when Maaike was a schoolgirl at home in the Netherlands.

Her dad had a private pilot’s licence, and she would fly with him from a young age.

She explained she had two ambitions when she was at school – to be a pilot or to be a doctor.

Weighing up her options, Maaike decided to fly high and moved away from home to study for her wings.  

maaike the pilot

Pictured: Maaike's dad had a private pilot’s licence, and she would fly with him from a young age.

“I just finished high school and then I went to what's called an integrated course, where you learn. You start with your private pilot licence and then you get more licences until you can fly a commercial aircraft. 

"It was in the Netherlands, but it’s at an airport so I had to go and live there to do my flying. It was a two-year course, with some theoretical subjects and then flying, and then you’re done! 

"When I finished my training, it was in the middle of like a recession in 2009 so there were no airline jobs, so I worked as a flight instructor for three years and then my first commercial job was with Aurigny, so I came [to Guernsey].”

Maaike’s work as a flight instructor saw her training other young pilots which she says helped her to build lots of aviation experience.

That experience clearly paid off as she is still training other pilots alongside her own flying as part of her career with Aurigny. 

Guernsey's "sub-tropical climate"

Before she came to work for Aurigny she was doing a Type Rating course which enabled her to fly the ATRs which are a familiar sight in the skies above the Channel Islands. 

“I did a Type Rating course which you do to fly an ATR,” she explained. 

maaike the pilot

Pictured: Maaike is still training other pilots alongside her own flying as part of her career with Aurigny. 

“I did that in Switzerland and at the time it was for another airline, and then Aurigny called that centre saying: ‘we need ATR pilots’ and ‘do you have any in training?’.

"[The other airline] said to me you can start with our airline, which was a cargo airline, but we don’t know when we’ll have any flights, or you can go to Aurigny and start immediately.

“I had to google Guernsey and Aurigny, and it said on Wikipedia that Guernsey has a sub-tropical climate, so I said, ‘Let’s go!’

"I still have to experience that!” laughed Maaike.

“It was great, and I loved it, but obviously I don’t have any family on the island, so that was a bit difficult,” she added. 

“All my family lives in the Netherlands, and you always have to get two flights to get home so that was the only thing that I didn’t like.

"So, I did leave to fly for another airline. That was a cargo airline in Holland so I could commute.”

Maaike was back in Guernsey before too long though.

Returning to Guernsey for "love"

When I asked her why she came back here, to the "sub-tropical climate", so soon after moving back home, she answered simply,“love”.

Maaike had met someone during that first stint working for Aurigny. Her now husband is from Alderney. He lives in Guernsey and works at Guernsey Airport. 

“We kept in contact when I was flying for the cargo airline via Facebook and Instagram just as friends, but it started growing into something more, so I decided to come back,” she explained. 

That was in 2018 and since then Maaike has been promoted to Line Training Captain which means she is responsible for training other ATR pilots too. 

“Today I’m doing a line check on someone," she explained.

"So, if someone’s just joined the company, after 40 sections of training they do a check then they are released to fly with everyone.”

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Pictured: From @maaikethepilot on Instagram. 

Maaike explained that if she were to fly to Gatwick and back that would count as two ‘sections’. Her rotas are done monthly and usually she flies five days per week, most often on the UK routes but sometimes to the European destinations which are on Aurigny’s network now.

Maaike and her husband have a young child who celebrates their first birthday this month. That means she gets as frustrated as some of the passengers when poor weather or technical problems prevent her from getting home to her family. 

“We find it just as annoying as the passengers. I did a night stop in Southampton a few days ago when there was fog. I was in a hotel eating McDonalds!” she laughed, adding, “it has not put me off though, it’s just part of the job.”

An "aviation influencer"

It’s clear from the many photos that Maaike shares of her aviation life on her Instagram account that she loves her work as a pilot. It was never her intention to be an ‘aviation influencer’ though. 

“I think it was a picture that got shared on a page and it got lots of likes and it went from there. It's just built organically,” she said. 

“If I see something nice, I'll take a picture but there was no plan behind it. I just want to post pictures and share my views. I think most pilots love what they do, and they love the view, so I think most of my colleagues take shots sometimes. 

“You get some really nice views and sunsets and things like that.”

Looking through Maaike’s photos and reading comments from other ‘AV geeks’ it is clear she is followed by many other pilots including other female pilots, who also share their views with the world. 

The number of female pilots remains heavily outnumbered by men worldwide though. 

A study by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA) found that in 2021 fewer than 6% of pilots worldwide were women. 

At Aurigny there are four female pilots – three flying ATRs and one flying the Dorniers – and four female First Officers (also known as a co-pilot), which for a small airline seems to be a good sign of diversity.

Maaike-2.jpg

Pictured: At Aurigny there are four female pilots – three flying ATRs and one flying the Dorniers – and four female First Officers. (Milly Mallender)

Maaike hopes more people will follow in her footsteps into a career in aviation, and she said she would encourage anyone to if that’s what they want to do. 

"If you see something you want to do, then do it!”

“Don’t let someone stop you from doing it,” she said. 

“When I was at school and I said to my teachers I wanted to be a pilot they said ‘yeah, yeah but what is your back-up plan’ and yes you do need a back-up plan but don’t let it get you down. If you see something you want to do, then do it!”

Maaike said she would encourage anyone interested in pursuing a career in aviation to think about what they can do now to benefit their future career. All experience is good experience she said.  

“I would say, especially if you want to work for Aurigny, start doing jobs on the ground. If you're still in school, maybe in your holidays come and load bags or stuff like that, just building experience in aviation and stuff like that. Then when you save some money, you can do your training.”

Maaike said her training was expensive but it’s clear she doesn’t regret it at all. 

“I just enjoy the job, and the people,” she said. 

“I'm still paying off my loan now, from almost 20 years ago when I started. So you really have to love it do it, to be motivated.”

As for her own ambitions, Maaike is very happy with what she has achieved so far in her career and she is excited for what is still to come. 

She's looking forward to flying to some of Aurigny’s European destinations this summer, including the new Paris route which will be serviced by the ATRs.

"I really like flying for Aurigny because I have my family and most nights you're home, if you don't get stuck. And you don't start too early or finish too late so I think for a little family, it's perfect. Maybe when baby's grown up a little bit I might look to do more, but I’m happy where I am.”

READ MORE...

This interview was first published in CONNECT, Express' sister publication.

The latest Guernsey edition of CONNECT can be read in full below...

Pictured top: ATR Captain Maaike Capazario. (Milly Mallender)

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