Pilots out of their office

Words by Līga Vaļko
Photo by Mārtiņš Zilgalvis (F64)

Baltic Outlook introduces you to some of the most important people at airBaltic – its flight crew members, who have some of the most interesting hobbies.

Meander Leukfeldt (31), first officer on Airbus A220-300, from the Netherlands

Meander Leukfeldt began learning to play the piano when she was ten years old. First, it was private lessons with a teacher who taught her the basics, but later she began attending a music school once a week. All together, she took lessons for about eight years. Nowadays, she brushes up on her piano skills from time to time with YouTube tutorials. ‘Or I buy sheet music that I’d like to play and learn by playing it,’ she says.

Meander always had a piano at home. First, her parents bought her an electric piano. ‘It was a very basic version,’ she says, ‘because they wanted to see whether I would actually get into it and enjoy playing. After a few years, my parents got a real piano for me, which was very nice, because it’s nice to play on an actual piano. Here in Riga, I have an electric one again, because there’s simply no space for a big piano right now. Maybe some day.’

Meander finds playing piano very relaxing. She also likes to paint and draw in her free time, but she enjoys playing piano the most. ‘I love to learn something new from time to time, and when you get good at it, that’s when it gets very relaxing,’ she says.

The three books of music Meander brought along to the photo session are her favourites. She is not very much into classical pieces and admits that playing the music of Bach or Mozart is quite challenging. ‘I like film music, hence Hans Zimmer, or more recognisable songs, such as by Queen, for example, which is also quite challenging for the piano, but I generally like their music,’ Meander explains. ‘The third book is a selection of pieces by Ludovico Einaudi, which is closer to classical music, more melodic. When I was taking lessons, my teachers always asked me what kind of music I like, and then that’s what we would learn to play.’

Meander did her flight training right after finishing high school in the Netherlands, and she did her practical training in Portugal. She finished her training right after the economic crisis, and so it took a while for her to find her first job, but she ended up working for a British company and was based in Örebro and Munich.

When the company went bankrupt, she had to look for other opportunities: ‘Thankfully, the market was in better shape, and after applying at airBaltic, I got the job. One of the reasons I applied was definitely the new aircraft, the Airbus A220-300, which at the time was very new and very modern. I thought it was the most interesting aircraft out of the ones that were available.’

‘I’ve always had an interest in flying,’ Meander says. ‘I’m not sure where it comes from, though, apart from the fact that we flew a lot when I was younger. When it came to the point where I had to decide about my career, I looked into aviation very carefully to find out what it actually means to be a pilot. What really appealed to me is the combination of working with technology and also with people. For me, that’s just the perfect combination of the different things I’m interested in, so that’s why I decided to pursue becoming a pilot.’

Meander says that she still really enjoys the actual flying, the feeling of taking off, and the views outside the window. She also really likes the job itself, the dynamics of the work, and the fact that whatever happens, one needs to deal with it straight away. ‘It’s not like you can write a to-do list and take two weeks to complete all the tasks. You have to do it in that moment, and I really enjoy that. I missed it during the pandemic, when I had an office job. When you’re flying, you go to work, you do your job, you deal with all the things you need to deal with, and then you’re done and you go home. There are never a bunch of things left on Friday afternoon to deal with on Monday. That doesn’t happen in flying,’ Meander laughs, ‘and that’s one thing I love about my job.’