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Pilot Mario Bakalov: I'm living my dream

Photo: private archive
Although he spends much of his time in the air, he defines himself as a person standing firmly on the ground. He says he has been living his dream and it is being a pilot. Only 33 years old, Mario Bakalov is part of the prestigious team of German Lufthansa and flies one of the most powerful aircraft designed in the world - Airbus 340, which carries about 320 passengers on board. To his list of successes we can add teaching career at the Lufthansa Academy of Aviation. "I do not remember wanting anything other than becoming a pilot," says Mario. Perhaps his mother also influenced him, as for many years she worked at the Sofia Airport. These days Mario Bakalov says that his job is his hobby too. The most important thing is that I do something I have dreamt about all my life, Mario says.

"As a student in Germany I focused on mathematics and physics. It was clear to me that if I wanted to fly I must be good in these areas. Training in Aviation Academy is quite hard. You fly in the morning and have theory classes in the afternoon. It was a hard job. Even these days I am mostly absent from home. Moreover, 25 -26,000 people work as pilots and flight attendants in a large airline company such as “Lufthansa." This is not like knowing all your colleagues. Often I fly with people I don’t know. Flying around the globe also makes social life a bit difficult. "

Every 4 months Mario and his colleagues have to prove their professional skills by passing various tests on simulators despite they already have several thousand flying hours behind them.
The young man says he continues to feel the adrenaline from flying.

“I recently had a flight to Caracas, Venezuela. Basically we use the same approach when landing there. But this time there was a storm and I had to make another approach, which is not present in our computer system and one should stay really focused. At the same time you see lightings and hear raindrops drumming on that plane. And I would say that there are still times when not everything is routine. "
Mario flies planes across the Atlantic to the United States, Asia, Africa and South America. His favorite destinations are Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver. For the moment, however, his personal favorite is Cape Town. Mario Bakalov says that whenever possible he tries to combine work with pleasure and to immerse himself in the atmosphere of new and exotic places. 

© Photo: private archive

"I've been to Sanaa in Yemen. The first time I visited India was shocking to me. Recently I was to Ashgabat and walked around the city, but I met almost no people. There were huge buildings such as mausoleums, but they were all empty. I had not seen such a thing elsewhere. Travel allows me to see many different and interesting things."
Still a very young pilot, Mario has been invited to teach at the Lufthansa Academy of Aviation. As a student, he showed interest in issues related to the human factor and its role in flight safety. "In the beginning it was not easy, considering that I was only 26 years old, and my students were 60 -year-old pilots, Mr. Bakalov says.

"Every pilot should know the airplane technology, how to manage different procedures, but there is also a human factor in flying. In the cockpit there are at least two people and often three pilots have to work in a team. Everyone makes mistakes, especially in stressful situations. It was found out that for 80 % of plane crashes the cause was a human error. Therefore, in the past 20-30 years great attention is paid to this in aviation. One of the issues is communication. The other is teamwork, solving problems in difficult situations, risk management and more. My seminars are mandatory for pilots and flight attendants. Also I teach crew resource management in the Lufthansa school in Bremen."

What distinguishes the good pilot from the best are his reactions in crisis situations and the ability to work in a team. That made Mario Bakalov start studying psychology in a German University. Along with all this he still manages to find time for volunteering. He joined the team of volunteers that provides psychological help to people who survived crashes.

Mario Bakalov also works on projects related to Bulgaria. One of the projects aims at creating more effective and safe approach routes to the Sofia airport.

"My dream is one day the biggest airplane that we have, Airbus 380 to land in Sofia. I would like to organize a demonstration flight. I think it will be interesting for the Bulgarians, who are interested in aviation, to see this big, modern aircraft. Also I am planning seminars in Bulgaria for people who have a fear of flying. Statistics show that over 50% of the passengers have some fear in flight, but did not want to discuss it. Of course, there are those who seek help, and as far as I know, in Bulgaria there are no such trainings offered," Mario Bakalov says in conclusion. 

English version: Alexander Markov

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