Most aviation fans will be familiar with the lilting tones of Petter Hörnfeldt, better known to his followers as Mentour Pilot. Petter has been making YouTube videos answering some of the biggest questions in aviation since 2015 or thereabouts, and has been in the cockpit of aircraft for much longer.

Simple Flying had the opportunity to sit down with Petter to discuss his journey, how he got into aviation and why he launched his digital content career. Here’s how it went.

A defining moment

Unlike some avgeeks, Petter didn’t grow up desperate to fly – as a young boy, he dreamed of being an archeologist. That was until his 14th birthday, when his parents bought him a flying lesson. He took to the skies on a picture-perfect day, flying above his hometown in Sweden, and by the time he landed (which his instructor let him do himself), he was hooked. He told us,

“It was one of those defining moments. You know, one moment when my life changed. And after that, I started looking into how I can possibly become a pilot, and what ways are there to achieve this.”

Petter was fortunate to be entering the industry at a time when Sweden offered a government-sponsored program that would pay for flight training. But it was very competitive, with only 30 places available across the whole country.

Up until then, Petter wasn’t doing amazingly in school, but knowing this opportunity was open to him gave him the motivation he needed to aim higher. He turned his academic standards around and was accepted onto the flight training course.

Advancing through his career

Petter was fortunate to land a job with a busy European airline almost right out of flight school, when he was just 20 years old. The airline was keen to get the most from its pilots, and he found himself flying the maximum of 900 hours per year. By the time he was 23, he had enough hours under his belt to become a captain.

But he knew that, despite having the hours, he didn’t necessarily have the experience that comes with years in the cockpit, so he deferred advancing to captain for a while in order to develop his knowledge base. Petter moved into instructing in the simulator, something which he found he had a natural flair for, and continued to learn and grow.

At 25, he moved up to become a captain for his airline, but that experience of instructing, of explaining complex concepts in simple ways, is a skill that he puts to great use in a different format today.

Going digital

So what made Petter move into YouTube? He joked that it was partly down to his wife, who told him,

“You have way too much time off; you need a hobby. Why don’t you start a YouTube channel or something … you like the sound of your own voice, so why not?”

Joking aside, Petter thought why not indeed. Social media was just exploding at the time, and sites like YouTube were fast becoming the preferred means of communicating with large audiences. But there were other reasons for wanting to share his knowledge and experiences too.

“I had noticed something I thought felt a little bit worrying, and that was the presence of pilots on social media or on YouTube or anywhere on the internet, back then was largely negative. If you went to the chat rooms, like the PPRuNe, if you were a budding pilot, someone who wants to get into the industry and really passionately loves it, like I did when I started, the first thing that you notice was the people in there really hated what they were doing.

“They were just complaining and moaning about their employers, the airline they were working for, everything was negative. And I couldn’t understand that because I loved my job, and I was really proud of what I was doing. So, I was wondering, why is it that this is the picture that people get when they go in and search for it?”

Petter soon realized that it was not that so many pilots were unhappy with their work; it was more than those who were happy were not sitting at computers complaining in chatrooms. They were out spending time with family, golfing, fishing, or whatever. This, he noted, meant that there was a skewed and very negative perception of piloting being presented on the web.

To counterbalance that, Petter decided to start recording what he called ‘video podcasts,’ where he would talk at length about what it is really like to be a pilot. He shared his personal experiences, both positive and negative, as well as tips for those looking to get into the industry.

Growing the audience

The world warmed to Petter’s unfiltered, honest style, and slowly but surely, his audience grew. Fast-forward to today, and there are some 1.3 million subscribers to his channel, and his videos are some of the most popular in the industry. Each day, some six to nine million people watch content that he creates – an incredible achievement. In terms of advice for other people looking to follow in his footsteps, Petter had this to say,

“If you are going to start a YouTube channel, then you cannot start it with the goal of becoming a big YouTuber. You should start because you have something to say; you should start because you want to give something to your audience. If you think that your audience is going to give to you, you will not succeed, because people will see through that immediately; they will only watch things that they get something out of.”

Something that certainly makes Mentour Pilot stand out from some of the other aviation YouTubers out there is his incredible ability to explain very complex things in an easily understandable way. Petter explained how he approaches this, commenting,

“When I do my videos, I’ve always tried to picture my mom in front of me instead of the camera. She’s an intelligent woman, but she has no idea about aviation. So I picture her and try to explain something to her. If I can explain it to her and if she understands it, well, then the likelihood is that a large percentage of the population will understand it as well.”

You can listen back to the full podcast with Mentour Pilot below; just click to play.


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