As the final days of November 2023 drew to a close, the airBaltic Pilot Academy was filled with a profound sense of pride. One of our esteemed graduates, now also an instructor, Elīna Štēbele, was about to undertake a significant journey. Alongside Captain Edgars Burtnieks, they journeyed from Riga to Canada, on a mission to bring back a remarkable holiday gift — a brand-new Airbus A220-300 for the airBaltic fleet . This brand new state-of-the-art aircraft with YL-ABS registration was the 45th Airbus A220 to join our fleet. This narrative serves as a testament to the academy’s determined commitment and the achievements of its students, who are entrusted with the honour of piloting an entirely new aircraft back to its home. We asked her to give us more insight into this unique experience.

Elīna Štēbele:

“On the morning of Latvian National Independence Day, the 18th of November, we took off from Riga and, as passengers, flew to Montreal in Canada. After spending a beautiful day in Montréal, we headed to the Airbus factory in Mirabel the next day.

Placed right next to the airport, the manufacturing site is an extraordinary place to visit, knowing that from here, all the airBaltic aircraft have been delivered, and today, another one is planned to depart. In addition to the delivery itself, we were able to tour the Airbus factory, take a glance at the brand-new aircraft manufacturing process and meet some of the engineers and specialists involved in taking care of all aspects of aircraft manufacturing, delivery, and its safe operation after the delivery.

The flight from the Airbus factory in Mirabel directly to Riga took about seven hours, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in one flight, which, of course, was a brand-new and exciting experience for both of us. Besides flying a brand-new aircraft, navigating and communicating according to the Atlantic Airspace operational rules was interesting.

Moreover, as we reached the midpoint of our Atlantic crossing, we were greeted by a breathtaking Northern Lights display. It was undoubtedly one of the most stunning sights we had ever witnessed. This natural spectacle added a touch of magic to our journey, making it an unforgettable experience.

These delivery flights are genuinely unique experiences; only some First Officers get the opportunity to participate in them. They are scheduled as special flights, making it a tremendous honour and privilege to be a part of one. I am deeply grateful to the company for entrusting me with this duty, which felt more like an adventure than work. And who knows – there may be another one in the future, especially since airBaltic has recently placed an order for 50 more Airbus A220-300 aircraft.”