Interview with Michael Madsen

Interview with Michael Madsen

Interview with Air Greenland Chief Pilot Michael Madsen

Join us for a high-flying conversation with Michael Madsen, the Chief Pilot at Air Greenland, as he takes us through the clouds and shares his remarkable experiences, especially with the legendary Norsaq, that we upcycled to our Aviationtag X Air Greenland Edition.

With a career deeply intertwined with the skies, Michael brings a unique perspective and a treasure trove of aviation tales that will leave you captivated.

Michael, thanks for your time.Tell us a bit about your flying career please.

I started my flying career in 1988 in the Royal Danish Air Force. Upon completion of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT in Texas, I continued on the F-16 program in Denmark from 1989 to 1999 in various positions and ending the career as Squadron Commander for the first F-16 squadron to receive the F-16 Mid Life Update aircrafts.

I then made a transfer to civil aviation and flew for Scandinavian Airlines System on the MD-80 from 1999-2003. This was followed by a short stop over at Cargolux flying the 747-400. Circumstances led me into a position as Deputy Chief Flight Operations in the Danish CAA for the period from 2004-2007.

Since 2007 I have been in Air Greenland as Chief Pilot Airbus A330.

The final flight of Norsaq from Greenland to Arizona included the longest leg and the shortest leg – can you talk a bit about this please?

My ultimate longest stay on an aircraft is 36 hours. First as active pilot from Luxembourg, via Munich to Upington in South Africa, where I was supposed to leave the aircraft and fly back a couple of a days later as passenger. However, my son was turning 1 year old, and I had the possibility to stay on the aircraft and deadhead back to Luxembourg, same route backwards with the new crew. Now having this in memory and done quite a few 12-hour flight as part of a crew with additional crewmembers to facilitate inflight rest – this particular flight Copenhagen to Tucson, Arizona was done with only 2 pilots and the fact I knew that I was bringing a perfectly functioning aircraft to the final rest/grave just made a huge impression I will never forget. This feeling was cemented upon landing in Pinal, where we parked next to “dead aircrafts” being cannibalized for useful “organs” making life extension on other aircrafts possible.

What was it like doing the flyby in Nuuk?

I have done quite some flybys in my time as a F-16 jockey, this Norsaq flyby was compared very basic and simple. We left 38.000´and made the descent to Nuuk, where a 360 circling of the capital was completed, with a wing rock during climb back to altitude to say farewell in the traditional way. What I did not know, was that it had been announced on the radio and TV stations, and buildings was emptied, public busses stopped, and the passengers went on the street to see Norsaq -I have been told - in fact the entire city was on the street to wave goodbye to Norsaq. We (Air Greenland) and I received so much attention in the days after – that I felt as a rock star.

What feedback did you get from people who watched from the ground after your return?

Oh yes, many videos, comments and so forth – Norsaq have never been to Nuuk, so this was the one and only time the aircraft was overhead the city and the people it has moved so many times.

Could you share with us why Norsaq was so important for the people of Greenland?

Norsaq connected the Greenlandic people with the surrounding world for nearly 2 decades, thus the aircraft is the very symbolic essence of travelling, which again mostly s done for seeing family members or going on vacation – i.e. good and joyful memories for most Greenlandic travelers.

Do you have any specific memories of flights with Norsaq throughout your career? As we understand there was a wedding on board as well as a band playing?

Both is correct. The wedding, which took place in 2011, was a request and kept as a secret for the bride up until the marriage proposal airborne. As the captain of an aircraft has the same privileges as a captain on a ship, the actual ceremony could take place airborne. Now clearly, we could not justify having the captain out of the “bridge/cockpit” for such process without a replacement, thus I joined as relief captain for this reason. As a bonus, the couple is still happily married – so perhaps the blessing at altitude closer to heaven is the reason.

We often have Head of states, Kings and Queens, princesses and princesses, Ambassadors, Rock Stars, Tv Stars, Influencers, and other VIPs flying with us – and Air Greenland always try the very best to facilitate what ever needs the traveler may have. In this context I wish we would have a complete list over VIPS who have joined the cockpit of Norsaq for a visit or sat on the jump seat for landings. The coolest response I ever had from a visitor in the cockpit was from a 10-year-old kid. Most visitors are really impressed once in the cockpit seeing all the instruments, handles and switches – but the 10-year-old response to the “rhetoric question” – don´t you think there is a lot of instruments and switches in the cockpit – the “dry answer” back was – I suppose there is only those instruments and switches you need – end conversation.

The last landing was done by your First Officer – could you share the background why?

First Officer Thomas Kjærulff has been flying Norsaq as a first officer for nearly 11000 hours. He was a first officer on the first trip Norsaq made in Air Greenland context. Thus, It would be symbolic that he from the very same seat would put Norsaq on the ground for the last time. I truly believe that Thomas Kjærulff may be the only Airbus pilot having nearly 11.000 hours in the very same seat on 1 Aircraft. In fact, he has been the first officer on nearly 20% on all flights made by Norsaq in Air Greenland. In total Norsaq logged about 40.000 hours for Air Greenland.

Michael, many thanks for your time and the interesting stories.

As we conclude this captivating interview with Chief Pilot Michael Madsen, we're eager to hear from you! Share your thoughts on the insights he provided and, if you've had the privilege of flying with the iconic Norsaq, tell us your own tales from the clouds.

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    1 comment

    • Michael

      It is always amazing to hear aviation related stories and pilots' personal experiences. As son of a Captain & "sunday pilot", I have listened to many. Yet it always amazes me to know more.

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