The Busse brothers’ journey to Air Macau (including B1900 rating at Simuflight)

Mark’s, Matthew’s and my (James) story:

Our passion for aviation and the idea of being a pilot started at a very young age. This was a result of many experiences initiated by our parents by visiting small airfields around South Africa and building/flying model aircraft. This is where the dream started for us.

This decision of pursuing a career as a pilot only came about for each of us in our teens as we started considering a career path to follow. After researching more on the topic, we spoke with a family member and mentor who had just upgraded as a 777 Captain in Emirates at the time. He filled in all the gaps and unanswered questions we had about being a pilot. Our career choices had been made, having understood the job requirements, expected lifestyle, expected salaries and benefits, as well as the sacrifices and struggles one could expect in pursuing a pilot career.

Mark, the oldest, was naturally the one to pave the way. He started his training whilst still in school at the age of 16 at CTFC, furthered his training after Matric at Lanseria Flight Centre having achieved his multi-engine rating and instructor rating there and soon after his B1900 rating at Gryphon Flight Academy. At that time in 2010, there weren’t many jobs available and he was sitting with these qualifications and no one interested in his CV. After months of no luck, he signed up for a tug driver’s position at Lanseria International Airport just to be on the scene. This act of humbleness and determination was the reason why he got his first flying job as an instructor at Lanseria Flight Centre. His LFC reference was called upon and was asked if he would be good for the tug job after which the LFC team called Mark and told him “You have the instructor position.”

And there Matthew and I were looking at this thinking: “How will we make this work?”. We have noticed that when Mark was balancing flying lessons, school obligations and social life, his school marks understandably weren’t a priority anymore. Having seen this, we thought it more appropriate to finish school without a potentially over-bearing commitment in the form of flying lessons and to rather start flight training after school with full dedication and priority. Having taken the lessons Mark had learnt, we both only started flying after school and decided to enrol at 43 Air school.

Matthew and I both completed the integrated ATPL course (CPL with ATPL exams) and Mark completed his ATPL exams soon after his CPL. We also completed our Instructor ratings immediately after obtaining our Commercial Licenses. We did this because with only 200 hours, a CPL and no other flying experience to promote our CV’s, we had learnt that the only other way we could make our CV’s more attractive for our first jobs was to get the ATPL exams and instructor ratings. Not only were the exams inevitable as we worked towards our ATP Licenses, it also showed all of our first potential employers that we were determined to work and the same was true for the instructor ratings. As it turned out, all of our first jobs were as instructors and we feel that instructing concreted our flying skill and knowledge tremendously. We all achieved our Gr 2 instructor ratings, which, as a matter of interest, is much easier to maintain currency of or regain currency compared to the gr 3 instructor rating. We also considered that it can always be used at later stage in our careers, either in ab-initio training or within a charter/airline environment.

My first job was at Westair Aviation, Namibia as an instructor and charter pilot on single-engine piston aircraft for 1 year. Matthew followed in similar footsteps behind me as he instructed at 43 Air School for a year. But it was the next step from the pistons to something bigger that Mark had to lead the way again.

As Mark neared 1500 hours on single-engine piston aircraft , he felt his career was somewhat stagnating and has put himself out there once again to make the next step. Another true display of dedication was when he went for months in SA, Namibia and Botswana camping in tents and traveling between countries in public busses and trains – all to present his CV to the next potential employer so that he could fly something bigger and badder. At this time, in 2013, jobs were still thin in all sectors of the industry and he didn’t have any job offers for months. This was again a big shock to all of us, as Mark had just under 1500 hours, plenty of instruction experience, his ATP exams and a B1900 rating. His is goal driven mindset and determination kept his head up, until months later he received an invite to join as an operation assistant at Sahel Aviation Services, based in Bamako, Mali.

Matthew and I (Photo in front of UE-107) realised that we needed to equip ourselves with a B1900 rating to move our careers forward, as Mark had done. We both chose Simuflight for this and were very satisfied with the high standard of training we received. Our courses were very well organised and well-paced. We also felt privileged to have received training from such knowledgeable and experienced instructors, who had set the foundations and standards for us to operate a multi crew, multi-engine aircraft for the rest of our careers.

Matthew and I joined Mark working at SAS, Mali after having received our ratings. All three of us started as operations assistances for 6 months, then as first officers on the B1900 for just over a year, upgraded to captains and then to training captains for Mark and I. We each spent between 2 and 3 years at SAS and could not have asked for a better opportunity to slingshot our careers forward. It wasn’t always easy living and working in such hot, challenging and sometimes hostile environments. But on the other hand, we filled our logbooks up very quickly, had good opportunities to grow in the company and fly as captains, earned respectable money, had 3 to 4 months off a year and in summary, I dare to say, we experienced some of the best flying days of our lives. I can’t say flying in West Africa is for everyone, but I wouldn’t have done that part of my life any differently.

The next and most recent part of our careers now in Air Macau, situated just next to Hong Kong. In 2017, Mark was again paving the road ahead for us. Fortunately, this time, the global aviation industry had taken a turn and he had a much more attractive CV. He applied and joined Air Macau as a non-type rated FO to fly the Airbus A320 family, soon after I followed and thereafter Matthew joined too. When Mark joined, just 2,5 years ago, there were less than a handful of South Africans. Today South Africans are just about the majority of expats working here, totalling 28, the majority of which worked as Captains on the B1900 previously and many of them moved on from SAS, Mali.

We are all very happy here, enjoying our new South African community, competitive salaries, flexible commuting rosters, amazing travel opportunities, the balanced lifestyle and a good old braai on the beach once in a while. We are all looking forward for the relatively short time to pass for our upgrades to command on the Airbus A320 and the inherent perks that come with it.


Simuflight offers B1900 rating as part of it’s many type rating conversion courses. To find out more about getting your B1900 rating, please contact us.