China Eastern: his preferred way to fly

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-18 13:00

China Eastern: his preferred way to fly

Jogrim Grotmol's adopted Chinese daughter recently discovered her father has been spending more time than usual at their home in Chicago.

The Norway-born American is, after all, a pilot who usually spends most of his time in the skies and in foreign countries.

But Grotmol has been able to spend more time with his family not because he is out of a job - he actually flies the Shanghai-Chicago route for China Eastern Airlines.

Grotmol joined the Shanghai-based carrier four years ago and he often flew the Airbus 330 to destinations in North America, Europe and India. Last year, he was given the chance to fly the Shanghai-Chicago route, and he did not hesitate in taking it up. He added that he is very fortunate because very few pilots working for foreign airlines get to pick their preferred routes.

"The company asked us if we wanted to switch to the Boeing 777, which just started flying to Chicago," said the 54-year-old. "I knew I just had to take it because Chicago is where my family is. Now I fly the Shanghai-Chicago route and get to spend my off days with the family."

Unlike most people who begin training to become a pilot at a young age, Grotmol started out as a ground staff for Scandinavian Airlines at 20. It took him three years to save enough money to attend flight school in the United States.

"Maybe I am not a typical pilot. To me, it's not only a job. When I fly from Chicago to Shanghai and come close to the North Pole, I look outside at the mountains and the clouds. I think I've got the best office in the world. It's so beautiful in there," said Grotmol, who has flown around 15,000 hours during this career that has spanned more than two decades.

In 2013, Grotmol and a handful of friends who were also pilots joined China Eastern, the ninth airline he has worked for.

"My last two American airlines, one went bankrupt, and the other stopped operating. So I decided to look for jobs outside the United States along with three friends. We applied to airlines such as Emirates, China Eastern, China Southern and Korean Air. China Eastern was the first airline to call us. We were invited for an interview in June 2013. They offered all four of us jobs," he said.

Grotmol said he was delighted to accept the job offer because he felt a connection with China through his daughter Isabelle who was adopted from Nanchang of Jiangxi province in China 10 years ago. The couple also have a biological son.

When asked about his impression of China, the American said he was surprised at how quickly the country has progressed over the years. He noted that the infrastructure, trains and airports are starkly different compared to when he first arrived in Shanghai just four years ago.

He added that China has a very bright future in the aviation sector, as evidenced by the modern infrastructure, new airplanes, availability of world-class training and commitment to high safety standards.

Another aspect of Chinese society that he is impressed with is the kindness he has been shown by the locals.

"The foreign pilot department at China Eastern has been a great source of support for us. I really enjoy China, especially Shanghai. It's a wonderful place, a lot of excitement, nice people, lots of good food," he said.

Grotmol cited safety as another reason he likes working and living in Shanghai. He pointed out that though the city has four times more people than Norway, he has never felt unsafe at any time.

"In London, Paris, New York and most of the big cities, you need to be much more careful. But here in Shanghai? No problem," he said.

With regard to his favorite spot in the city, Grotmol does not name the usual suspects like the Bund or the former French concession. Rather, he picked the tiny noodle shop near his rented apartment, located a stone's throw away from Hongqiao Airport's Terminal 2, where he always orders the beef noodles.

Grotmol has even developed a bond with the shop owner. After learning that the latter is an avid collector of foreign coins, the American gave him coins from Norway, England and the US, much to the delight of the owner. As a result, Grotmol was not allowed to pay for his meals.

Grotmol said he loves his job and has no plans to retire soon. He even expressed hope that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the Chinese government could follow the US by extending the retirement age of pilots to 65.

"As long as I feel welcome, and China Eastern wants me to stay, I would like to work for China Eastern until retirement," he said.

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