Do you dream of quitting your day job to pursue your true passion? That’s exactly what Sam Chui did, with a well thought out plan. Now full time aviation and travel blogger, Sam is arguably the world’s most famous aviation content creator with over two million YouTube subscribers and 500 million views of his vlogs. Sam and I met at the Qantas pre-flight media briefing before the Australian airline took to the skies for its record breaking non-stop research flight between London and Sydney on a specially modified Boeing 787-9. Here, Sam explains what propelled him into the aviation arena, and shares what life is like as a full-time blogger.
How did your love for aviation begin?
Like so many people, it was the Boeing 747 that ignited my passion. Love at first flight is real! I took my first flight on the jumbo with United Airlines in 1993, after years of watching the aircraft type fly in and out of Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport (I lived in Hong Kong as a teenager). I would watch, spellbound, as aircraft flew in and out of the city, within touching distance of the surrounding high rise apartment buildings.
What did you do before you became an aviation blogger/vlogger?
With an academic background in economics and finance, I worked in the banking and investment industry for 13 years, living in Dubai for much of this time, where I live and still call home today. Throughout this whole time I was enjoying my aviation hobby in the sidelines.
What prompted you to launch a blog, and how did you get started?
I wanted to connect with like-minded people and decided to share my aviation photography with other aviation enthusiasts, so in 1999 I launched SamChuiPhotos.com hosted on Yahoo Geocities.
When did you quit your ‘day job’ and how did you know it was the right moment?
I always knew that my line of work mis-aligned with my passion. The blog was growing and so was the amount I was travelling to capture vlog content and work with the world’s airlines. I finally quit my day job in 2018 – it was a big moment, both scary and exhilarating.
It wasn’t an easy decision; leaving a highly successful and secure job was a huge decision, but I had been growing SamChui.com in parallel and was now in a position to take the leap I had been planning for. I knew this would be the only way to take my blog to the next level, and I was ready for my passion to become my full time job.
I’ve never looked back.
Take us through the average week in the life of Sam Chui (pre-covid, and hopefully post-covid!)
I am the “do-it-all CEO”! From writing the blog, editing pictures, filming and editing video, posting content and reading through comments and interacting with my followers, I’m always working on something blog related.
Pre pandemic, I could easily visit three continents in one week. For instance, one week I was in Seattle watching the Boeing 777X inaugural flight, then in Derby, England, visiting the Rolls Royce factory before heading back to Dubai.
Like everyone, Covid has severely impacted my travel plans, so I am with the rest of the world, home working and focusing on content creation for the blog.
I have been getting my fix of flight though; I have been learning to fly, recently completing my first solo flight which was out of this world.
I have also been writing my fourth book, Air747 which is now available.
What do you love most about aviation?
There is nothing about aviation that I don’t like. People who work in aviation are truly special; very dedicated and passionate individuals. I love the feeling of taking off for new adventures, and I love meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds. Aviation connects the globe and brings us together, no matter who we are or where we’re from.
What’s the best thing about being an aviation blogger?
I am extremely lucky to have amazing aviation experiences that I can then share with my followers. There is nothing better than your working being totally aligned with your passion, and getting to share this with your followers – who are everything. They make the blog what it is.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
I grew all my social channels organically from zero. It is the rich content that set me apart and got me to where I am today. There were lot of challenges and setbacks, and it took many years of trying and not giving up before I got to where I am today.
Time is always a challenge – I have to be well organized to ensure my content is timely and relevant.
You have had experiences most of us would only dream of.. what’s the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment you’ve experienced to date?
All experiences are unique and memorable to me. If I had to choose, I would say flying on Concorde and then flying alone in a private B747-SP – they were stand out moments for sure.
How do you think COVID-19 will change the aviation industry?
This is a very painful time. But I remain optimistic for the future of aviation. It is a cyclical industry and I think we will rebound quickly once the pandemic is over.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
People who built their career from very little or humble background inspire me the most.
Who do you enjoy following on social media?
@Eva Zu Beck – an inspiring female traveler who travels to less known countries
How do you hope to see SamChui.com develop in the future?
I will continue to share my travel and aviation experiences with other likeminded aviators and travelers. I also aim to be the “go to” person when it comes to aviation content via video, photos, news or opinion.
What do you enjoying doing when you’re on your days off?
I never take a day off! I am always working on something for the blog.
What advice would you give to someone who has a dream to pursue a new career direction (or life direction) like you did with the blog?
I remember someone saying that the most effective way of taking a new path is to simply get out there and start doing it. I agree with this but I would also advise having a good plan – work out the financial side of things.. we all need an income.
Consult with others and put your plan under some serious testing before committing to it. Be persistent and tenacious when things don’t work out and don’t give up.
Quick turnaround questions
Take-off or landing?
As a passenger, Singapore Changi Airport
As a planeSpotter, LAX
Favourite first class product?
A tie between Singapore Airlines First Class Suites and Emirates First Class
Top three favourite airlines?
Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qantas
(This list changes all the time!)
Favourite place for a holiday?
Being inside the airplane is a holiday for me!
Favourite aircraft of all-time?
The Boeing 747
What would you be if you weren’t an aviation blogger?
A culture and peace promoter
The best thing about flying is…
Being disconnected from the earth – I am truly ‘me’ when I’m in the sky.