GoFly Pilot Profile: Carlos Martins
From the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he grew up, Carlos Martins – or “Dudu” as he is still called there – was known for his daydreaming and constant looking-up-to-the-skies demeanor.
The son of a strict former navy officer, Carlos was a smart, focused teen, raised within a hard- working, close-knit family. He soon realized his passion for flying was not going to materialize in that troubled neighborhood of Vila Kennedy, where violence still dictates everyday life. With that thought in mind, he bid a teary farewell to his loved ones at age 17 and headed to Florida without a penny to his name.
Once in Miami, unpacked and settled in his cousins’ studio, his first immediate need was to find his way to the airport again. There, he knew, everything would begin for him. Without a car or directions, he endeavored to walk all the way from Doral to Miami International Airport, just by following approaching airplanes’ route. At the end of four hours, with hurting feet and neck, he reached destination. His American adventure could now start.
For the first few years, Carlos washed cars, waited tables, and worked as a valet, sometimes all at once, to pay for flying lessons and college. “Mine is a very classic story of passion and work,” says Carlos, “My struggles to become a pilot were not a questionable burden. I had a goal and I went for it!” Those relentless six-year of work got him enough money to co-buy a small Cessna 150. “I finally owned a small part of a plane with three other friends but I did not have a car to go to the airport, so I continued walking my way there until, later, I was able to afford a scooter”. Flying at the time still occupied his mind 24/7.
A Miami-Dade student, a hotel accounting clerk and an evening-shift waiter on Española Way, Carlos continued pursuing his ultimate goal – to become an airline pilot – very much aware of the rough path that lied ahead. “A pilot student knows that he has to study during every spare minute, accumulate pricy flying hours, go through endless accreditations, licensing and type-ratings,” he says, “and only then will he join the crowd struggling for a job, living on very low, entry-level salary and making ends meet. And yet, here we are! Going after our dream,” adds Carlos.
Pretty busy bee was he when he met his future wife and her adventurous, multicultural, boating family. The Donels had settled in Florida after a three-year family sailing trip that took them from France — where they originally came from — to Brazil, his mother-in-law’s birth country as well. They had crossed the Atlantic and sailed up along the Brazilian coast during those years and, after countless adventures, had anchored their 57ft long Mikado in Fort Lauderdale, where they decided to settle and start a new life.
“Meeting my wife and her family changed my life completely. And theirs as well” he says “My father-in-law is a passionate, creative former architect, fascinated by boats and planes. My mother-in-law is an experienced marketing and communications professional and Beatrice, my wife, a law student, has an amazing, business-oriented mindset. Soon, we began piecing together the perfect aviation business for us, one where we would combine our skills”.
From boat to plane, the similarities are known to be many. Their creative brains together gave birth to GoFly Tours in 2012 and they initiated operations at the legendary Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport — where Presidents land their Air Force One — with one Cessna 172.
“The initial GoFly idea was — and is — to offer sightseeing tours over Miami by specially trained pilots who would offer customers a differentiated service, guided tours with champagne and chocolate for some, overlooking the luxurious geography and skyline”, he explains.
All through his first rough years in Miami, Carlos had navigated in and benefited from the incredible and unique bond that links all aviation aficionados. Mechanics, FBO employees, assistants, and fuel delivering team, all became his adopted family, one that rooted for him and helped him in any way they could. So when GoFly was created, the best team was already in place to work with “Carlito”, as he is now called around the airport.
The whole company concept was born from the fact that Miami was becoming a huge paradise destination, with record numbers of visitors, all looking for new, out-of-the-box things to do. This estimate proved to be accurate: Miami-Dade continued its streak of record-setting tourism numbers, welcoming 14.6 million overnight visitors in 2014.
Soon the company formed partnership with all pertinent hospitality partners and offered Romantic Tours, Majestic tours, Fort Lauderdale & Hollywood Tours with great success. Real- estate agents, photographers and local residents looking for a one-of-a-kind activity or wedding proposal idea, were also part of the audience.
In 2014, GoFly welcomed a new partner, Fabio Bernardi. An experienced and successful Italian pilot and businessman, Fabio had been one of the company’s first customers, while on an exploratory trip with his wife. Now Miami-based and fully integrated, he is part of the management team and helps handle all operations and coordinate aircraft maintenance.
“Flying” forward, with the right priorities
With Fabio on board, Carlos was able to pursue his career by also becoming a fully certified executive jet pilot. He continues to be the backbone of the GoFly’s operations, working alongside his wife and in-laws. The much-appealing multi-cultural “family” office atmosphere has attracted several additional young aficionados looking for training and building flight hours. And so, after GoFly Tours, GoFly Academy was created.
With an eye on numbers of flight students coming to South Florida yearly and persuaded that the aviation friendly environment, clement weather and paradise-like lifestyle in the area will continue to attract them, Carlos has plans to be on the front row of the trend. “GoFly is on the right track to becoming a Part 141 flight training school soon, I hope”, he says, “We will expand our course of action and will be able to tackle international markets such as Europe and South America, where eager young pilots are ready to come to Florida to finish their training.” The school will also offer an English for Aviation course, much needed and requested by international customers.
With more than 30 flying schools just in the Miami-Pompano Beach area, moving forward can be challenging. “Our only concern is to provide our customers with a top-notch, well-maintained fleet”, says Carlos, who has a team of mechanics working on 3 Cessnas 172, 1 Archer, 1 Malibu, 1 Seneca and the 10-seater Islander. “I have worrisome memories of some of the aircraft I was given to fly while in training. We don’t want to become just another pilot-factory school and we are ready to slow our growth pace if needed.”
Today, when entering the beautiful and spacious GoFLy office at the Orion Jet Center hangar, overlooking a group of jets and turbo props, one will see a framed certificate on the wall. In less than two years, GoFly obtained the Holy Grail of aviation, the same one held by all major airlines: the Part 135 Air Carrier license. “With that we will soon be offering charters to most cities in Florida and in the future, international destinations such as Cuba, we hope”, says Carlos.
So, now a very busy 30 year old entrepreneur and a much requested jet pilot, Carlos-Dudu-Carlito, the ambitious “carioca” teen who could have had a very different life story had he not sprinted after his flying dream in America, added yet another essential role to his already full plate: a dad to 11-month old Sofia. “I came full circle, now”, he concludes, “I still fly a lot, both in real life and in my dreams, but solid ground has just gotten a whole new meaning for me”.