Pilots of Appareo: Matt Dondoneau

One of the secrets behind how we create great aviation products for pilots is this: many of us are pilots ourselves! While only 0.5% of the U.S. population has a pilot’s license, more than 5% of Appareo employees do. That’s 10 times the national average!

Collectively, our pilots log hundreds of flight hours in their free time. Let us introduce you to one now: Matt Dondoneau, Aviation Key Account Executive.

Matt been a pilot for just under 20 years and describes it as, “absolutely defining my life.”

First introduced to aviation through the movie Top Gun, Matt attended the University of North Dakota when he earned a scholarship into UND Aerospace to pursue a degree in Aviation and Aerospace Engineering. After his first flight, he was hooked. Matt graduated with an Aviation degree but did not get his degree in Aerospace Engineering. His time and degree from UND Aerospace has been extremely helpful for his career at Appareo.

Matt started working at Appareo as the Key Account Manager for Aviation in March 2018.  Matt describes his job as, “Acquiring new business and managing the relationships for Aerospace companies, whether it is an engineering project, OEM products, or both. I’m not responsible for the aviation products that Appareo sells directly to consumers, but I’m always on the hunt to find different ways to use those products in the industry.”

Throughout his career, Matt has been involved in nearly every aspect of professional flying, so when we asked him two big questions about being a pilot he had a lot to say.

What was your proudest moment as a pilot?

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in nearly every aspect of professional flying, so finding a single proudest moment is really difficult. I’ve spent time flight instructing, flew charter and medevac, flown for Northwest and Mesaba Airlines, and also was the chief pilot of a corporate flight department that flew domestically and internationally. Each area of aviation that I’ve spent time in has its own prideful moments.

As a flight instructor, I was able to see the look on students faces as they flew for the first time. I also have been fortunate to teach my kids how to fly. Each one has flown a jet, including my youngest who first flew a jet when he was 6 (with dad’s help, of course)!

In the airlines, I was a test pilot for a new aircraft type and got to pick up brand new aircraft from the factory and put them through acceptance flights. Most people don’t know what “new airplane smell” is, especially in airliners. Flying in the corporate world was extremely exciting and allowed me to see the world, but it was an incredible experience the first time I flew non-stop across the Atlantic. Such a small fraction of pilots get to do that in their flight careers.

With all of the time spent in the air, I may still have to choose my medevac flying as the proudest, however. I experienced some terrible situations and saw some horrible things, yet there were happy moments. The most memorable instances were when your pager would go off at three in the morning and you’d find out a child on a heart transplant list finally got the call that a match was found. Often, when someone gets a call of an available organ, you have as few as 4 hours to pick them up and get them across the country and into an operating room. It is an incredible feeling to pick up someone that didn’t know how many tomorrow’s they had left and to get the opportunity to help them have a new lease on life. Some of those flights I’ll never forget.

How does being a pilot help your work at Appareo?

Aviation is an extremely complicated business. With the amount of jargon, requirements, and procedure, it really takes someone who has been there to understand a customer’s needs. Sometimes, the customer doesn’t even know what they need, but my background can fill in the blanks. Aerospace companies often can be difficult to navigate if you don’t talk the talk or walk the walk. I think my background lends itself to some instant credibility that would take longer to acquire without my time in the industry. I hope that my experience also helps others at Appareo understand what the customer is looking for, or why something is significant in aviation. Knowing the things I had access to in my flying days, but more importantly, the things I wish I had access to, is really exciting to bring to a company where we can bring those ideas to life.