Noel Philips: “Aviation is able to impact so many people around the world”

People leaving hateful comments on your videos are a fantastic achievement! When you start reaching people who wouldn’t usually watch your videos — that’s when you start growing. And every single comment is a little more engagement, and helps grow your channel a little bit more. As a part of my series about leaders who are using their […]

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People leaving hateful comments on your videos are a fantastic achievement! When you start reaching people who wouldn’t usually watch your videos — that’s when you start growing. And every single comment is a little more engagement, and helps grow your channel a little bit more.

As a part of my series about leaders who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Noel Philips.

Noel is an aviation and travel vlogger based in the UK. He has over a million followers on YouTube and Facebook, and has been creating viral aviation related content since 2000. Today, Noel flies over 100,000 miles a year, flying everything from helicopters to private jets, from obscure airlines in the backwoods of Russia to first class on the world’s best airlines — all in the quest of experiencing how aviation transforms lives around the globe.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been interested in aviation since I was a child. I grew up reading aviation magazines showing the incredible things aviation is used for around the world, and eventually reading peoples’ stories of their journeys around the world when the internet became a thing. I didn’t travel much as I simply couldn’t afford to, but whenever I did I started writing a little report so that I too could contribute something to the online aviation community. In 2006, along came YouTube and it was somewhere handy I could film my flights and put up a video from them. I remember looking one day and seeing I somehow had over 3,000 subscribers! This led me to starting to take YouTube a little more seriously, and I started making videos exclusively for YouTube. Fast forward to 2018 and I was earning more from YouTube and Facebook videos than I was from my full time IT job, and I took the decision to go full time creating content for the internet. I’ve never looked back!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

I flew to Kazakhstan to film a video around one of their domestic airlines, and to get a glimpse into life in the former Soviet country. Waiting to board the plane at Aktau airport, they started to board three flights from the exact same gate. It was chaos — people were getting on the wrong plane, others realised they’d got on the wrong plane and tried to get back — I still have no idea where most people ended up. Then, as we finally got underway the aircraft suddenly stopped. I looked out of the window to see two pickup trucks and several men trying to chase a dog that had somehow got onto the runway. They almost cornered him several times but he kept giving them the slip!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I quickly built up a reputation for not having the best of luck with taxis. I’m not a confrontational guy, and when I’m met by dozens of taxi drivers outside the airport I don’t find it easy to haggle or say no. As a result I often end up spending many times the going rate on taxis, to the amusement of my viewers. Once, I had just arrived at Mumbai Airport in India and was met by a local driver who quickly took me to his car. Before he could pull off, the car had been surrounded by police and I was being ordered to get out — while the driver kept telling me to say I was his friend! I got out of that taxi faster than ever, and as I was walked away from the situation the officer told me the taxi driver was a known scammer and would have robbed me had I gone with him. I still haven’t learned my lesson though — just the other week I paid a guy in Africa 55 dollars for a 3 dollars ride!

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Keep on creating. Don’t stop. YouTube is a tremendously difficult business to start in — videos take hours to edit and in the beginning you will be met by nobody watching them. It’s very easy to get disheartened and give up –I know I would (and it’s the reason I’ve never started a second channel). But the only way to grow is to make more content.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Aviation is able to impact so many people around the world. There are so many places and people only reachable by air, and my goal is to raise awareness of these areas, and how organisations are using aviation to reach out to the most isolated people not only around the world, but also here in the UK, which has a surprising amount of areas that can be many hours by road from the nearest towns.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

I recently filmed a video in Kenya with an organisation called Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). They use aviation to connect people in remote tribes and villages across Kenya and South Sudan. They recently set up a clinic in a remote village, completely cut off from the outside world, to allow children with congenital condition such as cleft palate and club foot to get assessed by a doctor from a humanitarian organisation, and then taken to Nairobi for treatment. This sort of clinic would have been impossible without organisations like MAF, who are able to use aviation to make a real difference in the world.

Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Initially I used to take flights with the aim of flying on as many types of aircraft as possible. Over time I found myself regularly flying through remote communities that I’d never have thought about visiting before. For example flying through tiny villages along the coast of Norway, remote towns in Alaska or even the tiny island communities in northern Scotland. I developed a fascination with these flights and the people on them — for instance meeting people traveling hours for medical treatment, where a flight is the only option.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

In the UK, many remote communities are hours away from major hospitals. Air ambulance organisations (HEMS) are an invaluable tool to reach these remote communities — but they receive no funding from government. As such they are run on the small amounts of funds they are able to raise, resulting in a lack of cover in many cases. If the air ambulance is not available, patients still either have a long wait or a long drive by road ambulance.

Organisations such as MAF perform a vital role in connecting the communities in remote parts of the developing world — and yet so many people have not heard of them. My job is to try and raise awareness of the incredible work these organisations do within the aviation community, in turn allowing them to raise more money and allowing them to help more people where it is really needed.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I try to make my videos as entertaining as possible, whilst showcasing the work of these incredible organisations. I talk a bit about the work they’re doing amongst the technical jargon my viewers enjoy, without preaching too much!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

People leaving hateful comments on your videos are a fantastic achievement! When you start reaching people who wouldn’t usually watch your videos — that’s when you start growing. And every single comment is a little more engagement, and helps grow your channel a little bit more.

Be genuine, honest and trustworthy. People can tell very quickly when you’re trying to be someone you’re not. The videos where I’m simply being my normal, grumpy self are often the ones that perform better!

Consistency is key. Don’t be a hit and miss YouTuber — uploading a lot of videos together and then none for several weeks.

Support is crucial. Even if it’s from people who don’t quite understand your videos (some people in my close family still don’t understand them!). But their support is still invaluable.

And finally — don’t take taxis from outside airport buildings!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve traveled around the world, meeting people from all walks of life. Businessmen in New York, farmers in remote Ukraine, tribespeople in Africa. But people are still people wherever you go. Whether someone is wearing a suit or a tribal costume — whether they speak English or a little known African dialect — everyone is human. I’d love to live in a world where none of this matters — where life is unaffected by global politics and border disputes, and people get on as the one thing we all have in common — our humanity.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

French author Andre Gide said: “It’s better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.”. It has taken me almost 40 years to realise this — I spent my life trying to be someone else, be it that young hip YouTuber I used to enjoy watching, or the person in the office who’d had great success in the business world. But ultimately, I am me, and being yourself is the key to success, whether you think people will like it or not.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to meet one of the biggest YouTubers in the world, MrBeast. He’s grown from such humble beginnings, and built a massive audience conducting an amazing amount of philanthropy, giving away millions of dollars to the most needy in society. I hope someday I can make as much of an impact on society as he’s had, at such a young age.

How can our readers further follow your work online ?

My YouTube channel is I’m also @inflightvideo on Instagram and Facebook.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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