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Alum Klaus Thalinger Takes to the Skies His Way


West Windsor, N.J. -- He's a small businessman and a flight instructor, but first and foremost, he is a pilot. Austrian-born Klaus Thalinger '02 (Aviation Flight Technology) is chief of everything as the owner/operation of Airlink LLC, a seaplane service and flight instruction company based in Waterville, Maine.

"I like the flexibility of being both a pilot and a business owner, because sometimes it gives me the freedom to get out of the office on the ground into my favorite 'office in the sky' and I feel good about that," Thalinger says.

Thalinger is proud of his company's status as a Part 141 Flight School, Part 135 Air Carrier certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. And he takes special delight in the varied responsibilities of being a small businessman. "I get to be the supervisor - and I answer the phone. I am the accountant, the marketing guy or pilot all in the same day."

Thalinger has four employees, all with extensive flight experience. His fleet includes three Cessnas, one of which is a floatplane, and one Beechcraft. Airlink serves as an air service for a long list of clients. Destinations vary, but often include flying people from New York City to Maine in the summer and then heading down to Florida and the Caribbean Islands in the winter months.

The other arm of Thalinger's business is flight instruction, which he takes just as seriously "It's a lot of responsibility, when someone's son or daughter takes flying lessons in your airplane, on a windy day in Maine," he observes. On his website, he lists his flight grads like a proud father, with a message reading: "Congratulations to our recent accomplished Solos and Pilot Certificates! Yes, flying is a big deal. We, the Airlink instructors, are proud of you and hope you all stay safe out there!"

Alum Klaus Thalinger '02 at the airport of his company, Airlink LLC, in Waterville, Maine.
Thalinger (in water) helps clients disembark at their golf destination.

This enthusiastic entrepreneur has owned his company since 2006 and says business is good. "I have more and more students, more flights and more hours. It's challenging and rewarding."

Growing up in Austria, Thalinger always knew he wanted to be a pilot. "I rode my bicycle to the airport to watch planes take off and land." He recalls an early trip to Greece with his parents flying aboard Austrian Airlines and getting the chance to go up into the cockpit. It was an experience he never forgot.

After graduating from BRG Wels Wallererstrasse High School in 1996, Thalinger sets his sights on America - Mercer County Community College in New Jersey specifically - after talking to an Austrian woman who was an MCCC Aviation alum from the 1970s. "She told me about the program and said that if I go to that school and get my certificates and licenses, one day, I will fly for her friend, who owns FedEx."

Thalinger packed his bags and headed to America. Upon arriving at Mercer, he didn't know a soul, had no car or driver's license, and had no place to live. He received assistance from an Admissions staff member who bought him a newspaper and started calling around for rental units. "She was so sweet. Everybody seemed to want to help," he recalls.

He notes that at Mercer, he got the personal attention that made all the difference. "Everyone really cared about my career and goals for the future. The professors would go above and beyond to help students advance in their flight training at the airport. I really have the highest regard for Mercer's program," he says.

"Mercer was a good college with ample course offerings. I felt at home with international students as we were here on a mission to study on an F-1 student visa and gain valuable experience that we could not get in our home country," he explains.

Thalinger proved an able student, earning Dean's List honors. He spent two semesters in a cooperative program with American Aerospace and Defense Industries in Princeton, earning credits for life experience and learning more about the business end of the field. "I got to travel to England with them. I loved it," he recalls.

After graduating in December, 2001, Thalinger was ready to fly. But the events of September 11, 2001 created hiring difficulties for foreign pilots So, he was particularly grateful to become a flight instructor for the college, which he did for a year. "I rapidly built flight time and was able to directly relate what I learned to fellow students at the airport."

Ready to move on, Thalinger had already bought a plane ticket to Alaska to interview for a job when another MCCC aviation alumnus put him in touch with a private air service in New Jersey. He was hired by pilot George Niemann, also a foreigner, originally from South Africa, and they got along great. "George sponsored me for my green card," Thalinger says.

With more years and many miles under his belt, Thalinger decided to realize his dream of opening his own flight school in Maine. Now that he has put his roots down there, he has even come to appreciate the weather, which reminds him of his homeland.

"I feel very blessed about how my career has turned out," Thalinger says.

Learn more about Airlink LLC here. More about the MCCC Aviation Flight Technology Program is available here.

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