We talked to Lionel Vincent Mougel on how Siam Seaplane provides premium seaplane services, and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: I’m alright, thank you. For me, COVID mainly affected my travel habits, unfortunately, making me have a more sedentary lifestyle for now. My family remains in France, safe in their property, which is thankfully socially-distant by design.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Siam Seaplane?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: My career is predominantly aviation-based, inspired by a family background taking its roots in the military, with both the French Air Force and French Navy. As a paradox, my initial thoughts until the age of 8 were not directed towards aviation, but with a strong interest in history and science. It was after simple ‘triggers,’ aka sitting in a fighter jet cockpit and taking the first flight with a family member, that all fell into place and became the obvious thing to pursue. Too young to start learning how to fly, I then started what I believe a lot of people did before their aviation careers, which was to build my RC models, to then design them shortly after, before finally being able to step in the cockpit of a glider and start learning. After that, the aviation fanatic side was more alive than ever; I jumped from gliders to light aircraft, starting to explore fields from aerobatics to warbirds, thanks to the mentorships of fantastic people I met along the way.
The professional career came right after, by joining the French Air Force to graduate a few years later as a fighter pilot. Switching back to the civilian life, the path took a few ways as many of us may follow, from corporate flying, where I had the opportunity to learn management along with flying and progressing towards training, short-haul airlines and long haul airlines, having the great opportunity to fly a variety of aircraft from more classic ones to then-brand-new 787s at their commercial introduction. The long-haul flying provided a fantastic opportunity to expand my field of knowledge into sides of aviation that I hadn’t tried or had enough time for before, by taking me more to the US and opening new options, to fly from racing planes, bush planes to seaplanes, ending up in some ways settling down thereby keeping now my private planes and projects from Nevada to Texas and Pennsylvania. Along this flying side, the people surrounding all those activities became family and brought a great motivation to design and carry new projects.
After about 7000 hours, I still look at each flight as the first one, with a lot to learn and possibly discover. Finally, Siam Seaplane came to mind about four years ago, while myself and a close friend, owner of one of the most reputable seaplane flying schools in the US, were sitting and, as two good friends do, reinventing the world. Our simple observation was: why are there no seaplanes in Thailand? With such a fantastic coastline and numerous islands, seaplanes were an apparent means of transportation to add and re-develop. Work started from there, initially on my own, until I met my co-founders, liking its challenges and sharing the same passion for it, to develop a sustainable concept of last-mile transportation for the Kingdom of Thailand.
How does Siam Seaplane innovate?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: I would say that our company re-designs the concept of alternative transportation while complementing existing ones, or even creating a new one. Re-designing and providing last-mile transportation towards our partner resorts is our prime mission. In fact, at both the domestic and international guest level, people thrive for experiences. We aim to make your journey and vacation start from the moment you check in with us, adding a wow factor and excitement before you arrive at your final waterfront destination. While those experiences seem for most something spurious and a ”one-time occurrence, through a wise choice of ‘tools’ from the aircraft level to the internal management of the operation, we aim to achieve rates that re-define a one time experience into a recurrent one, making it a clear last-mile transportation choice for both foreign visitors and domestic guests; an additional commuting option, trading the stressful traffic for a peaceful journey. Our company also vows to have a development side of our business, aiming to boost the local communities by simply connecting them more directly.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: In many ways lucky, I would say, while unfortunately, COVID saw many great airlines disappear, we had the chance to still be at a development stage, not having flying assets on the books yet and facing aircraft sitting on the ground, which dramatically helped us to survive through this pandemic. Also, while the situation was developing, we faced the choice to slow down and downsize or keep the same size and carry on the preparation work. We chose not to slow down, rather keep going! Following our trust in the concept and its viability, we believe that it is essential to keep the motivation of our employees by focusing on the present for sure, but also that when this situation is thankfully over, the time to rebuild and re-boost the economy will be paramount for a prompt recovery of the transportation and tourism sector. The work starts now, not in 6, 10, or 12 months. Keeping positive energy within the company, carrying on the job, and getting ready are vital factors that appear strong to emphasize.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: Personally not believing in the concept of difficult choices, I would rather say that an educated decision based on all factors available is usually more helpful than a rushed one. I think COVID taught us crucial that the stress reaction and fear generated by it can destroy an established economy globally, which pushed us to look deeper in our business model to refine the domestic aspect and ensure the company development sustainability.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: I would say take a step back and rethink before moving forward again. , analyze, put aside factors that are unable to be changed, and focus on the ones you can influence. If I’m in the US, my way would then be to take my bush plane or seaplane for a flight and land somewhere remotely, take a breath, then back to work.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: As a niche market, there are currently no other direct competitors within the Kingdom of Thailand, offering an excellent opportunity for our company development. Staying in the game comes with the excellence you put in your work and constant revalidation of the standards, continually keeping them as high as possible while remaining open to innovation. Aviation has the gift of being a field in continuous movement with also continuous innovation, on any side of it, obliging you to keep alert and critical to your work every day, making it exciting if a door is closed or impossible now, that all can change tomorrow.
Your final thoughts?
Lionel Vincent Mougel: Resilience took another dimension in these troubled times, showing that perseverance, but also innovation, is vital in development. I like to quote my father for this advice he gave me while I was a kid: “In tough times, there are either people that would see the struggle or those that see a spark to create the best opportunities out of it; keep a bright sight.” In another way, keep positive. Happy landings.