If you’ve ever wondered how a 25-year-old guy can go from earning his PPL at 18 to becoming an ATP-rated, professional pilot in the left seat of a brand-new Cessna CJ3+ in only seven years, you need to tune into the CitationMax YouTube channel.
It’s a pretty easy assumption that when people first meet Max Weldon, they’re possibly pleasantly surprised by his maturity, politeness and humble demeanor. Oh yeah, and there’s also the fact that he’s an ATP-rated, professional pilot flying a new Citation CJ3+ for his father’s business.
Before you jump to any conclusions, being his father’s son didn’t guarantee Max a “golden ticket” to the CJ’s left seat. Mr. and Mrs. Weldon didn’t raise their children to expect things to be handed to them. No, like they said in the old Smith Barney commercials, “He earned it.”
That he did, and Max is justifiably proud of what he’s accomplished. And you would be too. It takes a huge amount of time, determination and dedication to go from zero flight time to an ATP with 2,000 total hours – over 700 of which are in Citations – in just seven years.
Sure, like most parents, his mother and father have been very supportive of his dream. But when he started his airborne adventure, he had no idea he’d end up where he is. In fact, until he landed his first job as a professional pilot, owning a private airplane was something his family had never considered. But, before we get too far ahead, let’s go back to where it all started.
True Love Never Dies
“I grew up in England, and my father was away a lot on business. When I was four, my mom says I’d sit in our garden and watch the planes landing at Heathrow. I’d shout ‘Papa’ every time one flew over,” Max says. “Airplanes became my dad’s and my thing. We’d talk about airplanes all the time. He’d tell me about all the ones he flew on and ones he saw.”
“On my eighth birthday, I spent all of my gift money on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004. I don’t know how many hours I spent in my room imagining I was flying the world,” he said. “As much as I loved it, I never thought I would become a pilot. It wasn’t that I didn’t long to, but for some reason, maybe lack of confidence, felt that it was out of my reach. But I sure wanted to try.”
The Weldons returned to the United States in time for Max to attend high school, and more importantly, convince his mother to let him take flying lessons.
“I had been pestering my mom to let me take lessons. She wasn’t comfortable with any of the Cessnas or Pipers she saw,” he says. “But I was determined and found a flight school in White Plains with a fleet of new Cirrus SR20s. The parachute did the trick.”
“I soloed on September 18, 2015 – I have the shirt on my wall,” Max continued. “I earned my PPL (Private Pilot’s License) and, like that, just hit a wall. I was so wiped out by all the studying and flying, trying to be really great, I just got burnt out. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever fly again.”
“It took me about six months to get my head around it and realize I wasn’t going to settle for being a weekend pilot – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but it wasn’t enough for me,” he added. “I loved flying. I had to figure out a balance and a way to move forward.”
One thing that was on his side, which he’s very thankful for, is that his original flight instructor had become his friend and aviation mentor.
“He has always been very important in my aviation career. I wanted to be perfect. He taught me what it was to be a professional,” Max says. “He helped me over the hump, and that help has transformed from a private pilot into someone who can make professional aviation his career.”
A Career is Born
After earning all the required ratings, Max’s first break came when the Part 91 aircraft management company connected to the Cirrus Training Center hired him to be one of their contract pilots flying Cirrus owners around.
“I was 20 and had 250 hours in my logbook, but the operators knew and trusted me,” Max says. “It was a career-defining opportunity. Along with flight experience, I also learned firsthand what it meant to be a ‘professional’ pilot and being responsible for passengers and their needs.”
While that was indeed a break for young Max’s career, he says the true turning point was when he was offered the right seat for a flight in a Citation.
“It was a client-owned CJ, and they wanted a co-pilot to help with the radios and all. I didn’t need a type rating,” he explained. “The Captain was fantastic. He was professional as they come. He’s the kind of pilot I strive to be.”
While the flight to Cincinnati was educational, the real lesson came after they landed. As their lone
passenger deplaned, he leaned in the cockpit and said that he had clogged the aircraft’s flushing toilet.
“The FBO wanted $800 to fix it, so we went to the store and bought all the stuff to clean it. When we got back to the plane, the Captain handed me the blue gloves and said, ‘Welcome to the glamorous world of corporate aviation,’” Max says. “I wasn’t raised to back away from a commitment. Even though I wasn’t getting paid, when I accept any job, I finish it. So, I put the blue gloves on and dove in…”
Max Earns His Stripes
After 18 months of hearing Max talk about all of the people using
single-engine airplanes for business, his dad decided to buy one of the first Cirrus SF50 Vision Jets.
“My father likes to be a maverick of sorts and was fascinated to learn that Cirrus was manufacturing a personal jet that had a parachute. He decided it could make sense to have his own, professional-flown Vision Jet for
domestic travel,” Max said. “This was a huge step for my dad. He flew in Coach until he was 50 – he’s just not that kind of guy. He knew other people who had airplanes, but he never understood the value they delivered until he got one.”
Max explained that after attending Cirrus training for the new jet, they flew it for about six months traveling all over the U.S. for business.
“It was on a longer leg when my dad decided he needed something bigger and with more range,” Max said. “So, after looking at the available models, the decision was made to upgrade to the Citation M2. The management company was hugely pro-Cessna, and my dad liked that it was an American-owned company.”
While Max had already amassed quite a bit of experience flying the various Cirrus aircraft and Citations for the management company, his aha moment as a professional pilot came when he went to FlightSafety in Wichita for his CE525 type rating with the “S” (Single-Pilot) endorsement.
“We have always flown as a professional operation, but FlightSafety really made me a much better pilot. I learned so much in those three weeks. I left with all the confidence and knowledge I needed to fly the M2 safely,” he said.
Speaking of professional pilot operations, Max stressed the fact that although he and the M2 (and subsequent CJ3+) are single-pilot qualified, whenever his dad is on the airplane, every flight is made with another professional pilot in the right seat.
“In fact, my preference is always flying as a crew with another experienced pilot,” he says. “When I do fly single-pilot, I work closely with our aircraft manager who provides complete oversight through a regimented pre-departure process, which is spelled out in our safety manual.”
He also shared the story behind N-number, N2RF. Reggie and Figo are the names of the family’s beloved dogs, and his mom wanted to honor their memories by christening the Citation in their memory.
“My mom is a true animal lover, and she says that whenever we’re flying, Reggie and Figo know we are up there close to them,” he says. “It makes us all very happy.”
“When my dad is not using the airplane for business, my mom (CitationMom) flies with me in support of her animal rescue efforts,” Max said proudly. “She has an animal sanctuary in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She also does a lot of work with dog rescue groups in the Mississippi Delta Region.”
New Airplane – Same N-Number
While the Citation M2 was a huge upgrade from the Cirrus Vision Jet, it falls short in one key ability: range. Max explained that his father’s business requires that he make frequent trips to Bermuda. The M2 can’t get there from here.
“After only six months and 250 hours of flying the M2, we upgraded to a new Citation CJ3+. It’s really the airplane we should have gotten in the first place,” Max says. “The CJ3+ is a fantastic airplane. It’s fast. It climbs like a rocket. And, most importantly, it fits my dad’s mission precisely. He’s a numbers guy, and the CJ3+ just adds up to be everything we need.”
Fly Along with Max
“I started my YouTube channel when I began taking flying lessons. I used to go back and watch the videos to learn from my mistakes. It was one camera with no editing,” Max stated. “It evolved to be better and when I started flying the Vision Jet, I renamed the channel CirrusMax. Then when we got the M2, it became CitationMax.”
“Flying is my life, and I love sharing my experiences with all of my subscribers. I try to give them the
feeling of what it’s like to be in the right seat of a professionally-flown CJ. Even when the right seat is taken, I want to verbalize everything I do so they feel like my co-pilot,” he explained. “I also want every 16-year-old kid who watches me know that if they have a dream, they can work towards it.”
“I had obstacles, and yes, I had help,” Max continued. “But I believe that if you start to work towards your dream, people will help you. If you work hard enough, you will find your own breaks – it’s possible. Maybe it’s not flying, but whatever it is, you can do it. My YouTube channel gives me that connection.”