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Erik Ahlmark Photo: Helén Karlsson
Erik Ahlmark Photo: Helén Karlsson


SAS Talents: At home at sea

SAS pilot Erik Ahlmark hasn’t always worked in the skies. He used to have a water-based career, representing his country in international canoeing competitions

Name: Erik Ahlmark
Occupation: Pilot – First Officer
Age: 33
Focus area: Boeing 737 on short-haul routes
Early career: First pilot job in 2010 at City Airline in ­Gothenburg
Number of years at SAS: 4
Number of flight hours: Over 6,000

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SAS pilot Erik Ahlmark currently makes a living flying travelers to various destinations around Europe. But his original ambitions were water-based. Before taking to the skies, he represented his country on the national canoe slalom team.

Growing up near a river in Vilhelmina in northern Sweden, it was perhaps no coincidence that Ahlmark would take to canoeing. “I started when I was about 12 but as I got older and better, I started taking it more seriously and I eventually moved to a high school in Nyköping that ­specialized in canoeing.”

What started as a serious hobby turned into a full-time occupation and Ahlmark went on to represent Sweden for seven years, competing in national, European and World Championships.

But it was while preparing for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 that his life took an un­expected turn. 

“I got an injury that ruled me out of the Olympics and I realized that I would have to rethink my future,” says Ahlmark. “It wasn’t easy. Many athletes are quite narrow-­minded and only really think about their next sporting goals. I was the same. But I started considering becoming a pilot and began my training at the Lund University School of Aviation in 2008.”

That was the start of Ahlmark’s new career at SAS. He currently works as first officer on Boeing 737s. He flies all of the domestic routes within Sweden as well as most of the European routes as well, giving him plenty of opportunities to indulge in his canoeing, although now just as a hobby. His love for the sport remains as strong as ever and reminiscing about his time as a pro brings the memories flooding back, including one particularly amusing incident.

“We did this team run at the World Championships in Augsburg, Germany in 2003. It was a huge event with a very loud sound level from the spectators and the announcer was even louder. It was very warm that day, so we decided to skip the jackets we normally wore, which apparently caused great amusement – as we approached I heard the commentator tell the crowd (in German) ‘Here come the Swedes with their bare upper bodies down the course.’

This is a funny and memorable thing from my career both because of the comment but mostly because of the huge event that it was.” 


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