From Planespotter to Top Vlogger

Aviation blogger, vlogger, author and photographer Sam Chui is well known for his success on YouTube. Anyone who enjoys watching videos of other people stealing will inevitably have stumbled upon their channel and will no doubt be hooked.


by sam travel reports are a cut above everything else, from entertaining commentary to unique images of cockpits, crew rest and other inaccessible places. But what really sets Sam’s work apart is his boundless enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge of all things aviation.

SIMPLEFLYING VIDEO OF THE DAY

Photo: Sam Chui

Simple Flying chatted with Sam about how he got to where he is today. This is the story of a young man with a camera who became one of today’s most beloved and respected aviation journalists.


Sam Chui – the beginnings

Like many avgeeks, Sam’s journey started watching planes from the ground. Living in Hong Kong, he became fascinated from an early age with the huge planes veering over the city towards Kai tak. The insect had bitten, and by the time he was in college he was a fully enrolled observer. Speaking to Simple Flying, he told us,

“In the late 90s, I was a planespotter. I was a student and when I got my driver’s license, my first trip was to the airport. At that time, I was studying in Australia, and living in Sydney. So I used to go to Sydney airport every day after school and every weekend to watch the planes.

Photo: Sam Chui

Sam was dedicated to his hobby, devoting most of his free time to photographing airplanes. Eager to share his talent with the world, he launched a website to host his photos – samchuiphotos.com – hosted on the defunct Yahoo! GeoCities. But, initially, his fascination with airplanes was limited to looking at them from the outside.

Things changed when Sam finished school and entered the working world. With money in his pocket, Sam began to travel more, both for work and pleasure, and wanted to share his travel experiences.

“It was around 2002 that I got my first digital camera – a Nikon D 100, the world’s first digital SLR – that changed everything. Now I didn’t have to spend money developing movies or worry about using the movie every click, so I started sharing my travel reports. I took flights, shared my photos on my blog, and slowly, slowly, I started to build an audience interested in this type of content.

Photo: Sam Chui

Helping Sam expand his audience was his passion for flying rare, unusual or special flights. After 9/11, many aircraft types began to be phased out to make way for newer and more efficient aircraft. Airlines have started saying goodbye to planes like the 727the DC-10, the old 747sand that presented an opportunity for Sam, as he explained,

“I made it my mission to hunt flights on rare planes so I could fly them at least once before they retired. Of course, I did travelogues on these flights, and my audience never stopped. to grow.

Enter the world of video

As the world became more digitally mature, new opportunities began to emerge. Along with the smartphone revolution in the 2010s, an evolution in the demand for content has taken place. While photography remains a popular medium, a new player was in the ring, and his name was video. Sam explained,

“It was around the mid-2010s when I got my first iPhone, I think at the time it was an iPhone 6, and I started recording more videos. I realized then that video was the next big thing, so that’s how I started a YouTube channel.

Photo: Sam Chui

Sam had actually started a YouTube channel a few years before, around 2007, but it had gone dormant with only one upload on the page. Starting in 2015, he started uploading more regularly, documenting his travels and sharing his opinions on the airlines he flew. It was a huge hit with the public and its subscriber count kept growing.

Give up the day job

By 2017, Sam had gotten serious about the videos he was making. Thanks to his well-paid banking job, he was able to finance his travels more freely and continue to make videos that his audience loved. But as the number of subscribers grew, so did his income from videos, and he began to wonder if it could be more than just a hobby. He said,

“I was fascinated by YouTube’s advertising revenue and monthly growth. At some point it exceeded my day salary and I started considering quitting my day job to devote myself fully to vlogging because I knew that was where my passions lay.

“I paralleled my day job and my vlogging for as long as I could, until April 2018 when I finally took the plunge to align my ‘work’ and my passion. Many of my colleagues thought I was crazy to let such good work go. Since then, I have never looked back.”

Photo: Sam Chui

Sam doesn’t like to call his vlogging a “job”, because even though he supports his lifestyle, funds his travels, and keeps a roof over his head, he still considers it a hobby; a way to express his passion for aviation.

“The difference between work and hobby is that in a job you rarely have a choice to do things you love. You are just told to do your job. For me, vlogging and blogging are not not a job; I have the choice to do things I love and to choose subjects and travels that I enjoy. I have a choice of when I have to do things, I control my lifestyle .

Although the pandemic has slowed Sam down somewhat, he has taken the opportunity to reinvent himself and add more irons to his fire. He opened a PR and media consultancy for the aviation industry – the first to open in the Middle East. And, of course, he continues to fly high, in every way possible.

Photo: Sam Chui

His YouTube channel has grown to over three million subscribers, with his most popular videos surpassing 60 million plays! And he hasn’t stopped yet, even though he’s more selective about the flights he performs and comments on these days.

“Today, 50% of the flights I fly are driven by events such as deliveries, inaugural flights, air shows and one-off special flights. They are meaningful just to keep going!

Advice for budding aviation vloggers

Sam feels incredibly lucky to be able to live on something he loves so much. But he worked very hard to get there and continues to strive to be just a little bit better than everyone else at everything he does. His advice for anyone dreaming of a similar job? He told us,

“The two things you need to look at are, first, is it really what you want because it’s driven by passion. And second, you need to think about what your audience likes. You need to provide your audience with the content that they enjoy, so it’s not just about what you like; you have to align your interests with your audience. Always think about how you can benefit your audience to keep them coming back.

Are you a Sam Chui fan? Want to start vlogging your own air travel? Let us know in the comments.

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