Matthew Kline, the 375th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, believes in seizing opportunities when they appear – which is how he unexpectedly became the owner of an aviation business.

In 2012, Matthew and a flying buddy, Mark, were looking to buy a small plane they could fly on the weekends, and potentially rent out during the week. During their search, they heard about an aviation business owner who wanted to sell his company to his employees. Matthew and Mark were invited to join the staff buyout: so instead of purchasing one plane, they ended up becoming part-owners in a business that owned 13 of them. 

Today, Matthew and Mark own three aviation businesses – AirMed Australia, a Sydney-based air ambulance, Air Link, a Dubbo-based charter operation, and Chartair, a Darwin-based charter operation – via a group called Aviation Logistics.

Aviation Logistics employs about 270 people in multiple states and owns dozens of aircraft. Recently, the group became the first civil customer of the new Vertiia aircraft, an Australian-made hydrogen-powered plane that can take off and land vertically.

For all his success, Matthew is no brash tycoon. Rather, he’s reserved and thoughtful. Running such a large business with such a large headcount is challenging, he says. The key is to try to give the staff a sense of ownership, so they’re motivated to do great work.

Matthew has a long history of seizing opportunities and taking action. When he was eight, he had the idea to manufacture diving weights: he used lead that his father scrounged from building sites, melted it on a family camping stove, poured the liquid into a mould and sold the finished product to diving shops.

A couple of years later, Matthew paid the princely sum of $800 to buy some audio-visual equipment from a teacher (on an instalment plan) and used it to run school productions. Initially, he worked for free, before the school told him to charge for his service. That hobby eventually grew into a serious business, Avsound Productions, which serviced nightclubs, gyms and other venues for more than two decades, before Matthew moved into aviation.