Step 2: Taking Off

Featured, How to Become a Pilot


Taking Off


From Student to graduate, Part 2 of a 3 part journey.  Covid, Flying in Haiti, and a Transatlantic ferry

Ask any pilot to name some of the most memorable moments of their career and they’ll say “That’s when I first went solo”. For me that rings true. However I’d like to share some more memorable moments that really defined my flying, helped me build hours and took me to some amazing places. Here are the highlights of building my flight time. This is a part of my journey. From being a flight instructor, to those hard times during the pandemic and eventually bouncing back.

Spread your wings little one

I’ve had quite a few students during my time as a flight instructor. But I’ll never forget sending my first two students solo. Sending someone solo might be more nerve wracking than going solo yourself. Seeing my first students take-off and land the airplane by themselves is definitely one of the highlights of my pilot career. They have achieved the first real goal in the long road to becoming a pilot; spreading their wings by themselves while showing mastery of the aircraft. Taking-off and landing, it’s honestly a great feeling to be a part of and share that special moment in a pilots career. I get a feeling of pride when I look back at sending my students up for their first solo flight.


March 2020 – this is bad

I can’t believe it’s been more than 2 years already when the whole world stopped. Everybody  closed the doors to their home, stayed inside, hoarded a bunch of toilet paper in the supermarket, didn’t cut their hair and last but not least – stopped flying. It’s how we manage the tough times we go through that shape our future. I will forever be grateful to the Academy that I was able to keep my job during those crazy times, and yes, it wasn’t perfect, but the Academy’s management did an outstanding job of learning to adapt to this bizarre situation, while keeping the students – and instructors – flying. I’m proud to say that I was part of the team that kept the Academy rolling in those tough months.


Like everyone else the beginning of the pandemic was especially hard for me too. I was literally about to start my airline training when the pandemic hit. It was a huge blow to all the work I’ve done leading up to those moments. During these months I lost my love for flying a bit. I was down and worried about my family outside of the USA. That’s when I learned to shift my focus on the more positive things around me. I started looking at opportunities and applied for a scholarship at the GMAA (Greater Miami Aviation Association). I’ll tell you that being able to focus on things positively, to be able to see what opportunities lay in front of me helped me out a lot in those crazy months. Before I knew it I got a phone call that turned out to shape the rest of my flying career. “Hey, are you interested in interviewing for a flying position in Haiti?” 


Grass and dirt strips

After successfully passing the interview with the owner and chief-pilot I was on my way to Haiti and what will turn out to be the most amazing flying I have done so far – and maybe will ever do – in my career.


The first few days consisted of being checked out by the chief-pilot and flying to different airstrips all across Haiti. From landing on dirt strips in Mole-Saint Nicholas, to overflying a strip in the middle of a town to get rid of the goats and people at Port-Du-Paix before landing. 


Flying in Haiti will always be special to me. I got the chance to build my multi-engine hours while having a huge adventure. Every trip was different and it brought my flying to the next level. So many highlights, so many adventures. There is much to tell about flying in Haiti, I’ll maybe write a whole article just on this subject. 


After a couple of months I got a different opportunity “I heard you fly the C402 in Haiti, you think you can help me out flying an airplane from Florida to Germany?”. 


Crossing the pond for the first time

Not every pilot has a flying bucket list, but I sure do. On top of that list, in fat letters mind you, used to say “Fly from the USA to Europe”. And when I got the opportunity to do just that, I got really excited. Especially when I looked at our route, we would fly from; Florida to  Pennsylvania, onwards to Goose Bay(Newfoundland), Narsarsuaq(Greenland), Reykjavik(Iceland), Aberdeen(Scotland) and eventually land in Bremen(Germany). All beautiful places, amazing approaches and great legs to fly.


Me together with Captain Brian. I’m proud to call him a friend & mentor who taught me a lot about flying


This was my first time flying in hard IFR for such a long trip and my friend, and mentor, who I flew this trip with – he is a seasoned pilot who taught me a lot – taught me the ropes of flying these types of routes. I was surprised at how much paperwork was needed in order to do this type of flying. It’s basically a whole different ball-game. 

After a flight from Florida to Pennsylvania, we got some rest in a great hotel in the middle of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We did some exploring there before the long leg to Goose Bay. From there we flew a gusty approach into Narsarsuaq before leaving on the most interesting part of the trip, which was the leg we flew from Reykjavik to Germany. We were supposed to do that in one leg but ended up diverting to Aberdeen in Scotland due to some icing conditions on the climb up to cruise altitude. I’ll never forget climbing out of Reykjavik and putting on the de-ice boots after Brian said “Well, it’s definitely snowing!”.  After a slight delay and fueling up in Aberdeen we continued our flight to Bremen.


Flying the approach into Reykjavik in Iceland


The most amazing thing about this trip for me was that I got the opportunity to visit my family and friends in the Netherlands. I haven’t been back there since I left to start flying in the USA. It was a great feeling walking through my old city in the Netherlands again knowing I made my dream for a career come true. It’s a feeling I can’t really put into words.


I returned to the USA after 2 weeks of much needed family time. And with the industry recovering fast from the pandemic I had some interviews lined up with the airlines. Including an invitation from the GMAA. I was over the moon.


More about that in the next article. Fly safe!