First solo flights by Douwe, Nick and Niels

Student piloot op schouders van twee andere studenten

“The first time solo is an experience you will never forget. It is the first and perhaps most valuable milestone in your career as a pilot.”

We can’t put it any better than our own pilot in training Douwe Brandt. At EPST, we see the first solo as a moment to cherish. That’s why we are glad to have our pilots in training sharing their stories.

This time it was the turn of Nick Wester, Niels Nowee and, as mentioned before, Douwe Brandt. All three fly at Aero Locarno in Switzerland. How did they experience their first solo flight between the mountains? They take you through their highlights. Read more!

Nick Wester: “Extra special, I dreamed of being a pilot all my life.”

For Nick, the enjoyment actually started before he started his solo. “It was late in the afternoon with sunset in Locarno. Even before the actual solo, it was already magical to fly!”

Did he not suffer from nerves at all? Well, yes: “When the instructor gets out and you are all alone, you feel a bit of tension. But the moment you line up and take off, you do your thing. You realise that you are ready for it and that you have what it takes.”

Once in the air, the tension makes way for enjoyment again. What went through Nick’s mind while he was flying?

“You really start to enjoy it, and you notice a smile appearing on your face. The realization that you are actually doing this all by yourself, is special. A wave of joy seared through me. My experience of the first solo was particularly special, as I have wanted to be a pilot all my life. So this experience feels like a big milestone in my flying career!”

A special tradition

Such a milestone is worth celebrating. “You taxi back to the place where all EPST students congratulate you and 2 fellow students lift you out of the plane. They take you to a fence, where you are placed on. Then, eager students throw buckets of cold water and spray you with a hose. In my case very cold, since it was the middle of February, haha!”

That tradition makes it very special, he says. “It was a wonderful experience to be part of, and hopefully this flight sets a good example for the many solo flights that are still to come!”

Niels Nowee: “The realization kicks in when you can enjoy downwind for a while. Indescribable!”

The experience of your first solo actually starts much earlier, according to Niels. The tension builds up throughout the day: “Before your actual solo flight you have a ‘before solo’, which is a short circuit flight with your instructor. On the day of my first solo, everything went a bit late, so I took to the air for this flight later than planned. Nevertheless, it went well, and after my full stop landing, the instructor got out to send me into the air alone.”

Emotional rollercoaster

Enthusiasm, pride, tension and also a little fear. This is what Niels’ emotional rollercoaster looked like when he sat alone in the cockpit for the first time.

“Even though you already know the aircraft like the back of your hand, and you know exactly how the aircraft reacts, it is still incredibly exciting! There was no one left to intervene, I had to solve everything myself if something went wrong.”

Then Niels lines up on the runway: time for his first meters as a solo pilot. “During the line-up and take-off you are busy configuring the aircraft and flying it. But once in level flight, after your checks, you have a moment of peace, and you can enjoy and realize what you are doing. In one word: unbelievable! Tension, pride, but above all, a lot of joy went through me.”

Euphoric and soaking wet

Niels takes that euphoria from the air to the ground. “You are happy that you are safely back on the ground and that you have been able to bring everything to a successful conclusion. The tower congratulated me the moment I was back on the ground and my fellow students were already waiting for me with buckets of cold water.”

Of course, Niels also had to endure the traditional celebration afterwards. But he enjoyed all of this memorable day: “You are lifted out of the device, placed on the fence and you can receive the water ballet with great joy! This was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful days, if not the most beautiful day in the training so far. Being able to control and operate such a machine yourself, is the best experience ever!”

Douwe Brandt: “An incredible boost to your self-confidence”

Douwe was really ready for it. He had flown a lot in the days leading up to his solo, so he had gotten a good feeling. He was really looking forward to his solo, especially because his big moment had already been postponed 3 times due to bad weather. Finally the time had come.

Enthusiasm and tension

Douwe also describes an intense experience with a mix of enthusiasm and tension. “I got an incredibly euphoric feeling when the instructor got out. I was happy that the time had come for perhaps the most valuable milestone in my life and my career. I was looking forward to it, knowing my instructor wouldn’t have left me alone if I had doubts. He got out and the canopy closed again. I waved to some classmates who were already waiting.”

And then he was really on his own. With that realization, the euphoria made way for tension: “Okay, now I really have to do it myself, I thought. But it feels crazy when you take off alone for the first time. You do everything as you were taught, which makes you confirm that you can do it on your own,” says Douwe.

But it was exciting. “My first touch-and-go was the most exciting. On final, I checked 3 times to see if my flaps were actually in the right position and if everything else was in order. When this went smoothly, the feeling got better and better. The second time I also quickly looked to the right, and seeing everyone watching you go, gives an incredibly nice feeling.”

Finish with a boost of self-confidence

After the third touch-and-go, Douwe was allowed to land the plane and then taxi back to the hangar. “Everyone was waiting for me there. I got a wet shower, which feels good, even at 2 degrees above zero.”

This day is one that Douwe will remember for the rest of his life. “That has been said for some time, and it is now something I certainly understand. It is not only a milestone, but it also gives an incredible boost to your self-confidence. You showed that you can do it and every subsequent flight felt better because of it,” he reflects. “It’s nice that you make this memory with your class and other EPST students who are here, everyone really comes together to watch.” And with a wink: “That cold shower makes it even more memorable!”

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