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January 2019

Pilots in Profile

Frank van Houten
Van Houten, a captain in NetJet's Bombardier Global 6000, talks about aerobatic show flying, restoring an old farm and a memorable post-cold war encounter on a Russian ship.
My first exposure to flying was... as a teenager. I started in gliders before having my first powered lessons. With three side jobs and help from my parents, I obtained my private pilot licence before learning how to drive a car. 

The best part of flying is… the feeling of freedom while the challenges that you face ensure flying will never become boring. Every flight is different and you will keep learning until the very end. 

Before joining the NetJets team… I began the main part of my flying career with the Royal Netherlands Navy, initially flying Lynx helicopters positioned aboard Dutch frigates in a variety of environments, including the Adriatic, Middle East and the Caribbean, before moving into the cockpit of the P-3C Orion, a four-engine maritime patrol aircraft.

A day at NetJets I won’t forget… involved a well-known band that started a joke with our flight attendant, telling her they normally fly a Boeing 727 from a UK grass strip. They came straight from a concert, carrying their instruments. The lead singer, an aviation enthusiast who flies helicopters himself, asked to join us in the cockpit for landing. We flew into north London at night with clear skies, breathtaking views and the band playing their songs in the back. 

One thing Owners probably wouldn’t guess about me is that… although most of my life involves flying, I’m also a passionate builder. In the little spare time I have I’m restoring an old farm. The house was built in 1880 and is a typical design for the area north of Amsterdam. It looks like a pyramid with a straw roof and the construction is a very impressive wood-beam frame. 
Quote OpenThe feeling of freedom and  the challenges that you face  ensure flying will never  become boring.
Quote Closed
On my days off… I fly aerobatics, something that has always been a passion for me. The performance and manoeuvrability of these aircraft gives you the feeling of ultimate freedom and a very thorough insight into what is aerodynamically possible. Aerobatic aircraft are comparable to race cars or bikes. They’re strong where necessary, but they lack comfort to save weight – they’re actually very spartan inside. It’s almost impossible to fly the Sukhoi 26MX straight and level. I fly the Sukhoi at displays throughout Europe – both at regular airshows and non-aviation events. 

Within the next year I would like to… expand on my display flying. I’m continuously improving my display and learning different manoeuvres. Apart from that, I work on new projects every year, to come up with something special for the next summer season.

Within the next ten years, I would like to… fly a more diverse range of aircraft. All my focus is now on flying the Global 6000 and flying aerobatics. But aviation has so much more to offer. 

My best advice for staying sane across time zones is… to listen to your body as much as you can. I sleep when I feel tired and try to stay in my own time zone as much as possible. The variety of the flying also means that we’re not doing long-haul flights all the time, so it’s actually not too bad.

My proudest moment as a pilot was… when flying a helicopter in the Dutch Navy. We took part in one of the first exercises with the Russians in 1994. During the exercise we managed to make a deck landing on the Russian ship, which was a first after the Cold War. We literally had admirals crying on the helideck while we exchanged Coca-Cola for vodka.