First Solo

Natascha Wirth, Slowbirds

During Natascha Wirth’s first solo, there was a huge thunderstorm looming in the distance…

Natascha Wirth

How did you get into aviation?

It was a childhood love story. My parents took me aeroplane watching at Bern Airport and already, by then, I was fascinated by the warbirds. However, instead of becoming a pilot, I studied chemistry and got a job in that field.

Four years later, thinking there must be more to life, I decided to get in the air. I became a flight attendant with Helvetic Airways, believing that at 27 I was too old for the cockpit. Turned out I wasn’t, so I started flight lessons.

How did your flight training go?

Although I’d spent many hours in the cabin of the Fokker 100, I’d never flown in a small aircraft. It was all new to me and I needed some time to feel ahead of the aeroplane. However, already on my first lesson I knew this was where I belonged.

The Cessnas and Pipers were more expensive, so I trained in an Aero AT-3, a small Polish two-seater. Learning about engines and airframe came easy because I was very interested in the technical part. Air law took longer – I wasn’t interested in the legal side, I just wanted to fly!

Tell us about your first solo?

A few hours before, my instructor already said I was ready, but I told him I’d need more practice. He gave me that time, but eventually pushed me.

I think many women can relate, they’re ready to solo, but don’t feel confident. Sitting in the aircraft by myself, I needed a few minutes. I felt completely happy, yet at the same time had a lot of respect for the situation.

As soon as I was airborne, everything was forgotten. During the first circuit, it started raining.

Seeing a big black thunderstorm looming in the distance, I didn’t feel comfortable and landed. “Rain is OK, it doesn’t affect the aeroplane,” my instructor convinced me, so I did another two circuits and all went well.

“For me, hands-on flying isn’t just a passion, it’s also a huge part of being a pilot”

What’s Slowbirds all about?

Sharing our passion for warbirds. Slowbirds consists of Roland Ginggen, with whom I’ve flown formation in the Pilatus P-3 for five years, my partner Clemens Rüb, who joined us two years ago, and myself.

Together we have lots of fun in old aeroplanes like our Piper L-4. We all have the same love for the P-3 – there aren’t many people who share that passion. It’s our dream to add to the Slowbirds fleet and one day own a P-3 and a Bücker.

Natascha Wirth
The Slowbirds Pilatus P3

Why warbirds?

Because of the technique. For me, hands-on flying isn’t just a passion, it’s also a huge part of being a pilot. With autopilot and the new avionics, you give away some of that passion. True, iPads make flight planning easier and I also use them, but overall, when it comes to electronic equipment in the cockpit: less is more.

I like my aeroplane to be as original as possible and that’s exactly what warbirds are. You need to hold them, hear them, feel them, use all your senses – for me, that’s the most fascinating part of flying.

How did you come to own the Piper L-4?

Clemens did his pilot licence in this aircraft back when he was 16. He flew it a lot and got attached to the aeroplane, which was later bought by his flight instructor.

Four years ago, after meeting him for the first time, his flight instructor said I could fly it as well. I was overwhelmed. It’s such a special thing when someone lets you fly his pride and joy! We were overjoyed when we had the chance to buy it last year.

What aircraft would you have in your fantasy hangar?

Either a Curtiss P-40 or a Spitfire, great aeroplanes with an unbelievable history. Since I’ve never flown them myself, I’d have to try both before I can choose! I’m currently gaining experience in the T6 Harvard, which is incredible.

What do you love about flying most?

Having the possibility to handle a machine in three dimensions. This connection between machine and human is truly fantastic. I feel so privileged that I’m able to just get into an aircraft, turn on the engine and fly away.

More info here

Natascha Wirth

Natascha Wirth

Natascha shares a passion for warbirds, together with Clemens Rüb and Roland Ginggen.

When 2 March 2012
Where Bern Airport (Switzerland)
Aircraft Aero AT-3
Hours at solo 17hr 20min
Hours now Approx. 700
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