During Natascha Wirth’s first solo, there was a huge thunderstorm looming in the distance…
Interview by Yayeri van Baarsen
7 May 2022
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.
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!
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 shares a passion for warbirds, together with Clemens Rüb and Roland Ginggen.
|When||2 March 2012|
|Where||Bern Airport (Switzerland)|
|Hours at solo||17hr 20min|
|Hours now||Approx. 700|