Scenic Air | Introducing the Pilots

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Compiled Sanet van Zijl

Once you walk into the Scenic Air offices you are greeted with quirky and colorful old-school aviation posters. Then you start up a conversation with any one of the employees and it becomes clear that this isn’t your average, run of the mill, “pilot factory” – each one of the pilots have an interesting story to tell you.

Here’s what we learned about the men at Scenic Air:

wallisName: Johan Wallis

Age: 35

Nickname: Wallis

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

This is really a difficult question as each place has it’s own characteristics, but if I have to say then it will be Epupa Falls. With its beautiful scenery, the amazing falls, tented camp, fast flowing Kunene River – infested with crocodiles, you won’t get a better Namibian experience.

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

Yes, I am a qualified personal trainer and worked at an Engineering firm for 9 years as a Composite Technician building missiles, rocket launchers and types of specialized military components and systems.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Well, if you go fishing from the shores of Namibia you can catch a fish called the ”Galjoen”. It is South Africa’s national fish, but quite a common fish to catch on the coast of Namibia. This fish is not allowed to be sold in restaurants so it’s always very special to eat it.

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

A 75- year- old lady asked me once if she could have a go at trying to land the aircraft. She was pulling my leg though.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

To Switzerland- I really want to experience standing at the foot of the Eiger and look up the face that killed so many Alpinists. I would have loved to climb it but don’t have enough experience.

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

I’m in love with Elizabeth Hurley.

alejandroName: Alejandro Passerman

Age: 30

Nickname: Frikkie Kubaan

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

Damaraland

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

I worked for 7 years in a hotel as a receptionist, and also as musician.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Kapana

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

I found a 2 meter long black mamba next to my room and 17 giraffes having breakfast in my backyard at a place where I was staying.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

The Caribbean

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

It’s still a secret.

jonathanName: Jonathan Wales

Age: 25

Nickname: Brandslang

What has been your favorite Namibian Destination to fly to?

Lianshulu in the Caprivi Strip- It’s wild and fantastic with lots of animals and water. I love it.

Did you ever have another job or do anything else other than Piloting?

I was a Firefighter in Northern Canada for 3 years. I also worked as a cook in a Greek restaurant when I was in High School.

What is your favorite Namibian Meal?

Favorite meal: Oryx steak, Favorite Snack: Biltong

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a Charter?

When I showed up to the plane in the morning a small lizard was in my shoe. I danced around until I got the shoe off and released it onto a tree.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

Somewhere in the Himalayas so I could hike and climb.

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

I used to work as an extra in movies when I lived in Vancouver. If you look hard enough you’ll see me in The A-Team next to Bradley Cooper, in Marmaduke playing basketball and a few others.

willieName: Willie van der Mark

Age: 28

Nickname: I don’t have one.

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

Serra Cafema

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

No, I started with my pilot career straight after finishing high school.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Venison

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

I experienced multiple thunderstorms over the desert, it’s not something you see often- it was spectacular.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be? 

Northern Africa

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

Nothing to tell…

hannesName: Hannes Pretorius

Age: 29

Nickname: Hansie

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

Impalila Island

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

Yes – I was a waiter and an Aircraft Maintenance Organization Administrator

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Creamy, mayo-chutney, chicken on rice with sweet potato

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

I flew a photographer/reporter for “House and Leisure” magazine, this was within my first year of flying in Namibia. I very eagerly awaited for the magazine to release the article to only find out that instead of my name I was the “baby faced pilot” that flew them. I was not happy but most of my family/friends thought this was very funny.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

Canada or the Maldives

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

I’ll get back to you on that

nikolaiName: Nikolai Niedermeier

Age: 23

Nickname: MacGyver

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

Sossusvlei Desert Lodge- It is my favourite lodge to overnight at. The staff is very friendly and the food is the best that I have had in Namibia.

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

No, my appointment at Scenic Air has been my first formal employment of any kind.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

I love a medium-prepared Oryx fillet with a red wine sauce followed by Amarula ice cream.

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

Before a flight, the preceding evening, I had some leftover chicken stir-fry for dinner before flying out on a safari.  The following morning I flew with two guests from Windhoek International Airport to Geluk. Everything was fine on the ground before take-off. After leveling off in the cruise I noticed that suddenly my body started rebelling against this leftover stir-fry deep in my tummy. I was already halfway to Geluk and decided there was no point in turning around; I would just have to make it my softest landing ever. Upon touching down at Geluk, I had to look down to confirm that the wheels were indeed on the ground. Needless to say, the first thing I did after shutting-down was to relieve myself. The guide had to help the guests out of the aircraft and luckily they were oblivious to the situation I (and them) had been in.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

Saint Martin- I think flying around the Caribbean must be very awesome.

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

Parents always tell their children to study hard at school. If I studied harder at school I would have probably never become a pilot. Luckily my grade 11 marks weren’t high enough and therefore the university did not accept me for mechanical engineering, so instead I become a pilot.

mikeName: Mike Böttger

Age: 42

Nickname: Kaptein Slang

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

All around this beautiful country- especially Damaraland

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

I was a lawyer in my previous life

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Braaivleis

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

Flying 10 Himba Tribesmen to a fashion photo shoot at Kanaan (they had never flown before)

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

A fishing trip on the Canadian Lakes with a floatplane!

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

I catch snakes that have gone into peoples’ houses and release them in the bush again

rynhardName: Rynhard Cilliers

Age: 23

Nickname: Klaskaptein

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

My favourite destination must be between Serra Cafema at the Hartmann’s Valley, situated on the Kunene River and looking out on Angola, or Lianshulu Lodge in the Caprivi Strip on the Kwando River looking out on Botswana.

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

I have never had any other job than being a Pilot and Scenic Air is my first Commercial Employer.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

My favourite Namibian meal must be “braaivleis”, but I also favor Oryx steak/fillet, which the lodges always prepare excellently. Also living in Swakopmund made me a rookie coastal fisherman and crayfish diver and I enjoy it very much to prepare fish and crayfish on the grill.

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

I had two very funny experiences while flying. The first happened on a Sossusvlei Scenic flight with German passengers and the guy sitting next to me in the co-pilot seat was very old, could not understand English and most likely a little bit deaf and blind. The whole flight went very well, everybody enjoyed it and just before landing I saw the old man taking out his ear plugs that I supplied him with for the noise of the aircraft, he looked at one, put it in his mouth and started eating it. He must have enjoyed it because he ate the other one as well and clearly he did not understand a word of the briefing I gave him on how to use the ear plugs. I tried to stop him to not eat it but it was too late and he just smiled at me with thumbs up and saying that it tastes good. Clearly he did not have any taste buds left either.

The second encounter was on a Skeleton Coast Scenic flight when the guy sitting behind me wrote me a letter on his route briefing card and asked if he could relieve his bladder buy using one of the air sick bags, we had quite a discussion. I suggested that if he really has to he must use one of the water bottles. But of course he had to drink one first to empty it and it must be very uncomfortable for a man to sit and do the job into a very small water bottle in turbulent conditions and all. Eventually he just tapped me on the shoulder, showed me the bottle and had a very relieved smile on his face. I on the other hand was just glad he did not ask me to hold that bottle while he took photographs.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

I would like to fly to Antarctica one day, but would also very much enjoy flying over the Swiss Alps and the Maldives.

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

I am passionate about anything with an engine and moving parts, I enjoy building and flying remote control aircraft and working with my hands. I am also a very big car enthusiast and if I was not a Pilot I would’ve wanted to become a race/rally driver. My biggest dream is to be an Advanced Aerobatic World Champion at one stage in my life.

fredName: Frederick Young

Age: 53

Nickname: Fred

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Rundu.

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

Safety Officer, Accident Investigator, Ops Manager, Husband, Gardener, Handyman, CRM facilitator.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Gemsbok Biltong & West Coast Oysters!

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

Drug runners shooting at me in a Red Cross aircraft!

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

The South Pacific Islands

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:

I qualified as a navigator, having to use a sextant in my final test to navigate a Dakota.

du toitName: Du Toit van Niekerk

Age: 26

Nickname: DT

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

Any place I haven’t been to previously.

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

I used to guide motorcycle tours through Southern Africa.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Grilled Steenbras

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

It wasn’t all that funny initially as the passenger side window on a short flight flew open in-flight, but after landing I looked back at the two passengers sitting in the middle row who had taken all of the 150kt of airflow square on the face, eyes wide open, completely taken aback by the situation, the expression on their faces and especially their hair being somewhat Einstein-esc, I couldn’t help but laugh.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

Antarctica

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:  

I was the u/12 western province ballet silver winner 2001.

alex

Name: Alex Ferrer

Age: 29

Nickname: Frenchie

What has been your favourite Namibian destination to fly to?

The Fish River

Did you ever have another job or do anything else than piloting?

I worked for the French Air Force as a mechanic and as a cadet and flight instructor.

What is your favourite Namibian meal?

Kudu steak

What is the funniest or craziest thing that has ever happened to you on a charter?

Nothing interesting has happened to me yet.

If you could fly anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?

French Polynesia

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that few people know:  

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Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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