Nout van Zon, a senior consultant in Simon-Kucher’s Amsterdam office, likes to spend his free time up in the sky with his head in the clouds…quite literally. He tells us about how owning a private pilot license gives him the freedom and serenity that many of us are craving these days.
Nout, we heard from some of our colleagues that you have a very exiting hobby. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? How long have you been flying?
Of course! I started taking flying lessons back in 2013 and got my private pilot license about three years ago. It is a bit like getting a driver’s license, although a lot more structured and work-intensive. You need to complete seven theoretical exams and 50 hours of flying, 10 of which are solo with the instructor on the ground. At the beginning, the instructor is in the plane with you, with a second set of controls on their side of the cockpit so they can intervene if necessary. Ever since I got my license I have been flying by myself.
How do you prepare for a flight? Do you have your own plane?
I do not have my own plane but I am a member at the KLM Aeroclub. Through that membership I am able to book one of our two Cessna 172 planes and then pay by the hour, which is really convenient. Preparation involves reading weather reports and the news bulletin “NOTAM” which notifies you of relevant airspace information, for example if there is prohibited airspace for a few days or if an airport is closed. This can take up to an hour and a half each time. Of course, you also have to inspect your plane every single time before you fly, so there is a lot of double checking and making sure everything is working properly, because safety is the number one priority.
I always fly the same type of plane, a Cessna 172 high-wing monoplane where the wings sit high above the cockpit. I really know this plane, how it flies, how it reacts when I do specific things, and where all the buttons and switches are. I like that sense of familiarity. It’s also the perfect plane for sightseeing as it gives you a better view of the ground, and it’s a very easy plane to maneuver.
What motivated you to get your private pilot license?
I always thought it would be an exciting hobby and a unique skill to learn. I first started with glider flying when I was at university and enjoyed it so much that I looked into getting a private pilot license for a motorized airplane.
The thing I most enjoy about flying is the literal and figurative detachment you feel, letting everything go when you’re up in the sky, forgetting your busy workweek, and just relaxing and enjoying the amazing view. When I’m flying I feel freer than I ever do while driving. With a car you are restricted to the road, but in the air you can go in all kinds of directions, see so much, and just unwind.
That sound great! Is there a special flight you remember?
One of my favorite trips was a flight to the UK back in 2018 with a fellow pilot friend of mine. We flew the scenic route along the Dutch and Belgian coast all the way to Calais in France. From there it is only a 10 minute flight before you see the White Cliffs of Dover in England, which is an incredible view. An unforgettable experience! In the future I plan to fly to the South of Europe with a few other pilots, maybe to Spain and then spend some days there. That flight is definitely on my bucket list!
Do you have any advice for colleagues on juggling their work and hobbies?
I truly believe that when working at Simon-Kucher you can find time for your hobby. If you’re really passionate about something, schedule some time for it and then just go for it. It’s about being flexible, because sometimes things don’t go according to plan and that is okay, too. Just be sure to find the perfect balance between work and your hobby. Find out what works best for you and your lifestyle. If you really want to spend time on a specific hobby or sport, there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t combine that with work.