I have no clue how to write this down, the thought of this subject is making me tear. Some of you read my blogs from the beginning and know that my best friend from flight school past away in a plane accident in 2009. As I’m writing this I realize this is 9 years ago. Sounds like a long time but it changed my look at aviation completely.
I flew in a flight school in Portugal, at that time we had a lot of Dutch student pilots in Evora flying different types of aircraft. The last phase of the training would be on the Seneca V. Here they let you fly a multi-engine aircraft for the first time. This aircraft was the cherry on top of the cake at the end of flight school. I did my last flight on the 28 of August 2009. On my last flight we had a lot of problems with the aircraft because of the hydraulic system that failed us in flight but in the end everything ended up well with my flight and got the last signatures I needed to finish the flying part off the flight school and could go back to Amsterdam to start the MCC course (Multi-crew cooperation). We started the theory of the 737 for the MCC course and 2 days before we should have been in the simulator the accident happened.
I remember that I was already in bed in the evening because I had a long day of theory for the MCC. I woke up because my phone rang a few times. A friend of mine called me to wake me up. I picked up and he told me to sit down. As friends are we are always messing around with each other but his voice was strict and sober but you could hear some kind of hesitation in his voice. I told him I was in bed so I didn’t need to sit down. He told me “They think that Dennis got involved in a plane accident,” I told him to fuck off and stop messing around. (sorry for my french) These are no jokes. He answered me that it was not a joke but that he couldn’t give me any more information because the school didn’t want to tell them anything. I told him that we would call each other if we heard anything from anyone.
I called Dennis immediately after I hung up the phone with my friend. He didn’t pick up but the phone rang. I think I called him 20 times and spoke into his voicemail that he must pick up the phone and that everyone was worried. That he must call Sander or me after landing. I was still hoping that they made it into a field in a remote area where there is no cell reception.
I started to call some instructors that knew I was close to Dennis. None of them could answer my questions because they didn’t know anything until I got on the phone with 1 instructor and he told me that he only knew that there was a plane crash and there were no survivors but he could not tell me who was on the plane but most likely Dennis, Terron (instructor) and he told me a name of 1 other student. I started to call this other student and he picked up the phone after seconds. I asked him if he was standing in a field and if everyone was OK? He told me that it was a different student and most likely Andrew. I was not that close to him but with going out we saw each other and met each other at the pool often. The instructor then called me back that he confirmed everything but I was not allowed to tell the school that he told me. (maybe because he was afraid to get fired? Not sure)
I walked down from my room at my parents place to their sleeping room to wake up my mother and I sit down on the bed, my mother woke up and I told her: “they are dead, Dennis is dead, They crashed.” My mother woke up and told me I was dream-walking and had a bad dream. I told her that it wasn’t a dream, it was real. My best friend who I said goodbye and see you when you arrive in the Netherlands after finishing his last flight phase of the flight school was gone. I received a phone call again from a student telling me that they couldn’t reach the mother of Dennis. I had her number and started to Stalk her on every number that I had and she picked up immediately. The police just got inside but she didn’t believe them, when I got her on the phone I started to cry and then it hit her. It was real. We only cried on the phone for 10 minutes without saying anything. One of the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.
The day after it happened I went to meet up with my MCC buddy who was close to them as well to see how we continued the MCC or that we should wait until after the funerals of the guys. We went to the student counselor from the school and he told us that we weren’t in his class so we should just continue with the training and stop whining. I told him it was my best friend but this guy didn’t want to hear it at that time. We were shocked but we actually did proceed with the MCC training and finished it. (after 4 days, almost finished the MCC this guy found out that Dennis was our buddy he told us if we needed a break from training.)
In the meanwhile, Dennis and Andrew flew back to the Netherlands out of Portugal. Dennis mother asked me to visit her so I was able to say goodbye in private and be able to see him one last time. I decided not to do that because I had a good memory of him and I didn’t want that to change.
We went to the funerals after finishing the MCC training and we collapsed after. I lost 25 kilo’s in about 3 months because of stress (and healthy food from my mother) But I got afraid of flying. It took me 3 months before I got on a plane again to fly myself. I realized that flying is the best thing in the world but it must be taken seriously. I think that it made me a better pilot because there is not a day I get towards the aircraft and not thinking about what happened. We have to be careful and more important a pilot MUST be able to say “NO” without being feared to be fired or suspended from flying.
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SAFE LANDINGS EVERYONE!