It's somewhere in the late 90's. A warm summer day, spending the afternoon playing in the backyard. I live right beneath the final approach of a military airfield about two kilometers away and I hear the constant sound of the SF260 Marchetties the air force pilots are training in. Shark planes as I called them, referring to the yellow planes with white shark teeth painted on the nose. One after the other they turn to final for runway 35 at Goetsenhoven Air Force base, Belgium. I must have been just a few years old, barely old enough to remember correctly, but I became fascinated by them. Like many boys of that age, I dreamed of becoming a pilot. I dreamed of one day being able to take those pilots' seat in the cockpit and go fly myself. All alone, taking an airplane to the skies and controlling every single movement of it. Enjoying pure freedom.
It can't have been much later when I bought my first flight simulator, think it was the 2002 version of MS Flight Simulator. Hours, I've spend behind my PC with an old joystick, flying the amphibious C208 Caravan up and down the Hudson, trying all the switches until I crashed the plane, again and again and again. Good times.
July 7th, 2007 - 07/07/07. It's my twelfth birthday. The Belgian Air Force left the base years ago and moved to another airfield. Goetsenhoven Airbase was now only used by the local aero club, who flew motorized planes and gliders. Especially the latter has always fascinated me. Seeing those machines glide through the sky with nothing more than the power of nature and the skills of the pilot. Incredible. My dad promised me that when I turned twelve, he would take me to the airfield for my first glider flight. This was the day my dream became a reality and my hope to ever fly a plane myself became an objective. Just like Amelia Earhart said after her first flight: "As soon as we left the ground I knew I myself had to fly!" I would learn to fly.
When my dad asked me a year later what I wanted to have for my birthday, he already knew it was a rhetorical question. The year I turned fourteen and was legally allowed to start my flight training, I did. I was young, eager to learn and enjoyed every minute of flying with my instructors. Then February 13th, 2011, I did my first ever solo flight. When you ask every pilot you meet if they remember their first solo flight, there won't be one that doesn't remember. It's thé key moment in every pilots' career.
Today, almost seven years since I first started gliding, I still enjoy every flight, as long, short, far or near as it may be. The feeling of soaring through the sky with nothing more than the power of nature and your own passion is indescribable.
But, enough about myself.
How Hangar.Flights was born
Every second, pilots take off from an airfield somewhere on this planet. Every second pilots are experiencing the thrill of putting a Piper Cub, R44, Airbus A380 or whatever other aircraft they're flying on the ground. I've been on tens of different online forums, each with its own members, ranging from 11-year-old airplane spotters to veteran air force pilots. All these forums, groups and communities are different in their own unique way. I've read hundreds of aviation stories on these sites and spend hours reading about adventures.
But I wanted something different. I wanted to bring pilots from around the world closer together. To give inexperienced pilots a way to learn from the experiences of other pilots. A place to share your flying adventures with other pilots or spend hours reading flying stories that sound almost too impossible to be true (and probably often are, knowing pilots). People could share a valuable lesson they learned and become better and safer pilots by getting advice from others. Maybe even make some new friends along the way, because that's what aviation is all about, right?
I love creating things. Building things from zero to something and beyond is, together with aviation, one of my biggest passions. So why not just take the gamble, build something exactly as I want it and see if other people will like it?
During my studies Business Management I am following, I learned about a concept: "Start with Why". This concept implies that people don't just buy (or in this case use) what you do, but why you do it. Too often, companies focus on the What and the How, when they forget the most important part, the Why. Simon Sinek gave an incredibly interesting TED-talk about this concept and said the successful companies are the ones that think from the inside out; they start with the Why, then the How and leave the What for the end.
Of course, my plan wouldn't be to build a big brand or big company, but it couldn't hurt to think big, right? So I started with the why, as I talked about a few paragraphs ago. I knew why I wanted to build this so I went ahead thinking about how I could do this. I needed to provide pilots with a platform or some sort of online community to connect and share their flying experiences. I needed a different section on the site to allow people to discuss with each other, share their experiences, read stories, learn new things and become better pilots by reading, listening and sharing. All of this had to be easy to use, intuitive and tailored to pilots and aviation. The homepage for pilots on the internet.
What's left is the What. It's obvious I needed to build a website. I was lucky enough to have some basic knowledge of web design and coding, so I could do everything by myself, learning as I went. When searching for a name, the domain Hangar.Flights popped up. The name sounded just right; it was easy to remember, easy to pronounce and an easy URL to go to on your phone or computer. And it resembled the aviation phrase 'hangar flying', which is often used to describe the discussing and storytelling by pilots sitting around the hangar. Just what I needed!
I had the idea and the urge to built something for pilots. It started as a fun project, something to try and just see how it worked out. I've put in hundreds of hours of drawing, designing, programming and learning. It was frustrating at moments and I've thought about just deleting all of it more than one, but I didn't. What did I have to lose? And you are now experiencing the results of the effort I've put in this site.
It's still far from finished of course and to be honest, I don't even know if it will ever be really finished at all. The site you can see and use at the time of writing this article is just a first version. I want to constantly update the site based on the remarks, comments, ideas and suggestions I get from our members. You are the person who's using it, so who better to tell us what's working, what you don't like or what you would love to have?
So, we need you!
Feel free to let me know if you have any suggestions for the Hangar.Flights website, I will be more than happy to talk to you at info[at]hangar.flights!
Get out there and go flying! But make sure to come back afterward to share your experiences with the community ;-)
Senne - Founder