It was a clear night and Long Island never looked so beautiful outlined with the street lights beaming from below at 2,000 feet. Having just passed the Northport stacks we were headed just over the (Long Island) sound for a bit and the moon’s reflections hit the cool waters like magic. Our flight instructor, a former Israeli Air Force pilot and aviator par excellence, beckoned me for the sun shield to cover up the deck window. From then on, it was all instruments for someone who was sitting to the left of our instructor, who I’ve had the honor of sharing the virtual flight deck with as both a Captain (777/A380) and a First Officer (747/757) for the past year when we weren’t in N34HD, our flagship sailing the real-life skies.
His precision, exact. Checking instruments, making mental calculations, it seemed like clockwork even though I knew there was a lot involved for him in those critical moments airborne.
Our instructor quickly had me store the sun shield in the back compartment so that this distinguished aviator, could do his first ILS approach into Long Island’s Islip-MacArthur Airport. What was once non-visible became visible and he nailed the ILS spot-on for runway 24. Upon touchdown our instructor and I beamed with pride at what he had accomplished at 20 years old.
This is one of many stories that amazes me about someone who I am not only proud to call a colleague, a fellow pilot, but also one of my best friends.
It is my honor to welcome into the flight deck,
Welcome to the flight deck, Natan!
I can recall myself in my grandmother’s backyard looking up into the sky at these noisy “flying things” as they passed over. My grandma would tell me its an airplane? But I was only 3 years old and I wouldn’t know what an airplane was until I grew older. When I was in second grade, I would borrow airplane books from the school library. I read them lots of times and studied every detail in all the books. By the time I was in 5th grade, I knew a large majority of airlines and aircraft by heart, and instead of paying attention in class, I would draw on paper many aircraft with the airlines logos on them. A year later, I went to middle school and met my teacher Jacob Kranz, an Orthodox Jew like myself, who happened to be a private pilot!
It’s amazing the connection you made with Orthodox Judaism and being a pilot. I personally didn’t know that Orthodox Jewish pilots existed until we met. Little did I know that I had one (that would be you) hiding out in my back yard. Literally! Later on, we discovered a network of Orthodox Jewish pilots throughout the world. It has been amazing to have such a close connection to one another. Speaking of close connections, where are you at with family?
I am the eldest of 6 children. I am a twin, not identical though. After my twin comes 3 boys and 1 girl. She is the youngest of us all.
Tell us about your, or should I say, “our” furry friend? Why would he also make a good pilot?
Haha! You want me to talk about Coco? Well, Ok! Coco is my family’s pet Pomeranian dog. He is very adorable and human like. Sometimes, he becomes “bi-polar”, because he lives with a family of 9 people all together, and we can become very loud. Coco’s favorite sport is tennis and soccer, and sometimes football. Coco enjoys sleeping on a bed with his older brother Natan! (wink) If Coco were human, I’m sure he would become a pilot because he is intelligent, fast moving, and loves taking car rides to the airport.
After having spent personal time with Coco, I must say that he is one of a kind. I would also agree that he would make a better pilot than most because he’s always alert, intelligent, quick to react, concerned about safety, and always protects the ones he loves. A definite match for Natan and his family. Thinking about what it takes to become a pilot, I had to dig deeper and find out what gave Natan the full throttle to take off on his journey through the skies:
Simple, I was born to fly! I knew all along I wanted to do it, it was just a matter of time to connect all the dots of aviation that I had encountered. When I was in middle school, my teacher who is a private pilot took me flying for my very first time in a small aircraft, a Piper Warrior III. I was then convinced that I wanted to become a pilot. I had already fallen in love with aviation, but after the experience of “hands on” flying, I was 100% sure that I would follow my dreams and set goal of becoming an Airline Pilot, to which I am still working on accomplishing to this very day. I currently have had experience in flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and Multi-engine. I can proudly say that no matter what obstacles I may encounter (and believe me, I have encountered many), that I will always be motivated and prepared to take to the skies, and always be happy with myself in making a commitment to becoming an Airline pilot.
A very long haul journey to where you are today indeed, Natan. I am rest assured that The Control Tower from Above has cleared you to final descent, make vectors to final, and before you know it you will be touching down to success. Speaking of success, who helped pave the way or inspire you to landing success?
Natan in the office of a Del,..err Northwest Boeing 744.
Natan and myself during a pre-brief before entering the 744 deck to Tel Aviv from JFK. He was our Captain that night. I followed suit as the Captain on the return leg as we were scheduled on the 777. Both were great missions.
Wilbur and Orville Wright for making flight possible. Ilan Ramon and the entire crew of the Columbia Space Shuttle, who’s life’s were perished upon re-entry, Women of Aviation for staying strong and fighting for their rights, Robert Keleti for being the best Flight Instructor one could ever ask for and for being there for me when needed, My parents, Roy and Lori Hoffmann for telling me to never give up and for all the love they give to me. Thank you. My grandmothers who both are survivors of the Holocaust. Thank you both for coming to fly with me! To all the people who follow their dreams and become an example for one another, and finally to God for giving me life and always helping me move in the right direction!
Excellent choices! Each and everyone of the above possesses something special because of how they have shaped you to who you are today. Women are essential to the existence of aviation. All one has to do is to take a look at how they shaped our industry. We need more female pilots. We are blessed to have advocates out there through individuals, organizations, and conferences.
I have no doubt that your family has a great deal involved as I have had the personal honor of knowing your family through my many visits and I am forever grateful for the many times I have been over to visit with everyone. (Even if it was only to watch NCIS.)
I also agree about Robert, what can I say about our instructor? I am speechless. His knowledge never ceases to amaze me and every time we fly with him, there is a special feeling that is inexplicable. He knows what he is doing and he knows how to cater to our personal needs as students to mold us into excellent pilots.
Natan working on flight plans with our instructor Robert.
Natan flying our flagship N34HD into the sunset.
Dreams are very important in a person’s life. It gives a sense of direction. What are your thoughts?
People’s dreams are very much like a flightplan. We all have a set destination. But unfortunately, we sometimes deviate from that flightplan and divert. In the end, you are left with two choices, to continue on and complete the flightplan, or to create a new flightplan.
Natan giving the term “WINGFLEX” a whole new meaning through meditation. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy’s Flight Deck)
Speaking of dreams, Natan, like my first guest Karlene, is also a giver. Natan has given me the ability to see what it means to take a dream and turn it into reality. I had been fighting for years due to personal circumstances to enter flight school. I don’t know how he did it, but he gave me a huge kick in the ass to start my career as a pilot. I am forever grateful for him being such an inspiration and support throughout the time we’ve known each other. I am pretty rest assured that I will not only continue to share the virtual deck with him as both 777/A380 Captain and a 744 First Officer, but we will be sharing the deck together when we have our ATPL working for a major international carrier.