«I knew I had to get it right»

Elina Piesbergen talks about her early days as a SWISS pilot

Elina Piesbergen from Zurich first inhaled aviation air as a Flight Attendant. That was just after graduating. But she soon realised that she would rather work in the cockpit, and so she began training as a pilot. Just four years later she piloted a passenger aircraft, an Airbus A320, for the first time. She had plenty of nerve-racking moments on the courses.


She completed her first solo flight in Grenchen in a small propeller aircraft. «I was cleared for take-off, and then I was completely on my own. I pushed on the throttle, and I had to stand on the rudder. My leg wouldn't stop shaking. But I knew I had to get it right,» she recalls. She was nervous, and she had plenty of respect for her first flight on her own. But fear is a bad adviser. «Otherwise I wouldn't even have attempted to go solo.»


These experiences and emotions are shared by the ski professionals who complete in the Lauberhorn Ski Races. Jumping off the Hundschopf for the first time calls for a healthy dose of courage. However, anyone who is afraid and approaches the jump too quickly, too slowly and with no confidence in their technical skills is at serious risk of failure. «The Hundschopf is one of the most difficult spots in the world of alpine ski racing,» says former ski racer Bernhard Russi. Falling is definitely not an option. The take-off must be just as smooth as taking off in an aircraft.

A mega feeling

Now, flying is a matter of course for Elina Piesbergen. As a professional, it has to be. After numerous take-offs and landings, her enthusiasm for flying is unbroken. «Lift-off is a mega feeling. Depending on the load and the number of passengers, the plane always takes of a little differently. Sometimes it almost seems to jump into the air.»


Dealing with all the factors at take-off is a learning process. Piesbergen knows exactly what is expected of her as a pilot: «As I sit in the cockpit, I'm fully aware of my responsibility. I know what I'm doing, and I stay calm. If you just keep thinking about the tremendous responsibility, you won't be able to concentrate on getting the job right.»


«As a pilot, I have to be ready to act decisively at all times.» Mental preparation is important. The pilot certainly sees a lot of similarities with ski racing, even though she herself would probably not want to jump off the Hundschopf on skis.