Who are you?
My name is Nicole Sammels and I've been a pilot for 24 years. Even as a child, I wanted to be a pilot. But because, even back then, the training was pretty expensive, I studied art and art history to begin with and then went into teaching for a few years. But, after a while, I started getting itchy feet and I started flying lessons. One lesson and I was hooked. So, on my 25th birthday, I started work as a pilot. A second career that I've never regretted.
What do you do now?
I'm a Captain at NetJets Europe. I work six days in a row and then get five days off. I'm usually in the same plane for six days with the same colleague. I always have a co-pilot working with me. Over these six days we're together all the time, from early in the morning until late at night. Because over those six days you don't get to go home. So, as you can imagine, you have to be able to get on well with each other. That's why NetJets spends a lot of time on good social skills. Once I've done my 60 hours, they send me home. For safety reasons they're very strict about that.
What do you remember most from the last 24 years?
I'd always flown scheduled flights for airlines but for the last ten years I've been working for NetJets. NetJets is totally different. We do private flights in luxury business jets. I work for the European division of the US parent company. Worldwide, we have hundreds of planes and we fly all over the world. Because of the business we're in and the size of our fleet, we often get some pretty special passengers and well known people. No flip-flops or inflatable animals on board our planes!
When I was about 16, I was a huge fan of a well-known Spanish opera singer. He once came to sing at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. At the time my best friend and I had saved up our money and we got to admire him from the cheapest seats in the house. And a couple of years ago I had to pick him up for a flight and he was my passenger. I couldn't believe it! He was really nice and quite charming. That was a really amazing and enjoyable experience.
Another interesting feature of my work is the specific and very detailed requirements some passengers have. But the customer is always king and I have ultimate responsibility, so I always make sure they get what they want. Sometimes we have communication problems. We are, of course, an international company. In the report after the flight, an English-speaking member of staff once described a client as: a ‘happy camper’. But this was totally misinterpreted. After that, every time he flew, the gentleman concerned was offered magazines about camping, camper vans, tents and caravans, as well as the usual international newspapers! The client didn't understand why he'd recently been offered these magazines until we realised that there had been a misunderstanding. When doing your best, you can sometimes take it a step to far!
What does Schiphol mean to you?
As a small child, I used to come to Schiphol to look at the planes through my telescope. Now I come to Schiphol to go to work. I use an airline to get to work, so I'm regularly in Schiphol Plaza.
Even though I fly into a huge number of airports, when I land at Schiphol it always feels a bit like coming home. I never have to hunt for anything here. It's so well organised.
My network is based around Schiphol-East. I mainly use Schiphol Plaza if I need to buy something. It's too big for me to really get to know people. When I fly into to Schiphol myself, I always hope I'll get runway 22 as that puts me more or less at the entrance to Schiphol-East. If I land on the other side, on runway 18, it can sometimes take me about half an hour of taxiing to get to this side. That's when you realise that it's quite a long way between Schiphol Plaza and Schiphol-East.
Who would you like to hand the baton to?
The KLM Jet Center is always responsible for handling our flights and for the re-fuelling of our jets. One member of staff, René Groeneveld, often helps us with the ramp in Schiphol-East. A little while ago, however, I came across him on Haarlemmerdijk in Amsterdam. He was driving a splendid vintage black carriage pulled by two Frisian horses. I didn't recognise him at first in his splendid coachman's outfit! People can surprise you sometimes. It was really unexpected and nice to see the blue uniform being replaced with this wonderful outfit.
For us pilots, our support team is crucial. Catering, cleaning, kerosene, etc. All these people help us. We'd couldn't do anything without them. But although they are crucial, they're often overlooked. That's why I'd be happy if, for once, René Groeneveld was in the spotlight.