Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Stefan Fouche is a helicopter pilot and the chief flying instructor at Base4Aviation in Cape Town, South Africa. Sananda Sahoo / The National
Stefan Fouche is a helicopter pilot and the chief flying instructor at Base4Aviation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Sananda Sahoo / The National

A day in the life: Learning to steer around turbulence

Stefan Fouche is a helicopter pilot and chief flight instructor for Base4Aviation in Cape Town.

Stefan Fouche is a helicopter pilot and the chief flight instructor at Base4Aviation in Cape Town. Flying over the mountainous south-western Cape region where winds can get strong at times, the 34-year-old likes pointing out the towns nestled between hills and farmlands.


I get up, and by 6.30am I am at the [Cape Town] airport. At Base4Aviation we fly charter flights and also train people.


The first flight is around this time, given the weather conditions. In the charter department, we do scenic tourist flights as well as [flights where we can] drop people on mountain tops to set up an antenna. The trickier part is mountain flight or [flying] in between mountain terrain. The biggest risk in mountain flights is that in case of an emergency there is no place to land. Wind around the mountains creates turbulence and you have to know where the wind is the least, where it goes up the mountain side and down. The last tricky bit about this is the landing. You have to pick a place with the least amount of obstacles around you. I have flown over the Hottentots Holland mountain range, Cederberg mountain range and Table Mountain. I have been working here since 2008 and never had an emergency situation.


For training, an instructor can have a maximum of four flights a day. Students come in every two hours. We now have 40 students, but around 15 are actively busy. We have had students from Kenya, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States besides South Africa. We give them preflight briefings to teach them the basic principles of a helicopter. During the flight, an instructor would teach them how to do a particular exercise. On average it ranges from half an hour to one and a half hours. An instructor can be in the air for six hours a day and for charter flights that's eight hours a day.


We eat whenever we get time. I love the job. I grew up in Pietersburg [now Polokwane] in northern South Africa. Here you go to places few people have been before. Around spring time, you see families of whales and sharks. Last November, with a University of Cape Town research student we tracked 45 nests of black eagles in three days in Cederberg Mountain Range.


As soon as we know what flights we have, which is usually a day ahead, we do the flight planning. We check the weather, plan the route, decide on the weight and the number of passengers and how much fuel we need. But then we can have a fantastic plan and if there is fog we need to change it.


I go home and spend time with my two children. I also like kiteboarding.


I try to go to sleep by then but it depends on the kids.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 The Greens, villas: Q1 no change. 3BR - Dh210-250,000. 4BR - Dh210-260,000. 5BR - Dh220-300,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 5% rise. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Where Dubai rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Dubai have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 The cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Tyn nad Vltavou in Czech Republic. The country wants to continue expanding nuclear energy capacity despite cancelling a tender to build two new units. David W Cerny / Reuters

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 17, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 17, 2014.

 Three generations of the Hakimi family tend to their stall Crawford Market in Mumbai. Subhash Sharma for The National

In pictures: Shopper’s delight at Crawford Market in Mumbai

Crawford Market is an old British-style covered market dealing in just about every kind of fresh food and domestic animal imaginable. Later on renamed Mahatma Jotirao Phule, the market remains popular among locals and visitors by its old name, taken from Arthur Crawford who was the first municipal commissioner of the city.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National