Jan Slangen a life at high altitude
Jan Slangen is a three-dimensional man, divided as he is between land, sea and sky. Air Force pilot in the Frecce Tricolori for 12 years, four of which as Commander, he owes the definition of being terrestrial to his human condition, but in fact his most intimate aspirations project him into the sea and into the clouds. He certainly set his feet on the ground to write his autobiography: “Flying high. Notes on the happiness of an Frecce Tricolori pilot”: an important opportunity to reflect, to look at that exciting part of life” flown away “, retrace choices and successes, but also celebrate and finally enjoy them at a slower pace, savoring the gratitude, before leaving for another flight. Another role.
His life had just begun in Ethiopia, when still in his mother’s womb he had to leave the earthy soil of the easternmost part of the black continent, and return to Europe aboard his first passenger plane. Jan’s mother had contracted malaria and together with his father who worked for the United Nations, they decided to return to Europe to receive adequate treatment and give birth to the future pilot of the Blue Army. It was 1975.What made you realize that in life you wanted to fly?I received a very stimulating education, full of opportunities to explore different paths, albeit rigid and demanding. What I wanted to do when I grew up was to get away from my family to find my space, my dimension. Initially I thought I was studying engineering or architecture, but I didn’t mind the naval academy, or the aeronautics … I was a terrible teenager, in the sense that I was rich in interests, strong-willed, passionate … I gave a lot to do to my parents. When it was time I decided to try to fly, supported by my father in the idea of exploring the sky, while I cannot say the same for the desire to frequent the Morosini, following my other great passion, that for the sea, which he never supported, and I must say he was right …If you think back to your first flight, do you remember what it felt like?I am not talking about common passenger flights, since I was very young I have always flown because of my father’s work in the United Nations, of his Dutch origins; after Africa my parents moved to Latin America, then to Europe … But when I flew for the first time as a pilot, in the test lesson, it was 1994 in Latina, I felt only emotions of pleasure and amazement. When you discover the best point of view from which to look at the world, it is difficult, indeed I would say impossible, to give it up. This is the awareness that a rider feels and that it never leaves him.Lack of fear of emptiness is an important clue, but what makes a man a pilot?Certainly some one hundred percent physical characteristics, such as values, sight, weight, height, sense of direction, reflexes. Then there is the desire, I don’t mean to want to conquer the sky, but certainly to want to be part of it, with all the emotions that are part of this ambition. Spacing in the air, beyond the acrobatic aspect, is a way of understanding life …I imagine that when “high altitude” is a daily frequentation, life takes on another unit of measurement. After all, your career speaks for itself: talented military pilot, Commander of the Frecce Tricolori, General of the Air Brigade (on leave), Cavaliere al Merito of the Italian Republic in 2017, over 4500 hours of flying in the skies around the world. But what is flight for you?Not just a physical experience, but also a metaphor for life, very intimate if you like. Those who wear wings never leave them, everything has a different, relative value, even success is felt with a different responsibility. I talk about this a lot in my book …He also talks a lot about his experience in the Frecce Tricolori, left as mentioned for reaching seniority in 2016, but, you can easily guess, always in his heart. What did this experience mean, Commander?It was a wonderful adventure, I believe there is no more beautiful and satisfying experience than serving the country as a lover of flight, in flight, for the Frecce Tricolori. They are a symbol of excellence and timeless Italianness, a winning model that knows no shadows and declines, unlike other symbols, authentic and true. In the Frecce the value of one is substantiated in the value of the group: you fly alone, but you fly together. And to make this model of excellence that flies in the sky for everyone unique, there is the sociability, the affection of a country with its eyes turned to it. June 2 is the perfect image in which the distance between the planes and the people is canceled out, or rather merges into a love for the Blue Army that is palpable, which animates the symbols, which expresses itself in the value of Peace, of the Nation, of belonging. All the values of a life are put in order and filled with meaning again. Twelve years have been an honor and a TOP experience for me in every respect. I wrote a lot about it in the book in the hope of being able to decode the timeless model of excellence that the Frecce Tricolori represent, with a consideration of numbers, which must make us reflect.Do you miss Frecce?I feel nostalgia understood as the awareness of having had an extraordinary opportunity. I have a feeling of deep gratitude for the Air Force and for the great opportunity it has given me to live at the Top these years. I made a commitment, I can’t deny it, but inside I was able to better interpret that “lack of air” that can only be filled in flight. I am now ready for another flight.You are still very young, yet you have achieved remarkable goals: if you look at your training, what do you remember that you want to transfer to young people?Without wishing to take away the taste for reading, I recall some episodes found in the book, relating to the years in the Air Force Academy. Difficult from different points of view, challenging. But certainly goal-oriented, even in difficulty. The training leaves its mark, and a profound awareness: in life there are falls for everyone, the difference is made when you get up. Then there are many anecdotes, goliardic memories, I shared truly beautiful human moments.How does Jan Slangen live these months, now years, of the pandemic?A bit like it was for the choice to write my book, even in the Pandemic I found very strong incentives to treasure the experiences and continue to study, to transfer. A forced Stop, which I spent dedicating myself to training and consulting.We did not talk if not quickly about his second great passion, or dimension: the marine one. Where will you spend your holidays?To the sea of course! I will go to Tropea, I have never been on a beach holiday in Calabria and having heard of it, this year with my wife we decided to try this new stage.If I, looking from your cabin, asked you to rest your eyes on the most beautiful piece of the world that you have flown over, where would your eyes land?It may seem like a trivial answer, but it is not obvious: I flew over Nevada, the Labrador peninsula and Greenland, without seeing any trace of human settlement for hundreds of thousands of kilometers; I followed training in Texas, flew over North Africa, the Suez Canal and the Middle East. I have flown over many beautiful places, but I can guarantee you that coming from the North, beyond the Alps, seeing Italy slowly take shape and color, standing out with its large green patches among the blue of the sea, is a unique and exciting experience. It is precisely one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It really is!