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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Benno Turns Passion for Helicopters into his Job

The Airbus NH 90 cockpit. Photo from Airbus Helicopters
The Airbus NH 90 cockpit. Photo from Airbus Helicopters
Benno Van Noort gets to ready fly (Photo Credit: Benno Van Noort).

From early on his age, Benno Van Noort loved helicopters. “Every holiday, when we were in France, and he knew there was an airport close by, we had to sacrifice a day to go to the airport and watch helicopters land and go,” his sister, Olivia Van Noort, said.

Van Noort works at Airbus Helicopters as a helicopter designer. That means he gets to design the human interface (the buttons, the switches, the computers  and anything the pilots interact with) in the cockpit of the helicopter. Among others, he has helped design the Airbus NH 90 and the Airbus Tiger. “I studied the human interface because I find the technique behind it very interesting. When I design the helicopter human interface I have to make sure all the buttons and switches make sense and I have to make sure they work and are safe.”

When he was a little boy, he was like many other kids. He liked to read comic books, play sports and draw but aside from that, he would also assemble helicopters kits and then paint them. “He had a display in his bedroom where he kept his 50+ helicopters,” Olivia said. “If a helicopter was on TV, he knew what type of helicopter it was.”

When he was about 14 years old, he knew he wanted to be a helicopter pilot. Sadly, he couldn’t become one because his eyesight wasn’t good enough. In college, he then studied aerospace technology. “My college asked me to stop my study because they thought I couldn’t pass the course.” “I decided to ignore them and I kept studying hard with the support of my parents. Finally I passed the course and proved my college wrong.” In his college, he learned the general way helicopters worked, what materials should be used, the computers of helicopters and more. He then specialized in the human interface in a helicopter and then started working at Airbus Helicopters.

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Van Noort’s mostly works on the human interface of specialized military helicopter like the Airbus NH 90 and the Airbus Tiger, the helicopter shown on the left. “I am proudest of the final product in my helicopter, the fact that my design is actually in a helicopter and is being used by pilots makes me very happy,” Benno said. He loves his job even though it takes him 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to his work. Although he would rather be a pilot, he is still very happy with what he is doing now.

He has tried to fly a helicopter once with an instructor and he said it was really hard and exhilarating.  “If you put a marble on a round plate, the gravity causes the marble to roll quickly to the center. Flying a helicopter is like keeping that marble in the center of the round plate except that the round plate is turned upside down.” This is how he described flying a helicopter was like.

Picture from Airbus Helicopters
Airbus Tiger Helicopter. Picture from Airbus Helicopters

Benno’s ultimate dream is to become a helicopter pilot and he hopes that in the future, he will someday have his helicopter piloting license because his biggest regret is not having one. He however, may not be able to because his eyesight is not as good as it should be in order for him to be allowed to fly.

It takes Benno a long time to get to work; 1 hour and 30 minutes and then he still needs to drive back to work which is a 3 hour total in the car. He doesn’t enjoy the ride as much and he says he will probably work for another company in another country because the other job would be better for him. Since there aren’t a lot of job openings in his field of expertise, and because his field of expertise is limited to a few jobs, he will probably need to decide quickly.

Benno loves his job and as Olivia described it, “he works his passion,” and in his opinion, everybody should have the chance to work for what they love to do.


By Thomas Lanning

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