Barbadians got a great gift from their friendly KLM Airlines pilot Vincent Hoekveld when he posted a photo taken from his literal sky-view.
Vincent or Vince for short is officially an A330 first officer with KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines).
I love my job! Every day is different and I still love the views at 40,000 feet
The photo of Barbados lit at night was published on January 3 and it brought much joy and pride to Barbadians at home and abroad. Bajans were flocking to Vince’s comment section to boast about and appreciate the beauty of their island home – shining like the true Gem of the Caribbean, a pendant on the island chain.
Loop Lifestyle interviewed Vince and heard about his career, views and what even led him to capture the now-iconic photo of Bim.
Vince recently celebrated 20 years with KLM back in September 2022, and so we asked him about his journey over the decades.
“My first flight for KLM was a flight from Amsterdam to Seoul on the 747-400. I was working as a second officer back then. This means you are not at the helm during take-off and landing, but only during the cruise phase of the flight. This gave me a great opportunity to get some experience as a pilot, to get to know the company and to get used to aviation in general.”
That particular picture was taken on the first of January this year
What kept you flying over the years?
“I love my job! Every day is different and I still love the views at 40,000 feet as much as I did 20 years ago.
“Professionally I am committed to getting you and your family to your destination safely. It’s big motivation to get this done every single flight, over and over again. And that’s a real team effort! As a passenger you will most likely just see the crew in uniform on board, but we need the people on the ground, in the hangars and in the offices just as much to get the job done. It’s a big blue family, as we say at KLM.”
It’s not a norm and it surely isn’t something that we in the public domain have seen much of, so we had to ask, ‘When did you start taking photos and sharing them publicly?’
Laughing, he said, “Good question, I had to look that up.
“I’ve always loved photography and at a certain point I combined this with an Instagram account. So after scrolling down quite a bit I found that my first aviation-related post was on August 11th, 2014 – A picture of the A330 I parked at gate E8 at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.”
When did you take the Barbados at night photo that’s now gone viral and made you “famous”?
“That particular picture was taken on the first of January this year. It was on my flight from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad to Amsterdam. (KLM781) The route that day took us directly over the beautiful island of Barbados.
“I had no idea the picture would go viral of course, but I realized afterwards you rarely see your own country this way, because you are usually only landing and departing there, and not overflying it at high altitude.”
View this post on Instagram
With many Bajans taking the time to comment and show their love for the photo beyond simply clicking the heart icon to like it, Vince has been reading each and every comment.
Have you ever gotten such response from the public to a photo before?
“This is an easy question. Never! So a big thank you to all the people who commented, liked and or shared my picture. I’m really grateful for that.”
Was this your first time seeing Barbados look like this?
“Yes it was. I’ve flown this particular flight a few times before, but never directly over your island during the night.
“This has to do with the fact that routes are never exactly the same, because each flight we want to fly as efficient as possible. This saves fuel which is better for the planet and saves money. Also the scheduled times were changed recently. So because it was a first for me as well, was probably one of the main reasons I took the shot!”
I once witnessed a moonrise in the middle of the northern lights. Speechless
Well, now that Barbadians seem to winning you over, if you had to say, and yes you have to say, what are some of the views that have stood out for you over the years… your top top ones and why?
“This is hard to answer because some views are impossible to compare. If you ask me tomorrow my top three may be different, but for now in random order:
o Northern lights are truly amazing. This is already a rare view by itself, but it gets even better when you’e up in the air. There is no light pollution there and you feel like the northern lights are dancing around you. To take it even further, I once witnessed a moonrise in the middle of the northern lights. Speechless
o Overflying Greenland during day in clear sky conditions is mind blowing. The dramatic mountains peaking through the eternal snow. Watching the glaciers from above, you can really see them for the slow moving rivers of ice and snow they are. Unique perspective
o On one of my recent flights to Miami a witnessed the launch of a rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Absolutely mind-blowing
o And I’m not saying this because you’re the one who asked the question, but most recently in my top three is Barbados! Not only because it stood out so beautifully like it did from above, but also because I was able to share that view with so many people from Barbados through social media. That made it very special to me, because every single reactions was heart warming, positive and filled with pride of Barbados. You said top four right?
A pilot with a peak sense of humour? Yup, that’s Vince – his humour, cheekiness and sarcasm are top tier.
Despite his hectic schedule, Vince has taken time to respond to all comments. How come you did this and did you enjoy such?
“I tried, and if I missed a few I’m sorry. And why? Honestly, because of the love in the comments as mentioned earlier. I just had to respond to that and I really enjoyed doing so. So the fact that I did was purely thanks to all the lovely comments, reposts and likes. And the fact I had a few days off,” he added laughing.
What do you love about the KLM Barbados routes? Which is your favorite and why?
“It’s always the views and the passengers that I love most about this route. Also the fact that this is a relatively new route for KLM makes it more interesting for me. It gives me the opportunity to see countries that I’ve never visited before to and to meet the people that live there.”
Vince is also a Crew Resource Management (CRM) Trainer, and the CRM course is the gold standard for pilots and flight crew. He also volunteers with the fire brigade in The Netherlands.