by Sharon Thiry
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018 issue
A story about a couple from the Netherlands, who learned to fly in the United States, bought an airplane, had it shipped home to continue their love of flight, and what transpired in the months that followed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Author Sharon Thiry of Cadzand, Holland, spent this past summer in the United States with her partner, Huub van Iwaarden, to learn to fly and to purchase an aircraft. Thanks to their American flight instructors, Ed Escallon and Mike Wild of Wild Aerobatics (www.wild-aerobatics.com) at Kokomo Municipal Airport, Kokomo, Indiana (KOKK), they located a gorgeous 1943 Aeronca L-3 Defender at nearby Glenndale Airport (8I3). Thiry and Escallon flew the L-3 from Indiana to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the experience, and to display the aircraft, where they were reunited with van Iwaarden who drove to the event. Following Oshkosh, Thiry and van Iwaarden had the L-3 shipped to Holland. The following story by Sharon Thiry tells of their experience and their excitement with the aircraft.
After spending 4 months in Kokomo, Indiana to work on our Private Pilot Certificates, it was time for me and my partner, Huub van Iwaarden, to return to the Netherlands and await the arrival of our 1943 Aeronca L-3 Defender that we purchased in Indiana.
After 7 days at sea, our aircraft arrived at the Port of Antwerp in Flanders, Belgium on September 21, 2017 in perfect shape, thanks to the tender loving care it received from the wonderful people at Glenndale Airport (8I3) in preparing her for shipment. It was now time to put her back together, wings and all.
While she waited to be reassembled by Raymond’s Aircraft Restoration at Antwerp Skypark (BVBA), our L-3 enjoyed the company of some beautiful stable mates, including a Stampe, Stearman and a Piper J-3 Cub. She could not have wished for better company! After our L-3 was reassembled, we had to wait for some good weather before we could fly her to her new home at Ursel Airbase.
Ursel Airbase was established in the 1930s, and originally belonged to the Belgian Air Force, but in May 1940, during World War II, the Luftwaffe took control of the airbase. Luckily in September 1944, the Allied Forces liberated the base from the Nazis.
Four squadrons of Hawker Typhoon fighter bombers operated from Ursel to break the resistance by the German troops, and the entrance to the Port of Antwerp was reopened. Following the war, the airfield was converted to civilian use.
As Huub and I flew the L-3 from Antwerp to Ursel, we thought about the history of the airbase and the harbor, and about the freedom we now enjoy.
The L-3 has already drawn quite a bit of attention since it is one of few vintage American warbirds in the area. We have already established the Ancient Airlines Europe Club, which has attracted a large number of aviation enthusiasts already, so we can Keep ‘Em Flying, as you say in the States!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Huub van Iwaarden, 28, unexpectedly passed away on December 23, 2017 due to cardiac arrest while exercising. Sharon Thiry said of her partner that he was proud of the L-3 and their American adventures, and was looking forward to having this article published in Midwest Flyer Magazine. Because of his love for the L-3, van Iwaarden’s family felt it was only befitting for him to wear his American flight suit at his funeral, and have the L-3 do a fly-by at the cemetery. Our condolences to Sharon Thiry and the van Iwaarden family. Thiry plans to continue working at Enelogic, a company founded by van Iwaarden, that provides an online platform for monitoring electrical and gas energy usage by households. She will also keep the L-3 and return to the U.S. later this year to take her checkride and attend EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, July 23-29.