by Sharon Thiry
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2018 issue
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sharon Thiry, 25, of Cadzand, Holland was featured on the cover of the February/March 2018 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine with her 1943 Aeronca L-3 Defender. In 2017, she and her partner, Huub van Iwaarden, took flying lessons in the United States, bought the Defender here, then had it shipped back to Holland. The plan was to return to the U.S. in 2018 so they could complete their training and take their check-rides for their private pilot certificates. Unfortunately, Iwaarden unexpectantly died of a heart attack on December 23, 2017 while working out, so he never saw the magazine featuring the photo he took of Thiry and their aircraft. The following story tells of Thiry reaching her goal, and about the people who helped her. See the first article on the Midwest Flyer Magazine website: https://midwestflyer.com/?p=11422. Readers can keep up with Thiry and her flying adventures on Instagram: www.instagram.com/sharonthiry/ What the future will bring to Thiry is anyone’s guess, but you can be assured it will involve aviation!
On the 3rd of July 2018, I arrived in Kokomo, Indiana, from The Netherlands, one year from my first visit there. It felt great to be back where my flight training began.
While most Americans probably celebrate Independence Day by relaxing and taking things easy, I received my first two hours of flight training in a Super Decathlon to get me acquainted with the aircraft I would be flying to complete my check-ride for my private pilot certificate in the weeks that followed.
Five weeks went by and the day had finally arrived… It was the 24th of July and I was ready for my check-ride. This was the moment I thought about so many times since last year, but I was motivated and determined to complete training and get my certificate.
I would have to admit, though, I was quite nervous after watching numerous YouTube videos of various check-rides. But as soon as I met the FAA examiner, I realized my fear was unwarranted. He was also an aviation enthusiast whose goal was to help others realize their dreams. His positive attitude put me at ease and made me confident enough to demonstrate my flying skills. When the examiner signed me off, he presented me with my “temporary airman certificate,” which was a moment of pure excitement. I was actually a pilot from this point forward!
Immediately after my check-ride, I departed for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with the owner of the flight school and his family. Last year, I flew my 1943 Aeronca L-3 Defender to Oshkosh with my flight instructor.
It never fails to amaze me as to how well organized everything is at AirVenture. It’s obvious why this event is the best and most impressive fly-in in the world!
When I returned to Kokomo, it was time to gain some more flight experience and polish my flying skills, including aerobatics in a Decathlon, and formation flying with an Extra 300S and a Pitts S-1T. I am also working at improving my communication skills with air traffic control, which is not easy for us foreigners with accents.
I also wanted to fly as many different airplanes as I could to gain even more experience. The aircraft I flew included a Piper Cub and a PT-26 Fairchild. The open cockpit of the PT-26 remains one of my favorites. Nothing can beat the fresh air and sunlight shining directly on your face. Besides, the view is so much better! The open cockpit gives you the true feeling of flying!
A few days before I had to fly home to the Netherlands, I flew through the VFR corridor in Chicago. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to the United States thus far!
When I approached the Lake Michigan coastline, it became clear how massive and beautiful the Chicago skyline really is. Looking up through the skylight in the roof of the Decathlon, I realized that these were “the big boys” making their approaches to O’Hare International. Seeing these massive airplanes, flying in the same airspace, made me feel so alive and appreciative of the freedom that exists in the United States. It was also a reminder that general aviation pilots need to be on their toes and act as professional as possible at all times.
In Europe, flying through a VFR corridor in Class B airspace is unthinkable. This freedom in the sky in the United States is something we Europeans admire. Consequently, there are a lot of flight students from Europe who come to the United States to complete their flight training. There’s greater freedom and it is less expensive.
Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to exploring Europe from my own little warbird. There’s so much to still explore, and I hope I can convince more people of the beauty of aviation by taking them for a ride and telling them my stories and about my experiences. In particular, I hope to get more women involved in aviation in Europe, especially flying taildraggers. Currently, I am the only woman in the Ursel Flight Club, who is qualified to fly taildraggers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could change this by inspiring more women to pursue flying for fun or as a career?
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to Ed Escallon and Mike Wild of Wild Aerobatics (www.wild-aerobatics.com) at Kokomo Municipal Airport, Kokomo, Indiana (KOKK), who were our flight instructors. They also helped us to locate and purchase our 1943 Aeronca L-3 Defender, then assisted us in shipping it back to Holland. I greatly appreciated Ed flying with me from Indiana to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 2017. It was an amazing adventure that I will never forget! And I’m greatly thankful for all the care I received from the Wild family. They made me feel at home while being far away from home. Flying in the United States is a gift every pilot should appreciate. I know I do and will cherish it forever!