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Former Young Eagle flies into AirVenture in Navy P-8

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 25, 2017 - Fiona McCoy has literally been dreaming of flying into Oshkosh for the EAA fly-in convention during the past few weeks.

That dream became a reality Monday.

A pilot in the U.S. Navy, Fiona flew a P-8 into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017. The next-generation maritime surveillance aircraft, located on Boeing Plaza, is open for tours Wednesday, July 26, and will depart Thursday, July 27, morning.

“Flying in was awesome, seeing row after row of airplanes and tents,” said Fiona, a lieutenant based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida. “You can immediately see and feel the love of aviation.”

2017 is Fiona’s 21st trip to AirVenture. However, she has a long background in aviation and EAA.

She flew with her parents regularly and took her first flight in their airplane when she was just 2 weeks old. Fiona took five Young Eagles flights between 1999 and 2007, and attended the EAA Air Academy as a teenager. With parents who were also EAA members, she spent many Saturdays helping out at chapter events, such as pancake breakfasts.

“Even as a kid I knew I wanted to fly, but it wasn’t until high school that I learned about ROTC and I found out that military aviation was an option,” she said. “ROTC allowed me to pay for a world-class education and guaranteed me a job. It was the best of both worlds.”

Fiona earned her private pilot certificate at age 20, and in 2013, she received her bachelor’s degree in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In June 2013, she joined the U.S. Navy, completed her flight training at Pensacola, Florida, and then moved to Jacksonville where she now flies the P-8.

Why the P-8? “I like the crew mindset versus the single seat, and I like that lifestyle of not being based on a ship,” she said. “So when I deploy overseas, I live there and get to experience another culture firsthand.”

She has logged 700 hours in the air, 400 of which are in the P-8, Fiona said.

Her parents, who have camped in Vintage during each AirVenture for the past 25 or 30 years, greeted her and were “beaming with pride” when she landed, Fiona said. They brought a contingent of friends with them, who call themselves “The Metro Warbirds,” and who camp with them. “That group watched me grow up, and they were all proud to see me come in and land at AirVenture,” Fiona said.

Fiona hopes to get a little sightseeing in before she leaves Oshkosh. She planned first to walk through Warbirds and the classic biplanes. She was also excited to be part of the WomenVenture group photo taken Wednesday, July 26.

To other Young Eagles, Fiona encourages them not to be scared off by aviation. “Don’t worry about the price tag, or the amount of training,” she said. “It is accessible and worth it.”

For the girls in the group, she encourages them to “go for it.” “Girls, there is nothing in aviation that a man can do better than you. It’s all about precision, coordination, and dedication.”

Fiona isn’t sure she’ll get another opportunity to fly into AirVenture in a military aircraft, but hopes to one day fly in her own plane. “It would be really cool to build something small and sporty, something affordable that I could fly now.”

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