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One Young Eagle’s Journey

By Tom Barry

  • One Young Eagle’s Journey
    The proud new pilot after his checkride.
  • One Young Eagle’s Journey
    Virtual pilot Tyler Barry, age 8, at the controls of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
  • One Young Eagle’s Journey
    Tyler after his Young Eagles flight with pilot Nathan Abel.
  • One Young Eagle’s Journey
    A proud pilot and his first passenger, an even prouder father.
  • One Young Eagle’s Journey
    Tyler’s first flight with his mother.

August 10, 2016 - After my son Tyler Barry, EAA 1105233, successfully completed his checkride on Friday, July 29, I found myself reflecting on where it all began:  with a dream, a Young Eagles flight, and a handshake that has blossomed into lifetime friendships. The loss of someone dear that has paid forward in unimaginable ways, a legacy, the intersection of coincidence and destiny, a community of people turned into family who if not for a flight and a handshake would most likely have never crossed paths.

This all started with a chance meeting on a cold January morning at Hicks Airfield (T67) in Fort Worth, Texas. My then 14-year-old son had a scheduled introductory flight with Nathan Abel, EAA Lifetime 633412, who was the EAA Chapter 670 Young Eagles coordinator. I remember the excitement my son had despite the uncertainty of the flight due to low ceilings, but things cleared up. The flight was done and then came the handshake, setting in motion a young man’s quest to become a pilot.

Unfortunately, shortly after Tyler took his Young Eagles flight, Nathan was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. In the following weeks and months Tyler and Nathan created a fast friendship. Sadly, Nathan, despite his brave fight, lost the battle on May 28, 2013, at 39 years old.

In that short time Tyler was introduced to Nathan’s family and friends and had also been “adopted” by Chapter 670. Tyler became active in the chapter, even volunteering to speak at one meeting, giving a presentation on his grandfather who was on a historic B-29 flight. Then Chapter President Ben Morrison, EAA 288588, steered him to the local Hinshaw Flying Club to take his lessons. 

Nathan’s parents, Pops and Barb, have been amazing advocates for Tyler and other young aviators as well. There was a fundraiser at the Beacon Café and Corner Store restaurant at T67 the weekend before Nathan passed away, in the following years they decided to start holding a fundraiser, now called Fly Kids for Nate, every Memorial Day to raise money to help fund other kids’ flight dreams.

The Larson family was also instrumental in Tyler’s training, taking him flying in between lessons and helping him review material. 

This has been an amazing journey with so many family and friends who have supported Tyler’s efforts. The aviation community is amazing!

In the past three years, besides the flying skills and knowledge, Tyler has learned a lot about life and all the responsibilities of being a pilot.

We were tremendously worried when a week before his checkride, Tyler’s designated pilot examiner had a family emergency that required him to cancel the checkride, which we signed up for more than a month and a half ago, as the DPEs are quite backed up. However, after several calls we were miraculously able to secure another flight examiner for the same day we had scheduled. 

We did not know at the time that this new DPE was the man who signed Nate off on his private pilot certificate many years ago. A last minute scheduling change brought Mr. Graben into the mix. Coincidence? 

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