As a young girl, Kimberly Thompson was always captivated by the planes that landed at Owen Roberts Airport.
But her defining moment came when the young Caymanian recently accomplished her first solo flight at age 16 and the teen is set to soon get her pilot license at just 17.
‘As a little girl growing up Kimberly was a smart, talkative child who wanted to know and get into everything that was going on,’ said her mom Bertha. ‘She was never one to leave chores undone and was always trying to invent something.’
Today the bright teen has made an aspiration come true, family members happy, and friends and classmate in awe of her accomplishments.
‘When it comes to flying a single engine plane or driving a car, they are about the same at this point in time,’ said Kimberly. ‘Flying to me just comes naturally now. Once you get the hang of it’s quite easy.
‘It is very beautiful to fly but it is nothing you toy with. I always think it is a mix between art and science.
‘Flying a plane leaves little margin for error. I learned the hard way one day when I pushed down on the controls too quickly and the plane descended very rapidly and scared me. But after I got it under control it was OK.’ she said.
Kimberly’s love of flying was greatly influenced by her father.
‘He flew for Cayman Airways for a number of years and loved every minute of it. At two years of age he gave me my first glimpse of the plane’s cockpit and I never forgot.
‘During weekends he would take the family for trips to Little Cayman in his twin engine plane.’
Kimberly said it was during one of those trips when she was about nine years old that her father said if anything was to happen to him in flight, he would want one of the family to know how to fly the plane.
‘That was when he suggested one of us should go and get a little bit of training. My sister said definitely not, and she quickly whispered ‘you do it’. I thought about it and then I went for simulator courses in the States on weekends.
‘After that, days were spent flying with my father in his twin engine plane which has two flight controls, one to the right and one to the left.
‘It is much easier to fly a single engine plane than a twin engine because everything happens much slower.
‘When I fly that plane by myself I do not have anyone to talk to, so it is basically just talking to myself, concentrating, enjoying the ride and visualising the landing in my head.
‘It is really a rush. If I feel upset from school or just having a bad day I go flying. It somehow just takes it all away,’ she said.
‘I love to be up in the sky. Just knowing that I am in control and I am flying the plane gives me confidence.
‘When I am going in for a landing, I slow down the plane, get clearance from the tower, start the descent adding or decreasing flaps, check the altitude with precision approach path indicators, and just bring the plane in. It all sounds easy but it takes concentration.
‘I always remember my father saying, birds fly and only fools fly at night.
‘His reasons were you get a different perspective from flying at night. Flying at night is more of a challenge because you cannot see the ground, but I do not mind, the challenge is exhilarating.’
For other teens wanting to take up flying, Kimberly says go for it. ‘It is a lot of work and it takes a while to get to where you can fly solo but I did it and I am quite sure if they put their minds to it, they can do it,’ she said.
Kimberly says when she finishes school she will be attending UCCI and then probably go oversees for her masters in Business Administration. She also hopes to work on becoming a commercial pilot to work for her favourite airline, Cayman Airways.
Kimberly has four sisters and one brother but none of them has expressed the desire to fly.
Ms Bertha said that one time her son had expressed the desire to fly the mosquito plane but she discouraged him because of her fear of flying.
Kimberly will always remember Grandpa Norberg Thompson and Grandma Mary. ‘He never liked me flying but he never told me to stop. He said if it was what I wanted to do, go for it. And for that I admire him very much,’ she said.
Kimberly also has the greatest admiration for pilot Devon McLaughlin, who flies the Cayman Airways Express, for his thoroughness and patience in helping her to achieve goal.