Not many people can say that they are a licensed pilot. Flying is a very challenging skill to have that takes hours of studying and practice in order to master. However, in Merritt there is a family of pilots, the Scholtens, whose youngest girl already had a license to fly before she could even drive.
“It’s pretty funny how I can fly people around but I can’t drive them anywhere,” said Susana Scholtens, the 17 year old who only has her learners license but already has her private pilot’s license, allowing her to legally fly anyone on a plane.
The young pilot actually got her learners license before even doing flight training, but due to the high volume of work she had to put in for flying, driving had to take a back seat.
“I already got used to flying when I started driving so it was a little bit different because other airplanes aren’t that close to you when you’re flying,”
“When I was driving, things were so close to me that it would freak me out a bit. I’m used to a lot more space when flying.”
Scholtens along with her two sisters, Lily, 22, and Yvonne, 19 took a course at Vayu Aviation in Kamloops, back in the summer of 2021.
“We spent the whole summer together, every weekend in Kamloops,” she said. “We got to see each other fly, we never flew together but each of our experiences are the same and it was very nice.”
The sisters had their father, Geoff as their class 4 instructor during their time at Vayu. Geoff has been in aviation for most of his life and had last been teaching in the late 90’s.
“I didn’t expect them all to be interested in it. I took them for rides as a father but their interests, basically, developed on their own,” he explained.
“We’re a family that does lots of things together and flying was just one of those things.”
The Scholtens moved to Merritt, from China in 2016. After settling down, Geoff Scholtens was able to buy a sea plane in 2019. This gave him the opportunity to fly his girls around.
“When my wife said I could buy an airplane, she said ‘I’d also like you to be able to teach your daughters.”
Susana Scholtens recalled being around the airport when her father was working on the newly purchased aircraft. She remembered flying over Nicola Lake with their plane, inspiring her to learn how to fly as well.
“We flew around the lake and was an awesome experience,” Scholtens recalled. “Being able to fly and see all the sceneries, the rush of adrenaline from the fact that I’m really doing this, it makes me think that God is really good for allowing me to see his creation this way. It made me really want to become a pilot.”
“Susana’s a natural learner and she is very studious,” said her dad.
“Most pilots do about 40 hours of ground school, she did about 120 hours. When she got into an airplane, she knew all the theory so the practical aspect came easy for her.”
On October 19, 2021, Susana Scholtens was able to get her recreational license after taking her flight test allowing her to fly on her own, with passengers, around Canada. Earlier this year, on April 25 she was able to secure her private pilot license which allows her to fly on her own, with passengers, around the world.
According to Scholtens, the experience was very rewarding and she recommends it to people considering getting their own license.
“I would say go for it, It’s a little bit hard with the workload but it’s definitely worthwhile to do it, you meet a lot of great people, and you get to fly a plane which is really awesome,” she explained.
“Some things are definitely easier than it looks. When we take off, it’s a very easy experience, you hit the throttle and when you hit 75 mph you just lift your nose and up you go.”
Scholtens assisted her father in recent Community Airport Day on Sunday, July 16. She will be helping the pilots flying in an exhibition through radio to coordinate them, avoiding any collisions in the air.
She is also currently working on getting her float rating, allowing her to land planes in the water. On top of all of this, Scholtens looks forward to taking her drivers test in September so she can finally travel both by air and by land.