Barbara Thurber obtained her pilot’s license in 1968, and within two years she became Fallbrook’s first homegrown certified flight instructor. Her flying career ended after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in April 1972, but she never lost her love of flying.
On Jan. 9, Fallbrook Air Service (FAS) gave Thurber a surprise – the opportunity to go up for another flight. FAS owner Tom Aberle was the pilot in the Cessna Cardinal C177 while FAS manager Jerry Aberle organized the event.
“She enjoyed it and her family got to see her go for a ride,” Jerry Aberle said.
Tom Aberle is Jerry Aberle’s father. Barbara Thurber’s father was Bill Thurber, who was best known as Fallbrook’s first fire chief but was also one of the founders of Fallbrook Community Air Park.
Tom Aberle’s parents founded Fallbrook Air Service, which provides flight instruction and hangar rental. Although Barbara Thurber’s affliction prevented her from flying, she remained with FAS as the office manager.
“She obviously knows the language, the lingo, the methodology,” Tom Aberle said.
“She’s been hanging out at the airport. Her drive is inspiring. Her passion for aviation is inspiring,” Jerry Aberle said.
“Her tenacity and her focus and love for aviation and the airport have always carried through,” Jerry Aberle said. “She’s inspirational. She’s an amazing lady.”
Darrell Murray loaned his Cardinal C177 for the ride. “We selected an airplane to be used very carefully,” Tom Aberle said.
Aberle explained that the disability access needs included suitable door width. He thought that getting Thurber in and out of the plane and her seat might be a challenge. “The use of that airplane made it very easy,” he said.
Thurber’s older daughter, Debbie McClaughry, sat in the back of the C177 to maintain separation between Thurber and the flight controls if Thurber became laterally unstable, although that did not happen
Thurber’s other daughter, Donna Basinger, watched the flight as did Thurber’s granddaughter, great-grandson, and great-granddaughter. Her grandson had to work in Murrieta that day although his wife, Kimberly McClaughry, is one of Thurber’s caregivers and was present as was Thurber’s other caregiver,
The Jan. 9 flight began around 10:15 a.m. and lasted approximately 40 minutes. “It was really very nice,” Thurber said. “It made me remember a lot of things.”
Tom Aberle took Thurber for a scenic aerial view of Fallbrook, including the ranch on Red Mountain her father owned. He also took Thurber for a view of Temecula. “Got her a look at French Valley, which she’s never seen from the air,” Aberle said
“I don’t think she stopped smiling until well after we were back on the ground. I think she enjoyed it tremendously, and I’m very happy we did it,” Tom Aberle said.
“It was really good,” Thurber said. “I’ll have to do it again next year.”