WWII pilot’s son making his father’s plane airworthy

An Aeronca 7AC Champion, built 1946. Image by Arpingstone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An Aeronca 7AC Champion, built 1946. Image by Arpingstone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) – The son of a World War II Army Air Corps pilot, Shreveport businessman Steve Roop was born into aviation.

Now, more than 60 years after his father, Clarence Roop, earned his civilian pilot’s license, Steve Roop is restoring the Aeronca Champion his father used during his training.

“I used to fly with him, and when he got out of the war he used this airplane to train in to get all of his civilian equivalent licenses,” said Roop, who works in Shreveport as a senior vice president for JP Morgan Chase and Co.

Clarence Roop served as a pilot during World War II and also in Korea as a flight trainer. He flew the Aeronca upon his return from World War II.

“His last flight in this airplane was March 30, 1948,” said Roop, who flew along with his father as a toddler when their family lived in Pampas, Texas.

“I ended up eaten-up with the want to fly just from hanging around the airport with my dad and flying with him,” Roop said.

After receiving his civilian license, Clarence Roop got a job working with Humble Oil Co., which later became Exxon.

“He flew pipeline patrol for Humble Oil Co.. They would patrol the long stretches of pipeline that they had to check for leaks or look for people who may be preparing to dig a trench across it or do something they really shouldn’t do,” Roop said.

It was during one of the pipeline patrols on April 23, 1962 that Clarence Roop’s plane crashed, killing him. Steve Roop was just 4 years old at the time.

The devastating loss of his father wouldn’t deter Roop from taking wing again.

“When I was growing up, in high school I had a five-speed Schwinn bicycle and an airplane,” Roop joked. “I had a plane before I had a car.”

But it wasn’t until 2011 when Roop discovered his father’s former training craft, the Aeronca Champion.

“I decided I wanted to go back up to the panhandle of Texas and Pampas to go see the house we used to live in,” said Roop who also decided to visit the airport where he remembers flying with his father.

“I landed over in Texas at a little airport and there was an old Humble pipeline patrol plane, and I wondered if my dad ever flew that one,” Roop said.

After a little digging, Roop managed to determine the particular plane wasn’t the one his father had flown, however he discovered information leading to the Aeronca, which was still in operation in north Texas.

“It turned out he was a guy named Jerry who restored antique airplanes,” Roop said. “I told him I would love to come see it and he said if the weather is good we can fly it.”

At the time, the plane wasn’t for sale, but late last year Roop received a call that the owner was looking to sell.

“His health wasn’t good and his son had just bought a restored airplane,” said Roop. “He said my son doesn’t want it and you have a family tie to it that’s pretty strong.”

The aircraft isn’t just a sentimental means of conveyance; it’s also a work of excellent engineering.

“Aeronca had built airplanes since way back in the ’20s, they are one of the earliest small aircraft manufacturers in the country,” Roop said. “This champ was built right after the war when aircraft manufacturers were looking for all of these tens of thousands of pilots trained during World War II; to want to fly airplanes, so all the manufacturers kind of went crazy building airplanes in 1946.”

Aeronca built more than 7,000 Champions that year.

“It’s amazing considering they are largely hand built,” Roop said.

Roop, who estimates the Champion will be back in the air within the year, hopes the plane will remain in the family for generations to come, and is currently training his daughter and her husband to fly.

“He got the airplane on my birthday,” said Francie Tabor, Roop’s daughter. “I love the history behind it.”

Tabor grew up flying with her father in the family’s Piper Archer, and is no stranger to aviation.

“According to Mom, when she was pregnant with me we would be flying,” Tabor said. “They would put a car seat in the back of the plane and go fly with me.”

Right now, Roop is waiting for the final necessary piece to make the plane flight-capable: a refurbished engine.

“The airplane was immaculately restored about 400 hours ago,” said Roop, who uses aviation terms to describe the amount of time restoration professionals have spent working on the Champion. “The one thing that’s original on the airplane is the motor. It has not been touched ever as far as having a major overhaul which is incredible.”


Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-01-13 1314GMT


An Aeronca 7AC Champion, built 1946. Image by Arpingstone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An Aeronca 7AC Champion, built 1946. Image by Arpingstone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.