Monday, August 4, 2008

The Hopgrasser

I mentioned before about the little Aeronca 7AC Champ that my Dad and I restored from 1976 to 1979.

As a High Schooler during those years, I think my friends must have thought of me as a strange kid because I spent a lot of hours working on this project rather than goofing off with them. But what a rewarding endeavor! I learned how to strip paint, fabricate wood and sheet metal parts, repair ribs, varnish spars, sandblast steel tubing, make new control cables, rivet cowlings, cut out interior patterns, balance propellers, replace bushings, apply dope and fabric, install windows, and detail instruments. There are too many things to mention them all. But the most important part of it all was the time I spent with my Dad.

Together we ordered parts, selected paint colors, and made many decisions.

1976 - Dad found out about this airplane stored for several years in a goat shed in Burnet county just a few miles from our home-base.

When it came time to name the airplane, we had tossed around a few ideas until one day my nephew Nat came up with a catchy name... I think he was about 6-yrs old. He wasn't thinking of the airplane, but rather playing with a coffee can and bugs in the back yard of my sister's house. He called me over to show me his prize catch of the day and said... "Look Uncle Terry, Its a HOPGRASSER". Well that name stuck and my dad hired a friend to design and paint the creature on the tail. From then on, our little Champ was affectionately known by this name. The first flight after restoration was made by Dad (and me in the back seat) in the Fall of 1979. Thas was a surprize too... because I was under the impression we were doing a Taxi test only... I am sure I had a large grin when Dad lifted her off the runway.

My very first solo was in this airplane... and later after earning my license, I enjoyed taking all the family and many friends up for buddy rides. I wish now that I had logged all of my passengers and noted those for whom it was their very first airplane ride. I know there were many and what a joy it was to share the simple days of flying with them.

The Champ was sold in 1988 and my dad bought another Champ... a more modern one with starter and electrical system. I often think back about the memories we made with that little bird. We have not been in touch with the current owner. But a few months ago, I was surprized to find a photo posted on the internet (here) from last year's fly-in at Recklaw TX. I would say that Hopgrasser has weathered the 18 years quite well.

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