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A Restored Classic, Erco Ercoupe 415-C, Added to the EAA Great Aircraft Raffle

April 2, 2020 - This year, EAA will be raffling off two airplanes during the EAA Great Aircraft Raffle at AirVenture. The addition of this second raffle airplane is made possible due to the generous donation of the Roach family.

John P. Roach, EAA 1344059, said EAA AirVenture Oshkosh meant the world to his late father, John A. Roach, so it was a no-brainer when talking with his siblings that their father's Ercoupe should be donated to EAA as the second raffle airplane.

John A. Roach started flying in the 1970s when his wife gave him a gift certificate for ground school. He later received his private pilot certificate and started flying at the Detroit City Airport, now known as the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport, in his Cessna 172.

As time went by and as his friends started moving away from the area, John decided it was time to move on as well. John had moved to Illinois and it was there that he had decided he wanted something smaller and lighter.

So, John made the decision to sell his 172 and purchase an Ercoupe, and it was one of the best decisions he had ever made; his Ercoupe soon became his pride and joy.

"He just really liked the way it looked and it was a classic airplane and it had some idiosyncrasies like no rudder pedals, which he always thought was great fun," John P. Roach said. "It was such an interesting-looking airplane that whenever he went to a fly-in with it, everybody always wanted to come over and look at it."

When John would take his Ercoupe to fly-ins and chapter outings at his local airport in Galt, Illinois, the kids would start lining up to go for a ride.

From that point on, John became immersed in EAA. He decided to move to Oshkosh one year later in 2007 and purchase a hangar at Wittman Regional Airport.

"He was very active as a Young Eagles pilot for a while; he was active in volunteering for EAA for quite a few years in the fab shop and then over at Pioneer," John P. Roach said. "He was there quite a bit so it was a great place for him to keep the airplane."

AirVenture was the highlight of each year for John. In fact, he would show up three months early just to hang out and volunteer on the grounds.

"He was one of the guys who would show up about April over in Audrey's Park," John said. "He had an old RV over there and he would show up and then he would stay through the end of the convention for another month or so to help wrap things up, and he did that for quite a few years."

John describes his father as the type of person who truly believed that volunteering was a way of making the world a better place. "He really believed in EAA being a volunteer organization, and he really loved being up there with all the other volunteers getting the show ready and then watching it happen."

When John's health started to fail, he parked his Ercoupe in his hangar at Wittman, closed the doors and walked away from that chapter of his life. After John died in March 2019, his Ercoupe had been sitting in his hangar for about eight years.

John P. Roach and his siblings were determined to open the hangar doors back up and let their father's airplane live on to see many more days of flying.

"It needed a lot of work, a lot of tender love and care, and I wanted to make sure that it didn't just continue to deteriorate," John said. "So, I approached EAA. I thought that would be a good choice, that they would do a really great job basically restoring it to its top condition, which is not something that I would have been able to do."

EAA aircraft maintenance manager John Hopkins said he and the crew at the Kermit Weeks Hangar are currently in the process of stripping it down to the barebones fuselage. Once that’s done, they will start to prep, prime, and paint the interior, put the controls back in and start to build it all back up again.

"I ordered a brand-new blank instrument panel and new glove boxes for it from Univair, so we are going to go back to a classic instrument panel design and get rid of the old one that was in there that had about seven or eight other holes cut in it that were covered up with scab patches," John said.

Friends of EAA from Poplar Grove Airmotive are pitching in to help with the restoration of this classic Ercoupe.

"They took the crank cases, the crank shaft, and the cam, and the lifters with them because they are going to inspect all that stuff," John said. "We will do the overhaul here ourselves, so we're going to replace anything inside the engine that needs to be replaced and put it back together, but they are helping us out to check everything out." John Hopkins said. "The engine has less than 200 hours on it since it was overhauled, but the overhaul was done 10 to 15 years ago."

John is also installing new struts to eliminate future maintenance on the airplane. "It currently has the standard landing gear shock struts on the airplane, which are these little rubber pucks," John Hopkins explained. "When the landing gear comes down and compresses, it compresses those rubber pucks and that's kind of your shock absorber for the landing gear system. The strut tubes in the piston that encapsulates all those rubber pucks are bad, top and bottom. So, rather than just buy more parts to replace the old design, Univair makes a strut where the pucks don't ever have to be replaced; typically you replace those little pucks about every five years."

While there is still a lot of work to be done, including sheet metal replacement and repair to the wings, there is no doubt that this airplane will be better than knew once the restoration is complete.

"We're doing some sheet metal replacement where we need to get rid of some old damage on the airplane so it looks much better when it's done," John Hopkins said. "We ordered a brand-new center-section fuel tank that we're going to put in it because the old one was going to fall apart anyway. The wings look good, they are going to get wet-sanded and then we'll do a final inspection, and then we'll spray them silver or something. We got a long way to go, but it's fun, and we're having a good time with it. It's an interesting little project. It's a work in progress, a diamond in the rough."

The goal is to have the Ercoupe finished by next fall, with plans to display the current work in progress during AirVenture 2020.

The most exciting part about this project is the chance for the raffle winner to be part of the restoration.

"We are going to leave the fuselage bare and then the new [raffle] winner, we will give them two or three painting options, they would pick the option that they prefer, and then we would paint it to the winner's liking," John Hopkins said.

John P. Roach said he is excited to see his father's Ercoupe live to serve another generation of aviation enthusiasts. "I was real happy to donate, just mostly because I knew that it was going to get fixed up and that would make my dad happy, to know that it was in good shape and somebody was flying it. EAA was such a special thing for my dad, and he really did make it a big part of his life — EAA was really the biggest thing he had going in his life. I'm happy we got the airplane to a good home and we helped out a great organization."

The current raffle that started during last year's AirVenture will conclude on Monday, July 20, at 3 p.m. The winning ticket will be drawn before the Monday evening concert. The grand prize will be a Patriot Aircraft model 18 series Recruit designed by C&D Aviation.

The second raffle, for the Ercoupe, will begin immediately after the drawing for the PA-18 on Monday, July 20, and conclude at noon on Sunday, July 26. The drawing will take place at 3:30 p.m. at the EAA AirVenture Welcome Center. Just like the first raffle, only 4,000 tickets will be sold at $100 apiece.

Due to Wisconsin statutes regarding charity raffles, tickets must be physically purchased in Wisconsin. The winner can also elect a cash prize of $25,000 in lieu of the aircraft.

Proceeds from the EAA Great Airplane Raffle support the organization's growing educational and outreach programs, including KidVenture, Young Eagles, and museum education programs such as Space Day and Winter Flight Fest.

Ercoupe Specs:

Aircraft Make & Model: Erco Ercoupe 415-C
Length: 20 feet, 9 inches
Wingspan: 30 feet
Height: 5 feet, 11 inches
Maximum Gross Weight: 1,260 pounds
Empty Weight: 725 pounds
Seats: 2
Powerplant Make & Model: Continental A-75
Horsepower: 75 hp
Cruise Speed/Fuel Consumption: 105 mph/5 gph
Power Loading: 19.4 pounds/hp
Wing Loading: 8.8 pounds/square foot
VNE: 117 mph

Specs subject to change.

Stay tuned for more information in the June issue of EAA Sport Aviation.

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