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The Young Fixing the Old - Wisconsin Champ

From January 2016 Sport Aviation

By Emily Noack, EAA 848998; Oshkosh, Wisconsin

February 10, 2016 - I come from a very aviation-oriented family, so it was only natural that, while everyone in school wanted cars for their 16th birthday, I was sitting thinking about how cool it would be to have an airplane. I always knew deep down I wanted to own an airplane; it was just a matter of when. When I was 22, my mother, Tracy, just happened to be covering the fuselage and right wing of an Aeronca 7AC Champ. We found out that the owner planned on selling the project sometime in the future, so I ended up buying it. Even though I owned the airplane, my mother and my friend Justin Spence were a big part of the decision to buy it, because of course it wasn’t a flying airplane at the time. My mother was in charge of the covering, and at this time we decided to make it a partial restoration and re-cover the entire aircraft. The first thing I did on the project was uncover the left wing and tail feathers. While my mother finished the covering, Justin was in charge of the remainder of the restoration, assembly, painting, and maintenance. We redid the floorboards out of new ply. Originally it had this really ugly carpet, so we decided to stain and varnish the wood instead.

I was eager to start the build, but I was also reminded that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” so the following weeks consisted of going through what we had and what we needed, and making lists. Once the covering was finished, we ran into the problem of where we would paint the airplane. We pulled all the strings we could find, but a year down the line we had gotten nowhere.

Thus, the Area 51 paint booth was born—in my parents’ backyard! This got the ball rolling again, and boy did it roll. Justin finally got back into the groove, beginning the tradition of late nights and unhealthy foods. He came up with a paint scheme earlier in the project: still keeping the young twist on the old, without being the norm.

There were many opinions on how the Champ should have been painted, but with Justin and me being stubborn, we were dead set on the design at hand. He and I began the painting process. Justin, being the artist he is, gave me the opportunity (more like slave duty) to sand, strip, and clean all the parts. Of course, he came to the rescue and helped with some of the pieces I struggled with. Once all of that was taken care of, we ventured forth with the painting! I was in charge of prepping the paint booth so it was ready for him, which included setting up fans, compressors, air lines, and paintprepping all the pieces. Justin was the master of painting and laying down all the stripes. The project went from fresh covering to completely painted in three weeks. Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

The Champ took its final trailer ride as we got all the pieces and parts back to the hangar and began the process of getting them in close formation again. For the first time in over a year, we got it up on its feet.

Although you may not believe it, two 23-year-olds, with the help of friends and family, had the airplane ready to fly a week later.

After finishing up some loose ends, I was excitedly awaiting the first flight of the airplane but was also a little nervous.

On October 11, 2015, a Sunday morning, the final inspection was done, and the airplane was given a clean bill of health. Outside the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it was time for the Champ to fly again. Showing his feelings like a rock, Justin quietly got his gear and strapped himself in. With the swift flick of the prop by his brother, Matthew Spence, and the smooth purr of the Continental A65, the Champ was ready to go.

I remember watching the Champ make its way out to the taxiway. So many feelings were going through my head. As I saw Justin and the Champ speeding down the runway (at a whopping 60 mph), I couldn’t contain the tears that came out of my eyes. Once I saw it lift of the runway I just felt happy. I couldn’t even really describe it. I just knew I was a proud owner.

Finally, seeing Justin taxi in smiling like a 3-year-old in a candy store, we knew everything went well. Then the picture taking began.

Throughout this project, I learned so much. I was proud of myself, and I was proud of Justin and my mom, and I was happy for all the help and support we got from all our friends. Now that one of my goals is accomplished, I am onto my next, which is learning to fly in the Champ. The future contains blue skies and endless adventures for this beautiful aircraft.

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