From the Cockpit Part 18: Aeronca Model 7 Champion

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 18 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Rankin’s latest flight takes him a bit farther afield, heading to St. Matthews, SC, to fly one of the famous Aeronca Model 7 Champions. A simple tailwheel trainer, the Champ, as it’s affectionately known, was introduced to the aviation market in 1945 as a primary competitor to the Piper Cub, which Rankin flew in week seven of this year. With no frills and minimal gadgetry, these trainers emphasize the basics of stick and rudder work, he says, to the benefit of even experienced pilots. “They highlight proper flying,” he says. “The Champ is no different.”

Though a simple and uneventful 45-minute flight, Rankin says it remains one of his most meaningful yet, thanks to the hospitality he received and the people he met. A big part of the project has always been the human element and Rankin never flies alone, but when he called pilot Steve Hawley—whom he’d never met—about flying the Champ, he didn’t expect to be invited to his house for the weekend, where he slept in the guest room and shared meals with Hawley and his wife, Adele. “These people opened their home to someone they didn’t know,” says Rankin, and he saw firsthand how flying brings people together. Hawley met Adele when he was 16 and her just three years younger. Even then he would take her flying in the old biplane, impressing her with loops and turns. They still fly together.

It’s a testament to the power of flight. “Airplanes are airplanes and airplane people are airplane people,” explains Rankin. And that’s also how Rankin and Hawley, two pilots 50 years apart and flying an airplane crafted somewhere in the middle, were soon conversing like old pals. “Passions can connect people,” Rankin says. “Age is just a number at that point.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin and Steve Hawley fly the Aeronca Champion. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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