A rare 1936 Aeronca LB airplane restored by its local co-owners is being recognized by the vintage aircraft community.
The airplane won Reserve Grand Champion in July at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual fly-in event in Oshkosh, Wisc. It will be featured on the cover of the September/October edition of “Vintage Airplane” magazine.
This Aeronca “low-wing” airplane is one of only seven still in existence, and only 65 were made originally, said co-owner Jim Hammond of Yellow Springs, who is also owner of the Mill Park Hotel in Yellow Springs.
“This is the only one currently flying,” Hammond said.
The Aeronca was grounded in Indiana after the engine started making noises on the flight back from Oshkosh.
“Those old engines start talking to you before they fail,” Hammond said.
Hammond said it took years — somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 hours — to restore the airplane.
That restoration work was started by Jack Tiffany, the late husband of co-owner Kate Tiffany of Spring Valley Twp. Tiffany said her husband worked on the plane off-and-on for about nine years.
Tiffany, a teacher at Greene County Career Center and a licensed airframe mechanic, said she helped her husband finish rebuilding the wings, which are made of wood and wrapped with a polyfiber fabric.
“I remember seeing it take off for the first time. That was a special day,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany said she and her husband had attended previous fly-in events in Oshkosh, and they won an award for a restored Pitcairn Autogiro, a predecessor to helicopters.
“When we received the award this year, I said ‘God, Jack that took longer than a lifetime to finish,’” she said. “He was so passionate about aviation that I’m sure he was there.”
The Aeronca was built during the “Golden Age of airplanes” between the world wars when airplanes were “very colorful, very beautiful and sleek,” Tiffany said.
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Hammond said it’s nice to see vintage airplanes in museums, but seeing them fly is “a whole different experience.”
“When you take off in that thing, it’s 1936 again. It’s pretty cool,” he said.
Tiffany said she is looking forward to retirement and working on her new project, restoring a Piper J3 Cub that’s sitting in her garage.
“I want to work on airplanes in my garage. That’s just kind of what I want to do,” she said.