By Tom Anderson, EAA 780116
One could say that my father, Thomas C. Anderson Sr., was sort of a pioneer in farming-related aviation. He purchased our Aeronca Champ in August of 1946, to use in marketing his apple and peach crops in western Tennessee. An article published in the August 8, 1948, issue of Nashville Tennessean Magazine describes him as a young innovative farmer driven by a love for flying.
He and my mother lived in the small community of Cloverport, Tennessee — the nearest telephone was about seven miles away in Toone and the roadside market was in Whiteville, 30 miles from home. Not only could he fly to use the phone in Toone to call wholesalers, but the Champ could also deliver several bushels of apples and peaches to the market in a short time. The Champ was also used to fly to Jackson for farm machinery parts and chemicals.
As for me, Thomas C. Anderson Jr., I soloed in the Champ in 1964, after lessons from my father. I will never forget the day he told me to get into the front seat, a first for me, and “take it around the field.” The takeoff was magnificent, but then followed that gut-wrenching feeling when I realized I had to get it back on our 1,300 foot grass strip safely.
In the following years, I purchased a new 1966 Skylane and went on to earn my instrument rating. The Skylane is gone now and I am back to the old “seat of the pants” flying in the Champ.
I have all the logbooks, including the one where it was ferried from Middletown, Ohio. I have also discovered a repair and alteration form, where a damaged right wing, rudder, and aileron were replaced with factory new parts due to a ground loop in a pasture in July 1947. My dad never told me about that little incident! He did admit, probably only because there were witnesses, that he caught a power line while buzzing the picking crew in our orchard. The high power line snapped and caught on the left wheel. My father said he felt like a bumblebee on a string as he was pulled around the power pole. Only quick thinking and full power kept this from being a horrible accident. The wire broke in another place and came in on the Aeronca’s wheel. I’ve kept that cable to this day as a reminder not to buzz.
As the picture from 1948 shows, my sister and I both had an early interest in flying. She eventually obtained her pilot certificate, as did my mother.
My parents have been gone for more than 20 years. The Champ, though, and my love for flying it, will remain for as long as I do.