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Mon, Sep 15, 2003

Who Is Rip Gooch And Why Do We Owe Him?

80-Year Old Aviation Pioneer Feted In Wichita

African-Americans in aviation owe a huge debt to U.L. "Rip" Gooch, even though a lot of aviators have never heard of the name. Saturday, though, scores of Gooch's friends got together to honor the pioneer, who's now 80-years old.

The Wichita Eagle reports the three-term state senator was honored over the weekend at Wichita State University. Friends and fans came from as far away as Detroit and Orlando to honor Gooch.

Over the past 55 years, Gooch has logged more than 18,000 hours as PIC. He wanted to be a commercial pilot, but the times were such as that was impossible. So, he became the country's first black FBO owner, offering aircraft maintenance, fuel services and flight instruction. "He had the cheapest airplanes in town, and soon I found out he was the best instructor in town," said Steve Hall, one of Gooch's first employees. "He also has integrity. I would not be where I am now had it not been for him."

"I accept that," said Gooch, humbled by the tribute, "and I hope it is as true as they seem to think it is," he said. "I hope I'm able to do more."

FMI: www.kansassenatedemocrats.org/gooch.htm

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