Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Aeronca 7AC Champion, N84583: Accident occurred May 27, 2022 in Monongahela, Pennsylvania

National Transportation Safety Board accident report number: ERA22LA244 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Allegheny, Pennsylvania

Aircraft crashed in a wooded area for unknown reasons. 


Date: 27-MAY-22
Time: 23:02:00Z
Regis#: N84583
Aircraft Make: AERONCA
Aircraft Model: 7AC
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: SERIOUS
Aircraft Missing: No
Damage: UNKNOWN
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91
City: MONONGAHELA
State: PENNSYLVANIA

Carlos Cabral, left, and Harry Bochter




Harry Bochter and Jacqueline Cabral

Harry Bochter

Harry Bochter

Anna Marie and Harry Bochter


Carlos Cabral helps push the Aeronca into its hangar.




November 2021 -   With a successful swing of a wooden propeller, Harry Bochter was ready to celebrate.

For his 75th birthday, he decided to pilot an airplane that is older than he is, but just barely.

“It was taken off the assembly line in May 1946. And I was taken off the assembly line in October 1946,” he joked after landing the two-seat Aeronca Champion on the grass near his home-away-from-home hangar at Finleyville Airport.

A look inside the hangar reveals why flying represents the best birthday option for Bochter. The front is full of tools and equipment for tasks such as fabricating parts – he has built his own plane – and his office in the back essentially serves as an aviation reference library, one that got its start when he was a youngster.

“My aunt had a candy store in Burgettstown, and she had magazines. There was an Air Progress,” he said. “I stared at that thing, and I just fell in love with airplanes. At the end of my stay with her, she said, ‘Do you want to take that magazine with you?’ I said, ‘yeah,’ and I still have it today.”

Bochter, who lives in Pleasant Hills, went on to join the Experimental Aircraft Association as a junior member when he was about 14. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he decided to take his interest to the next level by making a significant purchase.

“My first airplane was a 1941 Aeronca Defender. It was a World War II surplus airplane that I bought in '68, and I had that for a few years. Back then, it was just another old airplane. Now it’s a ‘warbird,’” he said, referring to vintage military aircraft that fetch premium prices.

Aeronca – that’s shorthand for Aeronautical Corp. of America – holds a prominent place in aviation history as the first successful light airplane, designed by pioneering aviator Jean A. Roche (1894-1981), who made his initial flight just eight years after the Wright Brothers.

The yellow-and-orange ’46 Aeronca that Bochter piloted actually belongs to Peters Township residents Carlos and Jacqueline Cabral, who operate Vortex Helicopter Services in hangars near his.

“The reason I’m here is because of Harry,” Carlos said. “My son and I came to visit the airport, and Harry was in his hangar working on his airplane. He was just very kind and started telling us about the airplane that he built, which is now in the helicopter’s hangar. He gave my son a wooden propeller, which is still in his bedroom, up on the wall.”

He also introduced Cabral to Gary Gries, the late aviation enthusiast who sold him the Aeronca. Bochter often works on keeping it in good condition, his penchant for producing spare parts helping to cut down on costs.

“It has a few blemishes, but it flies well,” Cabral said. “The more scratches and dings it has on it, the more it’s been used.”

Bochter used it on his birthday to circle not all that far above Finleyville Airport as his spouse of 44 years, Anna Marie, joined Cabral in chronicling the adventure on their smartphones. Harry acknowledged her role in his ability to pursue his avocation.

“It helps to have an understanding wife in all this,” he said.

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