Resurrecting a Champ

Some thirty-odd years ago my brother Jimmy and I pooled what little money we had and bought a 1946 Champ from a flyer in Holland. We were absolutely geeked about our new find and as I recall we paid the lofty sum of $4600 for the old girl.

It was a pretty original Champ, 65 Horse Continental, wood spar, oleo gear, no radio, and no starter. We quickly mastered the art of chocking a wheel with our left foot and hand propping the old girl from behind the prop with left hand on the lift strut and crisp downward push from a right hand. The impulse coupler would “snap” and if you had set things up right the little Continental would catch its breath and “chug-chug-chug” away happily.

The glass was good and the view was terrific from the front seat. It had big sliding plexi windows on both sides to insure that we would not overheat in the cockpit while in flight. It did have a heater, and when winter came we enjoyed ourselves plying those frigid Michigan skies with one foot melting down in the blast from the heater scat tubing, while the other one froze in place on a rudder pedal. I scammed an old set of Federal Skis for it from the dusty rafters of a hangar up in the middle of the Lower Peninsula and we taught ourselves the giddy art of ski flying. Once mastered any old hay field would do as a likely runway.

If the day was rainy or drizzly and too bad to fly something else, a joyous afternoon could be had by cranking up the old Champ to cruise the river for miles just enjoying the smell of the av gas and leather and dope and sweat that permeated the soul of that little airplane.

Time is funny stuff, it clouds the memory. We only ever remember what we want or need to, and I really do not recall ever letting go of that little flying machine. I suspect I came up short on cash and turned my half over to my brother, but I really don’t know.

On a recent stop at the old home field I chanced upon my flying pal from the past, Roger Brown, as he puttered around his hangar. We yakked a bit and as I scanned the bits and pieces of airplane scattered around his dimly lit hangar, I spied what looked like a wingless Champ fuselage tucked away in the corner. Closer inspection revealed it to be the same Mediterranean Green color as my old Champ from the past. When I wandered closer still I could make out the number: 81613. You guessed it, our old airplane had been batted around from owner to owner for thirty years or so and had at last come to roost on the very field from which it had departed!

Roger showed me the various parts and pieces undergoing “reconditioning.” It was clear that the old girl was going to have a great home again and that some love and attention was being shown to her after the decades of being lost. N81613 would again fly the river on lazy afternoons or count the deer in a fall farm field with a hedgerow ablaze in autumn color from way up at 1000 feet!  Roger even has the skis.

Every once in a while, we do get to go back and visit some of the best days of our past. The little green bird is flying now and I am invited to spend some time once again floating above the earth in it. Those days spent turning sloppy circles in the skies over my old home town are surely worth going back to!

Roger recently provided me with some video of the “rebirth” of an old green Champ, I provide it here for your entertainment.


Roger Brown

Author: Roger Brown

Retired Printer/Publisher. Private Pilot since 1987 SEL&S. I fly strictly for fun and recreation. Also, as a place to park money that could certainly serve a better purpose elsewhere. I have about 2,500 PIC hours… nearly all is tailwheel or floats. I’ve owned a ratty old stock Stearman since 1990. The Stearman and I have landed in all 48 contiguous United States. (Alaska and Hawaii became states after the Stearman and I came along.) With a lot of help, I restored a Howard DGA15P project, purchased in 2010. The Howard was judged at Oshkosh in 2013 and won a Bronze Lindy. I am a Michigan native, but currently a Florida resident… (Snowbird). I have been dubbed “Ayatollah” of the Old Farts Flying Club of South Florida. We have over 300 names on the mailing list and fly somewhere for lunch every Thursday, during season. We have topped fifty planes at these informal gatherings. Married 46 years, with two kids and four grand kids.