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Resident Tom Rose had quite a career in aviation!

Topeka Presbyterian Manor resident Tom Rose was known to service aircraft owned by the likes Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye during his days at Learjet. While that may seem impressive, it’s far from his biggest accomplishment.

“When I retired, I set to work building an airplane in my garage,” he said. “It was the first home-built plane to fly in Kansas and the most successful model of home-built airplanes in history.”

The low wing, single engine, tip up canopy, two passenger plane is still a sense of pride for Rose, formerly of Halstead, Kansas. It was, in many ways, the culmination of a life spent in aviation.

“I joined the Air National Guard at 17,” he recalled. “I finished high school with the Guard, then went into the Air Force in 1957.”

Rose met his wife, Carol, during that period and after getting out of the Air Force in 1962 he worked on large propeller airplanes, including the B-29. He eventually got both his pilot’s license and his mechanic’s license and eventually ended up at Beech Aircraft. He then built prototypes for Cessna. In between, he worked on the first 100 Learjet planes ever produced.

“Things slowed down in the aviation industry in the 70s after Vietnam ended,” he said. “At that time, I joined the Santa Fe Railroad and stayed there until I retired, but I never lost my love for aircraft and aviation.”

That’s when he set to work building the two-passenger plane that made Kansas history.

If you’d like to learn more about Tom’s career in aviation, just ask him! He’d love to share his story.

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