U. L. Gooch
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U. L. 'Rip' Gooch is a former pilot and Kansas state senator from 1992 until January 2004.
The son of rural Tennessee sharecroppers and the grandson of emancipated slaves, Gooch was orphaned at age four and fended for himself growing up in the 1920s and 1930s under the shadow of Jim Crow. Working in fields while watching airplanes fly overhead, he dreamed of escaping to a better life.
Despite earning his wings on the GI Bill after World War II, Rip couldn’t find full-time aviation work because he was black. Rip moved to Wichita, Kansas in 1951, where he began to work for Boeing Airplane Company. After battling racism as an inspector with Boeing in the 1950s, he decided to start his own flight business, which provided a stepping stone for a number of other black pilots.
In the years since moving to the Air Capital, his aviation career included being a flight instructor, the owner of a Mooney Aircraft distributorship for Kansas and parts of Missouri, and operating an air taxi operation moving classified information between military bases in 17 states.
U. L. 'Rip' Gooch is a pilot with 20,000 flight hours, a retired Federal Aviation Authority pilot examiner and retired Kansas state senator, and one of the few African Americans to serve on the Wichita City Council, among other careers. He is a member of the Black Aviation Hall of Fame, and currently resides in Wichita, Kansas.