January MMU Spotlight: John Loofbourrow
John Loofbourrow has owned a T-hangar at Morristown Airport for over 25 years. Using general aviation for both his private investment banking company and love of flying, he has had three different aircraft during his time at MMU. Most recently, it’s been the Rutan Defiant, built and maintained all on his own.
CH: Corey Hanlon, DM AIRPORTS, LTD.
JL: John Loofbourrow, Defiant Owner
CH: John, were you born here in NJ?
JL: No, I was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.
CH: What brought you to New Jersey?
JL: I got transferred. I was with AT&T at the time. I was in software development. I was at Bell Labs for a while, and then down in Cranford, NJ they had a software development team. Then I left AT&T to join Solomon Brothers to head up their data processing. After that, I shifted into the investment banking world from that position. So, I started my own company in 1980 and have been doing financing of hospitals, charter schools, stuff like that.
CH: How did you get your start in aviation?
JL: It was always a hobby, my parents wouldn’t let me learn to fly, so when I was at school at Rensselaer, they had a flying club and I learned to fly on a Luscombe Silvaire. I flew it on skis at the airport in Troy.
CH: So, was that your first flying experience?
JL: Yes, I was college-aged, so early 20s. Then I got my license at Albany Airport, where I took the exam and flight test.
Then, I moved back to Shaker Heights and went to work for AT&T, well actually it was Ohio Bell, which was one of the Bell companies with AT&T. Since I had a growing family and all that, I couldn’t fly much. I’d go out once a month to the Chagrin Valley Airport and fly on an Aeronca, because that was two seats, side-by-side. I’d go up and fly that for about an hour and then go home.
Then when we got transferred to New Jersey, I left to go to Salomon Brothers, and I started using rented airplanes to go out and meet clients. Then, finally one day, one of the partners got wind that I was flying my own airplane, and they were all ‘oh my God, the liability for the partnership,’ and all that kind of stuff.
One of the reasons I left was because of that and started doing hospital financing, but I was doing it in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont. I’d fly out to these rural hospitals, do an addition or whatever the project was, so I bought a Beech Bonanza, and I used the Bonanza to get out there. I think I had the Bonanza over at Solberg Airport for a while, and I had it over at Caldwell, but always wanted my own hangar.
Finally, when I was flying enough for the business that I started, I went and bought an Aerostar, sold the Bonanza, and went and got my twin rating. I had about 1,800 hours in the Bonanza and over 2,000 in the Aerostar and that’s when I bought the Hangar at MMU, about 25 years ago.
When I started flying the Aerostar, the hangar was perfect because it just fit in there, but eventually I decided I wanted to build my own airplane, so in 1984 I was out at Oshkosh and bought the plans from Burt Rutan for the Defiant.
I had no idea the size of the project, it was a huge project and I was doing at home.
CH: Why did you decide to build the defiant?
JL: I wanted a Four-Seater in a twin. It was the only twin home-build that you could do, everything else was single-engine. So, I really wanted the twin, and it was an ideal airplane because it was a push-pull, centerline thrust, had fixed-pitch wood props. The engine out procedure was ‘do nothing’ which was unusual for a twin, especially after flying the Aerostar. It was just an ideal airplane as I got older to shift into, and I could do my own maintenance, because you can get a repairman’s certificate.
CH: How long did it take you to build it?
JL: I worked on it for probably 500 hours a year for probably almost 10 years and then I got tired of it and stopped working on it. Then suddenly I decided to I was going to finish it, so I worked on it until I got it finished. 19 years to build it and over 5,000 hours.
CH: Besides the hangar, why MMU?
JL: The ILS approach was a big reason and just the facility in general.
CH: What’s the furthest trip you’ve made?
JL: I just took it out to Salt Lake City and back actually. I think that’s the furthest, in fact I’m sure it is.
Photo 1: Drilling holes for canard (1987)
Photo 2: Defiant next to wife's car in garage (2001)
Photo 3: Defiant emerges from garage
Photo 4: Defiant in T-Hangar at MMU