50 years of a Birds Eye View with Steve Hopp
In the early 1900s two brothers defied the odds and built the first motorized airplane. Since then, technology has advanced their invention and transformed it to a majestic machine that can take us anywhere in the world. Many men and women dedicate their working lives to learning and adhering to the rules and regulations of flying and for a select few they receive recognition for their skills in the cockpit and longevity in the industry. Longtime Santa Clarita resident, Steve Hopp was recently awarded the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. This accomplishment is only given to pilots who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as “Master Pilots”.
Growing up, Steve was around the aviation industry through his father, a veteran that used the skills he learned during his service to provide for his family. “During World War II, my dad was a crew chief for airplanes and after the war he joined the Air National Guard where he also worked as a crew chief. We would go on flights with his friends on a few occassions,” commented Steve. Steve’s passion for flying was again sparked during his time in the Vietnam War where he had a chance encounter to take a helicopter ride. “I was assigned to a M.U.S.T (Medical Unit, Self-contained, Transportable) that handled the equipment that ran the hospital and one day I was able take a ride in a helicopter…when it hovered off the ground I just looked out and thought how cool it was; this is what spurred me to get my helicopter rating,” Steve added. Following the end of the war, Steve came home and another encounter really gave him that extra push to move forward with getting his pilot’s license. “When I came back from Vietnam, I went on a waterskiing trip with a friend of mine, he flew us there in a Cessna and I thought ‘well that’s pretty cool’ and right after I went to get my pilots license in May of 1970,” Steve added. Starting with ground school, Steve learned about navigation, weather, federal regulations and more. Steve continued to further his education and gained other certifications and licenses that would set the foundation for his five-decade long career. “I first got my private license in airplanes then my commercial license. Once I got that I went on to get my add-on rating for helicopters and eventually became a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) in helicopters,” Steve continued.
Immediately Steve started working which would take his career all over the globe. “In 1972 one of my students got a job at this Dutch company that had locations in Indonesia. He talked me into applying and this was my first real job; we did a lot of off-shore flying and flying through the jungles bringing people and equipment for oil exploration,” Steve stated. After two years, Steve moved on to do a number of pilot jobs with various companies for contracted services like flying for the U.S Forest Service during fire season. “In the Spring of ‘76, I went to Rocky Mountain Helicopters in Provo, Utah; flying for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) who had a fire contract out of Vale, Oregon,” stated Steve. Soon after, his career took him back to Southern California where he began working with commercials and other charters. “My next job was in Bakersfield; during the off season we did whatever charter came around, I left them in ‘81 to work for Hughes Aircraft Company flying corporate people all over Southern California,” he continued. Steve’s career grew even more taking him to major companies like Walt Disney and Paramount Studios ultimately landing at Clay Lacy Aviation in Van Nuys. “Throughout my career we flew celebrities, businessmen, politicians, you name it, we’d fly them. I did this until I retired the first time in 2017,” Steve commented. His retirement would last seven months when he got another opportunity to fly for the Merle Norman Corporation. “I was happy to take this job after retirement because it didn’t require much time away from home but I retired again about 15 months later, because I realized that although it was not taking time away from home as often, there were too many things happening back home while I was gone,” he continued. Steve would go on to continue flying with a squadron of WW II trainers. “I had previously joined the Condor Squadron out of Van Nuys, where we do missions in tight formation, like the missing man for fallen veterans, parades, sporting events and memorial fly overs,” Steve said.
Outside of flying Steve Hopp spends his time traveling with his wife Elizabeth and his family going on trips and getaways. The Hopp family have called the Santa Clarita Valley home since 1980 and have been pillars in the community ever since, while still taking the time to fly with his squadron, that meets every Wednesday. Steve ended with, “Since retirement there is a lot of relaxation and time spent at home doing things that need to get done around the house. I still get the opportunity to fly with my squadron but really enjoy the time I have with my family going places and being together.”
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