Theodore William Aronson
Feb. 25, 1932 - Feb. 6, 2007
Preface by John Wilson: Bill Aronson was from 1966 to 1987 the operator and "lead" partner in the ownership of the airport that is now the Rosamond Skypark. Through his actions it became the residential fly-in community that brings immense enjoyment to those of us who now live here. Therefore, he certainly qualifies as the “father” of our little corner of Paradise and deserves our recognition.
As in all but the most simple of projects, the progress of the Skypark development was not without its crises and altercations. Echoes of these rough spots still occasionally emerge within the Skypark today in the form of cherished grievances lovingly preserved – in my view pointlessly - for the last two decades. Some of the details below, directly from Bill as supplied by Diane Gilbert, touch on those problems & provide a needed alternate perspective, and there is an added postscript.
All this aside, Bill led a fascinating life intimately involved with general aviation in Southern California and the Antelope Valley. We offer his story essentially as received, only correcting obvious spelling & typo errors.
Bill Aronson's Story
I was introduced to aviation at the tender age of three. My father, who had been active in aviation since 1926, started taking me to the many airports that existed in the Los Angles area in the 1930's. To name a few, there was Western Ave., Dycers, Grand Central, Bellflower, Central, Vail Field, and Culver City Airport. The latter being where I started flying at age thirteen.
In 1935 we moved to Shannon Hills Airport. Our house was located right on the airport property, much to my delight. We often had different airplanes tied down on our front lawn. One of my favorites being the Sopwith Strut and a Half.
The airport was operated by Gwen Cook. He took care of the flight end and my dad ran the maintenance shop. I spent all my spare time at the airport needless to say.
At age three and a half, there was a nice lady who used to fly into Shannon Hills Airport and set me on her lap and give me candy and gum. My father told me later in life, that "nice lady" was Amelia Earhart. She was taking instrument dual with Paul Mantz. I think she was flying a Lockheed Vega. I vaguely remember a bright red airplane. A lot of famous people flew in and out of this airport.
In 1936 we moved to Culver City. Dad bought a house there with an oversized garage, and continued to rebuild airplanes. I was building model airplanes by age five.
In 1945 dad built a shop hangar at the Culver City Airport, and I went to work for Pete Leaman as a "gas boy." My paycheck all went towards flying time. My first dual was with Cliff Bantel, in a 65hp Porterfield. Later progressing to a Ryan PT‑22. My favorite airplane at this time.
I met many famous people there such as, Wrong Way Corrigan, Howard Hughes, Benny Howard, Howard Batt, Edgar Bergen, who was a great tipper, also Dick Powell, and June Allison, who's plane I kept polished.
One of the many famous airplanes built on the Culver City Airport was the Aero Commander Twin which was designed by Ted Smith. I had the privilege of bucking rivets on this plane and watching it from its inception as a mock‑up thru the first test flight.
In 1947, dad sold out and leased the Santa Susanna Airport. We had a pretty short runway with 60 foot power lines on one end and only 1760 feet of runway. It was too short to operate a flight school out of. So we moved on to Fillmore. There was great interest in an airport in Fillmore, so dad leased 60 acres and planted a 600 ft. wide by 3500 ft. long turf runway. Dad tried to establish the funding for this airport, and ran up against a lot of opposition from the city council.
The Conejo Valley Airport was available for lease in 1948, so we jumped at the chance to lease it. The location was spectacular, and the view even better. Dad ran the airport till 1953 at which time he turned the whole operation over to me. I operated the airport successfully till 1958. That was my greatest year for selling new airplanes. The Aero Commander 500 model was the easiest to sell.
I soon left the FBO for two reasons…I could get only a two year contract on the airport, plus I was offered a good job with one of the Aero Commander buyers who had an aircraft parts business. I worked there a year. Soon I lost interest because it took away from my flying time.
I took a job at the studios, MGM, in special effects. Liked the money, but didn't like the politics. So I took two weeks vacation to finish the fabric job on the prototype Stits Playboy N8K.
While test flying the Stits I decided to fly to Oxnard for some pie and coffee, and happened to run into C.G. Taylor the famous designer of the Piper J‑3 and the Taylorcraft airplanes. He came out and looked at my Stits and said, "you do pretty nice work, would you be interested in helping me for a couple of weeks?" Needless to say I was on cloud nine, and said "yes" even before I knew what the project was. C.G. showed me some drawings for a two place side by side fiber glass Canard.
They had just barely started this plane. It was in the mold making process at the time. After two weeks, he asked me if I'd come aboard and work for him full time. I asked "how much money?" He gave me a figure and I said “yes." I was in charge of that project till completion. Next project was the Saturn Meteor Twin, as well as the Canard, when time allowed. The Twin took priority.
One of the backers in the Twin cornered me one day and said "we should build our own airplanes. You design it and I will finance it and help you build it." I was all for it. I gave C.G. two weeks notice. I headed for the high desert and leased the Miller Ranch Airport. Two months after I moved into the hangar, my backer had a massive heart attack and died in his sleep. That put me back in the FBO business again. I considered going back to work for C.G., but there was too much conflict with family relations employed by C.G. He offered to lay them off if I came back, but I decided to take the chance and start out on my own.
The runway at Miller Ranch Airport in Lancaster, CA. was on a separate piece of property and when my landlord failed to pay taxes, it was bought out from under him. The man that bought the property was a famous optical manufacturer. He came to me with a proposal. He wanted me to stay on the balance of the airport property as he had an option to buy it. He offered to pave a runway and make other improvements, so I could keep the FBO. I operated there for seven and a half years. The improvements never happened!
It was time to move on for two reasons. They built the Fox County Airport, which had a lot of nice qualities such as a paved runway, and parking ramps etc. They also started the construction of Hwy. 14 freeway between Lancaster and Rosamond which rerouted traffic away from Miller Ranch Airport.
At that time in 1966, the Rosamond Airport was for sale. I negotiated for and was successful in acquiring the property with two other partners. ("Doc" Patton and Samuel Ramsey.) We formed a Corporation, and we were on our way to fulfilling my dream.
(I've always said, "if you are going to be in the airplane business, it is best to own the real estate.")
First thing we did there was pave a runway, taxiway, and ramps, then came the maintenance hangar. I personally, with my two mechanic helpers did the runway ourselves, with desert mix of oil and natural soil. It is twice as strong as asphalt and lasts a lot longer. This was quite a chore, but I'm proud to have done it. The cost was a third of what they wanted for asphalt. It lasted 18 years before we coated it again.
We put in a full FBO operation which included a certified radio shop, FAA certified flying school, which included sail plane, commercial, and flight instructor ratings.
To the best of my knowledge, we were the only FAA certified glider school in the United States. We also painted airplanes, did fiber glass, wood, steel tubing, and metal repairs and construction. Also did a fair share of movie work, and sub‑contracting from Edwards Air Force Base.
Still, in the back of my mind, I wanted to make this airport always stay an airport. The only way I could figure to do this was to make an airport sub‑division out of the property. A Skypark with houses and hangars in the back yard off the taxi way. It took me five years to get this project thru the county for approval. Most of the delays were due to the Sierra Club, and politics.
This project started Sept. 1980. Building permits were ready in April 1985. At permit stage my partner Ron Tennant, the architect on the project, and I sold the development company and construction rights to a contractor I had known for 25 years. ( I felt my aviation back ground didn't qualify me to do a construction project.)
We sold the property to the contractor and in the dealings we retained the FBO property (approx. 7 acres). In order to fund this project, the note holders on the property subordinated to a 2.6 million dollar loan for development of 60 homes with hangars, and utilities. The subordination on the FBO was $100,000.00, which was to be paid by the contractor on July 2, 1986.
The loan was based on fraud as the guarantor who co‑signed the loan had special financial conditions to this loan that was not made known to the note holders. The Savings and Loan did not make it known to the land note holders of a $300,000.00 debt the guarantor owed for a personal debt on another project. The condition of our loan was that the Savings and Loan would subtract the $300,000.00 off the top of the 2.6 million dollar loan.
The contractor did not reveal this condition, which I later found in legal documents from the courts. The project financing by the Savings and Loan was contrary to the Truth and Lending Laws. It is the duty of the S&L to notify note holders of any special conditions such as paying someone else's debt on a loan manipulation such as this.
I had a litigation against the contractor since 1987, which was preempted by the RTC.
The fraud outlined in the above should have put the note holders back in first mortgage position. The Federal Gov't. set up the RTC (Resolution Trust Corp.) to protect the depositors from bad banking practice.
I spent over 25 years grooming this airport and the residential project. This was my life savings and retirement.
It seems to me that the Federal Gov't should look at my retirement position as they do the depositors. They knew for five years that the S&L's were in serious trouble. They keep bailing out the crooks and the honest people like me lose their property, and constitutional rights, because the Gov't gave the RTC a free hand to do any thing they want regardless of the law or ethics.
The RTC is nothing but a high paying welfare organization that caters to unethical attorneys. The RTC attorneys are nothing by 1990 carpet baggers.
This foreclosure action went on from 1987 to Dec. 7, 1994. My Pearl Harbor Day!!!
I had a couple of appeals that were left open to me, but this litigation cost me my health and my savings, and my property.
The RTC's money supply is endless. They have collected $35 billion of the $200 billion the tax payers have put in the RTC fund. I consider this misuse of the tax payers money.
On Aug. 29, 1995, we were notified by our neighbors that the FBO and residential property was now in the ownership of a Real Estate Investment Corp. The shock of learning this from a friend and not my attorney was a bit overwhelming to say the least. The injustice that has been done here is unbelievable. I have put my life and soul into this airport and Skypark and it has all been taken from me by our Government.
Now I know how the Indians felt when their land was taken from them by the Gov't. At least they are getting compensation and some land back. I guess if you are Swedish, you aren't even a minority, you just don't count at all.
- above furnished by Bill Aronson
See also History of the Rosamond Skypark
And you can view a Picture Album with more of Bill's photos
Postscript regarding the Skypark's development problems (by John Wilson): If you have read this far you can see that Bill's Skypark dream ended, for him, in ashes. I would like to add a bit of my own perspective on the matter, although this is an "internal" subject of interest only to those involved.
My first contact with Bill came when I initially considered purchasing a Skypark home in late 1986. At this time the project had just transferred into the hands of BVS Development (Carl Abresch). Bill was living in one of the first homes constructed and still operating the FBO. A semblance of normalcy prevailed but storm clouds were already visible on the horizon.
I went ahead and contracted to purchase a partially-completed home that did get finished - barely and with considerable difficulty - before the final meltdown. The process was painful to watch.
In the same way some lay the responsibility for our global climate on our president, I have heard Bill blamed personally for the problems that came up during the Skypark's development. Bad call. Bill was a passenger on a train that was rapidly becoming uncontrollable, and I certainly never attributed any responsibility for my own little traumas to him.
Although Bill instigated the project, the most interesting period (in the old Chinese curse sense) was presided over by numerous other players: BVS Development's Abresch, a follow-on development company Woodland American Homes and its principal Victor Lundin, the officers of the underwriting bank (which itself went under), and the government agency that picked up the pieces, the ever-popular Resolution Trust Corporation. And of course we must credit the creator of the stage on which all this played out, the great real estate meltdown California suffered in the last years of the 1980s.
It would be instructive to have full and unbiased "fly on the wall" knowledge of all that went on in the various offices and meetings during those turbulent days but unfortunately this is not possible.
All the players made their contributions & decisions, some good and some bad. Either way, it is history now and the sun shines bright on the Rosamond Skypark. My suggestion is to wipe away any residual "cherished grievances" and go fly airplanes. Life is short.