Flying High: Retired District Attorney Enrolls in GCC Aviation to Rekindle Love of Airplanes

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Before he retired in March of this year, Sydney Trapp, 61, prosecuted criminals for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for 33 years. But for longer than that he loved to fly.
Now Trapp is studying aviation mechanics at GCC.

When he was just 15 years old and fascinated by airplanes, Trapp took flying lessons near his home in New Jersey and was flying solo a year later.

His plane of choice was an Aeronca Champion, a single-engine, two-seat aircraft with high wings and low power that flew at just 80 miles per hour.

His father worked for Pratt and Whitney, a company which still manufactures airplane engines, but he did not fly.

After earning his economics degree at Dartmouth University, a law degree at Syracuse and a master’s degree in public administration at USC, Trapp found himself in the legal world with a family of four to support. Suddenly, flying was pushed onto the back burner.

Early in 1999 he mentioned to a close friend, now Darlene Trapp, how he had not flown for a long time and really loved the old World War I pilots, especially the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. “I’d always wanted to ride in a biplane,” said Trapp.

The day before Valentine’s Day he received an e-mail. It read: “Be at my place tomorrow at one o’clock. Wear your leather jacket, your woolen sweater and your best Snoopy smile.”

Darlene had arranged for him to take a one hour ride in a red and white PT17 Stearman biplane, with famed aviatrix, Bernie Duffy.

That rekindled his love of flying and he and Darlene enrolled in primary flight training together. She became his second wife in October of that year. She has not completed her training but she does now have and appreciation of his commitment to flying.

Trapp renewed his love affair with flying and his love affair with life. “Aviation is a close knit family, a brotherhood,” explained Trapp as he tried to describe the attraction of flying. “You are never alone – the pilots, the engineers, the mechanics – there’s a common bond. It’s a really neat community”

“You get past the initial fear.” he added. “As long as you have good equipment, good training and don’t cut corners or do anything stupid or reckless, you’re fine.”

Trapp enrolled in GCC’s aviation mechanics program to ensure an all around knowledge of the planes he flies and to fuel his love of learning.

“I like to keep my mind and body active, my reflexes sharp,” said Trapp. “The key to a rewarding life is following one’s passion and getting out and allowing oneself to be influenced by the excitement of others.” He finds that influence and excitement in his younger classmates at GCC.

Aviation instructor David Bowerman is enthusiastic about having Trapp in his class. “He’s a very good student, studies really hard, and he’s like a father to the kids in the class.

He has a good sense of reality and we share the idea that if you don’t have a passion you end up with a disappointing life.”

“What I’m really afraid of is being on my deathbed at 84 and realizing I’ve never lived,” Trapp said.
He looks a lot younger than his years and attributes his good health to regular exercise, keeping fit and his love of learning.

Trapp scuba dives, walks regularly with his wife and together they love to travel. They recently returned from a three week camping trip to Alaska, they have cycled through Europe and taken a group of teens on a cycling tour of the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

Of his four children only his youngest daughter Sharon has shown any interest in flying, but his 13-year-old grandson, Logan, has just become a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol in Camarillo.

Trapp is a positive example of a man who has followed his passion. “We only go through once,” he said philosophically. “Live life well.”