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Robert Julian Tapscott (“Bob”) “slipped the surly bonds of earth” on December 24, 2015.
Born to Lawrence Lee Tapscott and Celia Brittle Tapscott on April 2, 1925, in South Norfolk, Virginia, he was the second of three sons.
Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his grandfather and spent his childhood in Buckingham County, Virginia. His lifelong love of flying took off when he was 12 years old; a favored memory from childhood was his first flight in an open cockpit biplane with a barnstormer from a cow pasture. At age 16 he graduated from Fluvanna Central High School and entered the University of Virginia.
He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943, completed flight school, and then served in the 437th Troop Carrier Group during World War II, piloting a C-47 Skytrain transport plane assigned to fly combat resupply missions into Europe. After D-Day, he transported fuel supplies for General George S. Patton’s tanks as they rolled across Germany.
At the conclusion of his military service, he returned to his studies at the University of Virginia, earning a B.S. in aeronautical engineering in 1950. He became employed at NACA (later NASA), Langley Field, Virginia, where until his retirement in 1980 he was involved in many aspects of flight research, including leading-edge work with helicopters and other low-speed aircraft. In 1973 his efforts were rewarded when he was selected by the American Helicopter Society (AHS) as an AHS Honorary Fellow, in recognition of his outstanding achievements.
For more than 70 years, Bob flew a wide variety of airplanes and helicopters, first in military service, then as a civilian pilot. His exemplary flight record earned the respect of many other pilots and colleagues. In 2007 the Federal Aviation Administration presented him with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, in appreciation for his dedicated service, technical expertise, professionalism, and many outstanding contributions that furthered the cause of aviation safety, and recognized him as a pilot who had personally maintained safe operations for over 50 years.
A skilled aviator, he was impassioned to share his love of and expertise in flying. As a charter member of the Tidewater Flying Club and a flight instructor, over the course of more than four decades he provided both primary and advanced private flight training to more than a hundred local pilots, also serving as a volunteer flight instructor with the Civil Air Patrol and the Boy Scouts. Many of the aspiring teenage pilots for whom he provided initial training have flown aircraft all over the world. Several of his students became pilots for commercial airlines or the military. He oversaw thousands of flights, and accompanied some trainees and associates to places afar, such as the Canadian Northwest and the Bahamas.
He was predeceased by his parents and two brothers, Lawrence Lee Tapscott, Jr., and Bertrand Harold Stephenson. His marriage to Ella Ruth Scott (“Scotty”) endured for nearly 64 years, until her death in January 2015.
He is survived by three daughters, Nona Dolmetsch and her husband Christopher, of Hurricane, West Virginia; Tracy Tapscott and her husband Kurt Kunze of Fairfax; and Leslie Tapscott Letchworth of Williamsburg; three grandchildren, Kendra Letchworth Weaver and her husband, Kirk, of Bolingbrook, Illinois; Jordan Letchworth of Laurel, Maryland, and Kristin Kunze of Fairfax; two great-grandchildren, Adrian and Elliana (“Ellie”) Weaver; and a step-grandson, Craig Klemp, his wife, Annie and their sons, Elliott and Will, of San Mateo, California.
Despite his rich life, many accomplishments, and wide influence as an aviator and flight instructor, he stated his most impressive achievement and lasting legacy to be his three daughters, their children, and his great-grandchildren. He is also beloved and survived by some very special nieces and nephews.
The family invites friends, colleagues, and others who wish to honor his memory to gather informally in celebration of his life from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, December 29 at Nelsen Funeral Home in Williamsburg.
Please leave online condolences for the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.
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