Robert Weber built a business and a life maintaining and repairing airplanes.
But it was one type of airplane for which his expertise and reputation were nearly unmatched: the Piper Comanche.
Mr. Weber, owner of Webco Aircraft Co. at Newton City-County Airport, died Friday. He was 75.
“Bob Weber basically committed his life to the Comanche airplane,” said David Fitzgerald, past president and communication officer for the International Comanche Society, based in Michigan.
“That was his thing in life. He was very well respected in the society, among the top in ICS.”
Mr. Weber, a father of three sons and a daughter, founded the manufacturing and aircraft maintenance company, which employs six, in 1967.
He started the company in a T-hangar at Newton Airport after working for Midwest Piper at Jabara Airport in Wichita, said his son Joel Weber. Midwest Piper is where Mr. Weber got his start as an aircraft mechanic, Joel Weber said.
“The normal person could only get one airplane in a T-hangar,” Joel Weber said. “My dad could get two in there.”
Mr. Weber started out working on a variety of general aviation airplanes, but shortly after business grew and Webco moved to a larger hangar at Newton Airport, a couple from Lyons approached him about repairing their out-of-production Piper Comanche.
From there, Joel Weber said, his dad saw an opportunity to focus on the Comanche airplane, which was “hard to maintain and really hard to find parts.” Piper ended production of the Comanche – which came in a single-engine version and a two-engine version named the Twin Comanche – in 1972.
Mr. Weber also owned a Twin Comanche, one of several he owned over the years, Joel Weber said.
“He had customers that would basically come from all over the world,” Joel Weber said. “To this day he is the leading Comanche business … for parts and service.”
Over the years, Joel Weber said, he has talked with a lot of his dad’s customers and would consistently hear from them about what a good mechanic he was and how he cared about the airplanes he worked on.
“I always got the message they were much more impressed with the man himself,” Joel Weber said.
“He was a special kind of person,” Fitzgerald said, “just dedicated to doing good in his life.”
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mark Catholic Church in Colwich.