A memorial service for John P. Luce, AOPA regional representative for the Eastern region, will be held Sunday, July 6, in Shepherdstown, W.V. He died suddenly Tuesday night of an apparent heart attack. He was 68.
The service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church at the corner of Church and German Streets in Shepherdstown.
"John was the best kind of friend anyone in general aviation could ask for," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "He was a gentleman and an avid pilot who was willing to go in and fight the battles that needed fighting. And he never forgot who he ultimately was working for...the AOPA members living and flying in his region."
John Luce was AOPA's Eastern regional representative for nearly a decade, covering Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In terms of pilot population, the Eastern region is the largest in the country.
He was an electrical engineer by training and worked for NASA, including serving as spacecraft director.
Luce's flying career began in the 1950s at Philadelphia's Wings Field, where AOPA was founded. After moving to Frederick, Maryland, in 1959, he completed his private license and acquired his commercial, multiengine, and instrument flight instructor ratings, mostly while flying tailwheel airplanes.
For a number of years, Luce operated an aviation ground school under contract with the U.S. Army at Ft. Ritchie, Maryland. During this time he was also appointed as the flight instructor for the newly formed NASA flying club at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
In 1964, Luce created Orion Airways, a Part 135 air taxi service operating out of Frederick. In addition to providing regional passenger service, Orion Airways was granted a special FAA hazardous materials permit intended for use in transporting critical rocket engine components for missile operations at NASA launch sites.
Over the years, Luce was an active instructor with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, primarily participating in the instrument refresher clinics.
"He was a pilot's pilot," said Boyer. "He loved to fly his Cessna 170 and often used it to travel on behalf of AOPA.
"John and his wife, Mary, loved to attend airshows and frequently could be found camping out under the wing of his Cessna."
Luce is survived by his wife and grown son.