One local traveler lives by the mantra: “Life isn't a dress rehearsal, and every minute that passes is gone forever.” So, he grabs every second he can to soar in the clouds for both commercial and charitable reasons.
The Aviation Enthusiast
“It doesn’t seem like work when you love what you do,” says Rich Ropp, St. Louis base president for Jet Linx Aviation, an Omaha, Nebraska-headquartered private jet company that’s the third-largest U.S. aircraft management operation.
While observing the company’s 20th anniversary this year, its pilots recently flew a cumulative 100 million miles.
Rich started in aviation 30-plus years ago via service, sales and leadership roles in Million Air, Midcoast Aviation, PGA, JetCorp, JSSI, Sentient Flight Group, Jet Aviation and now Jet Linx St. Louis.
“My dad had a career with TWA for three decades, beginning in the 1960s, so I first experienced airlines when air travel was considered a privilege and a wonder,” he recalls.
While heading up the Jet Linx St. Louis Base, Rich offers a well-balanced perspective on aircraft operations, flight service offerings and common aviation issues. He thinks of it as providing “best-in-class customer service.” His educational approach and communications with clients help them avoid unnecessary and costly surprises, relays Jamie Walker, Jet Linx Aviation president and CEO.
The teenage and young-adult nickname for Rich was actually “Biz,” because he always had his hands in some production—all aviation-oriented. He says he punched out of aviation once or twice in his career but returned because he couldn’t smell jet fuel and coffee in most offices.
“I was just out of place not around planes,” he adds.
Rich founded and operated Aircraft Appearances, an aircraft detailing company in St. Louis and West Palm Beach, Florida, from 1990 to 1997.
He’s served as a Greater St. Louis Business Aviation Association board member for 10-plus years and was a National Business Aviation Association’s Schedulers & Dispatcher committee member for six years.
“I’m fortunate my Jet Linx position allows me to pull in all my business experiences and apply them in one role,” he says.
Rich currently serves as a board member for Wings of Hope, a global humanitarian charity based in Chesterfield. The nonprofit’s volunteers provide unequivocal hope through air transport and medical relief endeavors around the world.
“My interest in Wings of Hope began when I purchased a ‘medical mission trip’ during a fundraiser. What an amazing, unforgettable experience that trip was. Although exhausted upon our arrival home, we were more thankful than ever for all we have and for new friendships made,” he says.
As a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Rich’s medical mission trip for Wings of Hope was to Ecuador. He’s contributed to the nonprofit since 2005 and has been on the board of directors since 2016. He also co-chaired two of the organization’s annual galas.
With his wife, Melissa, Rich also devotes time to Calvary Church in St. Charles for charitable initiatives, including two Haiti mission trips. He volunteers as a church greeter and Sunday school teacher, too.
Rich’s travel escapades began when he was 17 years old. Unbeknownst to his parents, he skipped school and used an aviation pass to fly to and from Washington, D.C., all in one day, making it home in time to join supper. His next secret trip to Florida didn’t end well when an airline worker alerted his pilot father that he had someone to welcome at the airport!
Rich has resided in the St. Louis region for 35 years; he currently lives with his family in New Melle. In addition to flying, he enjoys camping, running, biking, kayaking, writing, soccer, sailing and any time around water.
Over time, Rich says he’s met influential and interesting people, participated in exclusive activities, developed great friendships and had much fun.
Travel tips from Rich include using soft-sided bags, supporting unwavering safety and maintaining a mindset of constantly be prepared for obstacles.
“And water up before you leave and while you’re flying,” says the explorer, who reminds that airplane air is only 10 percent humidity.