Anyone who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a while will remember the name - Hap Harper...
Every morning for 34 years, Hap slipped into his Piper Turbo Lance at San Carlos Airport to begin his daily rounds flying over the Bay Area bringing radio listeners the latest traffic and commute reports.
"I invented traffic reporting by accident.....no pun intended,"
Hap would grin. In 1957, Hap was approached by his long time friend and neighbor, Don Sherwood, a popular KSFO radio personality. Don called because he knew Hap was a pilot and had a flight school. He asked Hap to give weather reports from the air for his morning radio show on KSFO. One morning while flying over the Bay Bridge, Hap spotted a traffic accident and told Don about it on the air. At that moment, Hap became the first airborne traffic reporter in the world.
At the age of 8, aviation became an important part of Hap's life, when a friend of the family took him up in a Piper Coupe. He let Hap fly the plane and that was all it took for Hap to get the "flying bug". Hap flew for over 60 years. He flew everything from a J-3 Cub to his own F-51D Mustang. In Hap's own words, "Sometimes I wonder if the world was ready for me! Me, the world's worst traffic reporter! When I heard someone say I was the world's first traffic reporter, I thought they said the world's worst, and I've tried to live up to that ever since. If you've heard my reports, you know what I mean! Becoming a pilot wasn't easy, all those lessons learning to 'HOLD THAT HEADING,' learning how to fly a straight line, and wouldn't you know it, I've had a job for over 34 years flying in circles! I've flown over 2 million miles and never been out of sight of the airport." Hap logged over 44,000 hours flying over Bay Area freeways.
Over the years, Hap worked with many popular Bay Area radio personalities, including:
|Frank Dill & Mike Cleary
|Carter B. Smith
In 1991, the station format changed to "talk radio" and the fun for Hap was gone. "They actually wanted me to get serious and report the traffic," Hap would laugh, "I just couldn't do it!" He decided to leave radio and devote full time to his other career in real estate.
All during the time he flew the traffic watch, Hap played a major role in the development of many better known Northern California land projects. He was involved in all phases of development, from acquisition, design, advertising and Director of Sales. Over time, he narrowed his focus to Amador County, where he met Jan and settled down with her and all of the animals on their beautiful ranch in the mountains. Hap remarked often, "If I could do it all over again, I would do it ALL over again." And that's how he lived.
Hap passed away suddenly from a thoraco abdominal aneurysm on October 4, 2006 in his home in Amador County. He had just made an appointment that morning to show property!
"Every time I hear a plane
purring in the sky,
I smile and say,
"Hello," to Hap
"I'm glad you're flying by."
As he soars
he tips his wings
freer than a bird,
round he goes,
the sweetest sound I've heard....."