Climax’s Harrison says he’s built final planePublished 5:55am Tuesday, September 11, 2012
By JEAN OUZTS
“Larry’s Last One” is the logo on the side of the latest air plane built by Larry Harrison. It’s not just another name for a plane, but a statement of fact.
“This one is it. I won’t build another one,” said Harrison, as he stood beside his latest invention at the hangar and landing strip near Climax. According to Harrison, what makes this plane so unique is it is a one passenger, legal 254-pound ultra-light air plane, one that anyone can fly with only a driver’s license.
This man of many talents has always been a person to build what he wanted or dream of. He can also craft a part for something he needs especially if he can’t find one anywhere else. His wife, Wylene said, what amazed her was how Harrison would whittle, or carve by hand, the smallest little part — even metal fittings — if he needed it a certain size.
In the late 60s and early 1970s, Harrison began building go-carts and racing them with friends. Then he branched out to building remote-radio controlled large airplanes and flying them.
But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Harrison. He went for the real thing and built a small ultra-light airplane, got his license and flew it. For many years one could see him flying one or another of his planes over the Swine Time grounds during the festival — a banner trailing behind him. From the 1970s through 1990s, he built a total of seven airplanes, flying them all and then selling them.
In 2000, Harrison’s taste changed a little from planes to hot rods. He built a red roadster hot rod, then another one, and another, for a total of four. But his true love remained with ultra-light air planes. All of the engines in the planes are automobile engines cut down to a size to suit the plane.
As this young fellow of 77 years ran his hand lovingly over the wing of his latest handiwork, he explained that this engine was a four-cylinder Volkswagen cut in half, making it a two-cylinder. The gas tank is unique in that it holds just two gallons of gas, but it will fly all day and longer on just that fuel.
“Around three years ago I had a stroke, which prevented me from renewing my pilots license,” Harrison said.
Unable to do what he loved, Larry decided to build one last plane, one called a legal ultra-light — “Larry’s Last One,” Harrison’s plane No. 8.
Larry and Wylene Harrison are a very special couple; for 58 years they have been each other’s shadow, where one went the other followed.
“She has been right there beside me in everything I have done,” Harrison said.
While Larry flew his plane in Climax, Wylene grew her garden and watched him fly. But what may surprise some readers is that this couple was also a member of one of Bainbridge’s square dance clubs for many years. They were a handsome couple cutting quite a rug on the dance floor, performing in contests with outfits Wylene hand-made.
Larry and Wylene have two daughters, Dale Weaver and Tracey Smith, and are the proud grandparents of four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
As for this being Larry’s last one, Wylene had no comment, and some say they will believe it when they don’t see another one on the drawing table.