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Keeping a classic all in the family
By Randy Dufault
 

Lynn, Glenn and Lisa Larson (left to right) represent the second generation, and possibly the third generation, to fly the family’s rare Ryan SCW. Photo by Randy Dufault

Fifty-five years ago a friendly trade brought an incredibly rare artifact into Brad Larson’s possession.

Whether he knew it at the time or not, the 1938 Ryan SCW he took as partial compensation for a Howard DGA was one of only 12 to come off the assembly line.

Owned and operated by the family since Brad acquired it, the classic Ryan was flown here to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010 by Brad’s son Glenn Larson.

“We don’t baby it,” Glenn said. “We just get into it and fly.”

Glenn’s brother Paul also pilots the craft and there are prospects that a third generation will continue a long tradition of family care for the plane.

“We’ve done very little to it,” Glenn said when asked about the challenge of keeping a 72-year-old airframe in the air.

“It has very few moving parts, other than the engine, with fixed gear and all. I think it was just overbuilt.”

Glenn compared the Ryan’s construction with the many DC-3s visiting AirVenture this year. With thicker than typical aluminum skins and massive rivets, the plane’s designers planned for a long service life.

Of the 14 airframes known to have left the factory, nine are still listed on the FAA registry. The prototype, serial number 201, resides in the EAA AirVenture Museum here in Oshkosh.

A love’s labor in flight
Polishing the plane’s bare aluminum skins is one bit of constant maintenance and Brad, now nearly 95 years old, took care of the task—by himself—prior to the craft’s appearance at Sun n’ Fun this year.

Up front the Larson Ryan mounts a Warner 165-hp radial engine.

Although it left the factory with a 145-hp Warner, most owners upgraded to the larger mill, an engine Glenn says is simply better than its smaller counterpart and evidenced by the single quart of oil it consumed during the 17 flying hours it has accumulated since leaving Florida.

Although the SCW was a fine flyer and seemed destined for a long production run, World War II intervened.

Production ended after completion of only 12 airplanes as Ryan shifted its priorities to the war effort. Adding in the prototype and another plane constructed from parts, brought the total number of airplanes to 14.

In 1935 Claude Ryan conceived a new, modern airplane for the recreational flying market. That airplane was to be called the sport cabin—SC for short.

The prototype SC rolled out of the Ryan factory in 1937 equipped with a 150-hp Menasco inline engine. It was designated an SCM (M for Menasco).

Flight tests of the long-nosed engine installation did not go well so it was replaced with the 145-hp Warner. Under Ryan’s model naming scheme the type then became the SCW.

Smooth handler
Glenn describes the plane, with its dramatically tapered wing, as a good flyer.

“If you have it trimmed properly and push the power in, it will take off by itself,” he said. “Most people that you let fly it will push the stick forward to try and pin the nose on [during takeoff]. But they can’t because it usually is already flying.”

Cruise is a leisurely 125 mph, allowing pilot and passengers (there is a small third seat behind the side-by-side front seats) to enjoy lots of scenery through the vast expanse of Plexiglas housing the craft’s cabin.

Landings occur at an equally relaxed 45 mph, even though the design did not include flaps.

“It is very easy to fly for a taildragger,” Glenn said.

During the war this particular Ryan went looking for enemy submarines up and down the east coast of the U.S.

As part of the Civil Air Patrol, a bomb rack and bombsight were installed and sorties flown with a 100-lb bomb slung between the landing gear legs.

All that remains of the wartime installation are a few holes in the airframe.

After departing AirVenture, Glenn will fly the airplane to his father’s summer home in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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