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
“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.
Glenn describes the plane, with its dramatically tapered wing, as a
“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,”
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.