Newspaper Archive of
Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
February 19, 1992     Hells Canyon Journal
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February 19, 1992

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Page 8 Hells Canyon Journal February 19, 1992 Ultra-light designer/ builder plans biplane by David Baker of the Hells Canyon Journal Bob Harlan saw his first bi-plane when he was six years old, and he knew from then on his future lay in flying. After obtaining his commercial pilot's license, Harlan began designing ultra-light gliders and gyro- copters in the late '5{)'s, but says ultra-light aircraft really began to catch on in the early '70s. ' ro start with, people were afraid to build them. Back then we made aircraft out of bamboo, pine, Visqueen, baling wire - anything we could get our hands on, because we were all broke." One of Harlan's first efforts was a tow-glider called the Skip-Air. "In the photo I'm sitting eight inches farther back than I was on the first CONTACTI -- Bob Harlan readies his Weed Hopper flight. The first time up it had fantastic lift, but when I tried to land, it just kept climbing. So I released the tow line and managed to crash-land it, and I was sittingtherein the thing with one wing folded up and me with two broken ribs, feeling kinda hurt and kinda mad, and some guy who been on an all-night drunk drove up and said, 'Hey, buddy[ Would you do that again? I didn't get to see the f'tr st of. itt" Harlan's first big design success was the Derriere Glider (so called because the pilot's backside was just inches from the ground on takeoff and landing). During the mid-to-late-'70's Had-an sold over $60,000 worth of plans for the glider, which cost about $50 to build_usifig pine and Visqueen. Along with theglider, Harlan was instrumental in designing the Weed Hopper, the first of the successful commercially-produced ultra- lights (and the ultra-light he owns now), which came out in '76. Unlike earlier glider designs, which used the =Iershey Bar" (non-tapered) ingshape, the Weed Hopper ad tapered wings, giving it greater flight stability and allowing it to be built without ailerons. Harlan is currently designing a powered biplane ultra-light for wood construction. "Aluminum is stronger," says Harlan, 'q ut much more expensive. There's a big demand for wood-construction plans, and wood, properly worked, ends up being almost as strong as aluminum." Aircraft cable is used instead of wire, and Dacron in place of Visqueen. Harlan intends to have the biplane built and test-flown by this fall, with plans available for sale perhaps several months afterward. As to cost, plans may run in the $25-$50 range, and cost of materials, including a 27- horsepower Rotex 2-cycle engine, will be about $2,500. "Spruce is the best wood to use, but very expensive," says Harlan. I use either top- quality pine or Douglas fir. You need to have a wood shop for this project and know how to use it. It's going to take about 350 hours of assembly time." Why Pine Valley? 'This is probably the most perfect valley in the world for ultra- lights," says Harlan. 'q'here are plenty of landing places, and almost no wind." Continued on page 9 WEED HOPPER mounted on trailer. Photo by David Baker Photo by David Baker SMALL BUT STEADY" 18-hp. engine provides power. There's no place like home... and there's nothing like home insurance from the Country Companies for peace of mind. For top-quality protection and personal service, 8ive me a call. Eldon "Buck" Buckner 2019 Washington, Baker City 523-2212 INSURANCE C MONROE MORTUARY 1950 Place, Baker City Successor to Beat j Chapel own l & Olmmt l by Jim & ]t~trtha Monroe Do you have a w~? Stop bg and you can have a free will k~