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Meet Harry

by John M. White |  | 2 comments

I don't know how many of you can remember the 70s, but back then here in Michigan the auto industry was booming, computers were nowhere to be found, and light aircraft like Skyhawks and Warriors were selling like hotcakes. Fuel was cheap, incomes were growing and the best job in the country was to work for the auto industry. Those of us who flew could find all of the work we wanted flying charter for FBOs all around the country carrying parts from suppliers to auto plants. Banks had not yet developed electronic check handling, so operators would fly checks at night for the banks, taking checks from the banks to the various Federal Reserve branches every night for processing.
My friend Harry Larkin had been the President of a small bank in Ionia, MI, and he recognized that there was no where for him to advance to in his career. So, like a lot of folks, Harry decided to go into business for himself. Harry had a Private Pilot's license and liked airplanes, so he purchased an operation that flew checks at night with Aerostar and Navajo aircraft. The company also had some over the road armored truck business as well. Piper Aerostar The name of the company was Federal Armored Service, and with his banking background Harry quickly grew the business. One day I was visiting Harry and his brother Bob, and I saw this semi tractor-trailer rig backing up to his loading dock, and curious I asked Harry what that was all about.

 

Harry took me out to the loading dock and much to my astonishment the trailer was completely full of food stamp vouchers! They were off loaded from the truck, placed into a large vault, and then later distributed by armored car to distribution centers. I had no idea that Lyndon Johnson's Great Society had created such a large operation to provide financial assistance to those at or below the defined poverty level. Enter the State of Michigan. Despite the fact that the air operation was a Part 135 non-scheduled air carrier operation regulated by the Federal Government, the State of Michigan decided they had the right to regulate this operation because the ground armored car service required a license from the State of Michigan. $ 1,000,000+ later Federal Armored Service was bankrupt and sold to its competitor, who had initiated the complaint to the State of Michigan. Harry sold off the business in pieces and started over. This time he decided to become a fixed base operator in Greenville, MI. He built a hangar, purchased some airplanes, hired some staff and began to build a successful FBO. This time our current economy caught up with him, the business has been liquidated, and another aviation business bites the dust. My wife and I had dinner with Harry last Tuesday, and we reminisced about days gone by and the demise of general aviation in Michigan, as well as at so many small airports around the country. With jet fuel at $4.50/gallon and the charter and rental business nearly non-existent, aviation operations around the country are slowly disappearing from the scene. We speculated as to whether or not it would ever return, and can see nothing on the horizon to tell us that it will. With nuts flying their Piper Cherokees into buildings in Austin, TX and the attitude of Congress, it feels like General Aviation is on its last legs. After some great conversation and fellowship, Harry, my wife and I parted, bemoaning the loss of yet another aviation operation. Share your thoughts with us if you would please. Leave a comment. Would the last pilot leaving Michigan turn off the lights in the hangar please? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip is it. Anyway when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance "stunt" flying. — Amelia Earhart

Comments (2)

  • Doug Kincell on June 24, 2019

    When Texas and the surrounding states became the victim of the oil crash of the early 80’s, I was able to drive my old car from Temple, Tx to Detroit Mi, DET, Detroit City Airport and earn a living in Beech 18’s and Lear 23’s until times got better down south. Some of you folks may remember the “frieght circle” where Bard, Executive and Jetstream plied there trade in those years in the auto parts delivery biz.

    It was a tough existance flying less than primo equipment, some people would call it junk, but those old birds always got me back home despite weather, lack of support, no computers, no cell phones and 24/7 schedules which may have looked good on the duty form but in reality demanded a strong will to stay awake and alert. You haven’t truly enjoyed aviation until you have personally loaded 3000 pounds of metal stampings into an old Beech, Metro or other conveyance all by your lonesome in the middle of winter at night on a desolate ramp.

    But that was a time when you could find work albeit dirty, cold, hot, dangerous and all the rest when nothing decent was in play at the time. Just give me the good old days back again.

  • admin on June 24, 2019

    Doug, Oh yes I remember those days. We fly auto parts all night and then gave flight instruction all day. Used to take students with me so I could catnap at night enroute. I flew 18s, Barons, Cessna 310s, Cessna 402s and a Cessna 206 from Lansing. Lots of trips to NJ and Canada.

    Later flew DC3s, what a great airplane. People today rely on all of the electronic equipment and I often wonder if they lost the electricity if they would get lost not knowing where in God’s green earth they were!

    John

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