Airplanes & Cars Make Good Companions

Published in Midwest Flyer – Dec 2016/Jan 2017

When you are an independent systems engineer working on one of the largest, most sophisticated airplanes in the world, you deserve – and can afford – to have some toys and a place to keep them. Larry Robbins, formerly of Rockford, Illinois, spent 10 years on the road supporting the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. He now spends all of his free time at his home in his Deerfield Resort subdivision, nestled between the Cumberland Mountains and the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains on the peninsula of Norris Lake, north of Knoxville, Tenn. There he has a large hangar that houses his airplanes, a motorcycle and a vintage car.

Parked within the hangar are his 1946 J3 Piper Cub and Glasair 1 that he built himself. Robbins’ “Pilot Cave” is something to behold. The entire 3,600 square feet of floor is tiled and has a full-scale inlaid replica of a P-51 Mustang, complete with machine guns. Also in his hangar is a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda Fastback with 28,000 original miles. His first car was also a 1969 Barracuda.

In 1980, the kitplane industry was revolutionized with the introduction of the Glasair, the world’s first pre-molded composite kitplane. The Glasair is capable of aerobatics and has a maximum speed of 260 mph.

“I built the Glasair in my basement,” Robbins says. “I quit keeping track of time when I saw how long it was taking. It was a 10-year project from start to finish.”

Robbins also owns a J3 Piper Cub that his dad bought damaged in 1955 for $175, including the engine. It had been sitting on floats on the Illinois River when a storm came through and blew one wing down into the river.

“Dad bought the Cub as a basket case,” said Robbins. “Later on when he told me where he got it and how little he paid for it, I told him he should have bought the EDO 1320 floats to go with it for an additional $500. But his dad didn’t have the money at the time for the floats or to restore the plane, so it hung from the rafters in his machine shed until Robbins restored it in 1975.

Robbins’ hangar and those of his neighbors are all equipped with Schweiss bifold liftstrap doors and auto latches and a remote opener. Schweiss Doors is located in Fairfax, Minnesota. For additional information, visit www.bifold.com.

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