Kent Co. fam­ily’s vin­tage air­craft is mu­seum-bound

Cecil Whig - - REGIONAL - By DORIAN MITCHELL

Special from the Kent County News

— The Har­ris fam­ily of Worton has been fly­ing the Kent County skies and beyond for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions, and now plans to do­nate its last air­plane for the public to en­joy.

Anne Har­ris said her fa­ther, Mike Har­ris, re­ceived his pi­lot’s li­cense in 1928. He trav­eled all over the U.S. and across the globe.

“His long­est trip was prob­a­bly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and he ac­tu­ally vis­ited me while I was there,” Ann Har­ris said. “I would sus­pect he was the first to fly in Kent County. He in­tro­duced a lot of peo­ple around here to fly­ing.”

She said one of her ear­li­est mem­o­ries is fly­ing with her fa­ther and “see­ing the ground up­side down.”

Anne Har­ris said the last plane her fa­ther flew be­fore pass­ing away in 1984 was a 1946 Bel­lanca 14-19-3 Crui­sair. She and her brother Arthur “Buzz” Har­ris are giv­ing the plane to the Mid-At­lantic Air Mu­seum in Read­ing, Pa.

Var­i­ous mu­seum rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been down to the Har­ris fam­ily farm — Sandy Hill Farm — to per­form main­te­nance on the air­plane. They re­paired the en­gine and worked on the land­ing gear.

“We were search­ing to find some­thing to do with it, be­cause putting it back in fly­ing shape

WORTON

would have been very ex­pen­sive,” Anne Har­ris said. “It was on their (the mu­seum’s) wish list.”

Russ Strine, MAAM pres­i­dent, said he is ex­cited about the Har­ris air­plane. He said the mu­seum has 109 planes, each one ei­ther built, flown or oth­er­wise used in a MidAt­lantic state.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to this be­ing part of our col­lec­tion,” he said. “The Bel­lanca is the one that we’ve been lack­ing, and we’ve looked for it for years. So Anne and Buzz have come to our res­cue.”

Buzz Har­ris, who re­ceived his pi­lot’s li­cense in 1955, said the high­est al­ti­tude he ever took the Bel­lanca on a flight was 18,000 feet and the far­thest trip was to Min­nesota. Buzz Har­ris was a driv­ing force behind the for­mer Gill Air­port/Scheeler Field, a for­mer air­port in Chestertown.

“It needs a home,” Buzz Har­ris said, re­fer­ring to the Bel­lanca.

Strine said the Har­ris’ Bel­lanca was built post-World War II, by de­signer Giuseppe Mario Bel­lanca in New Cas­tle, Del. He said due to the de­signer’s quirks, the Bel­lanca is in a class by it­self.

“It re­ally is one of the most ef­fi­cient and fastest post­war per­sonal light air­planes pro­duced,” he said.

Buzz Har­ris said the fam­ily plane weighs about 2,300 pounds and can reach a speed of 150 mph.

Strine said one of the plane’s unique fea­tures is its wings, which are made of wood. Those are cov­ered by a ply­wood skin, which then is cov­ered with fab­ric to pro­tect it.

“Wood is easy to work with and it’s light in com­par­i­son. It gives a good ride and pretty easy to main­tain,” he said. “Dur­ing the war, fur­ther de­vel­op­ment showed the wood struc­ture re­placed metal be­cause metal was a strate­gic ma­te­rial.”

Anne Har­ris said she is glad the fam­ily plane has found a home. She will miss it.

“It gives me goose­flesh, but I think we’re do­ing the right thing,” she said. “I think my dad will be pleased it’ll be in a mu­seum in­stead of sit­ting here and col­laps­ing un­der its weight. But we won’t be the same with­out it.”

Af­ter re­pairs are com­pleted on the Bel­lanca, Strine plans to fly it from Sandy Hill Farm, which is a pri­vate air­field, back to the MAAM some­time next week.

PHOTO BY DORIAN MITCHELL

Buzz and Anne Har­ris stand next to their fa­ther’s 1946 Bel­lanca 14-19-3 Crui­sair as they wait for Mid-At­lantic Air Mu­seum vol­un­teers to con­tinue their work on the plane Tues­day, July 12, on their fam­ily farm. The Har­ris fam­ily is do­nat­ing the plane to the MAAM, in honor of their fa­ther.

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