A river runs through it: W.Va. man takes in his state, in unique way

Sep. 18—Harry Moore is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy.

Hey, the Bluefield retiree and WVU graduate says with a smile in his voice, it's hard not to be that way.

Not when there's always a river or lake beckoning.

Not when you're the pilot of a sweet Lake Buccaneer LA-4-200 made with water in mind.

The Lake is a light, four-seat amphibious airplane.

If Moore so chooses—and he so chooses, a lot—he can bring her right down on the sun-dappled surface of just such a body and cruise a while.

A boat with wings, as it were.

"Well, I do have to get official permission to do this stuff, " he said. As in approved flight plans, and the like.

Morgantown's Hart Field did just that two weeks ago last Friday, granting him clearance to put his plane on the waters of the Monongahela River near the Fort Martin Power Station.

He then taxied down the Mon to Star City for lunch.

Moore, who is 64, spent his professional career in transit, flying or motoring across the U.S., as part of his previous work in retail construction.

"We put up Targets and Walmarts, " he said.

"We put up Sam's Club warehouses. It was interesting work."

Along the way, he and his wife Betty, to whom he's been married for 36 years, formulated another interesting, airborne-related hobby.

Besides flying planes, he decided he was going to jump out of them, also. And Betty decided to join him.

Together, the skydiving spouses have a combined 7, 000 jumps in all 50 states.

"Nothing like it, " he said. "I can't explain it." Maybe it's the thrill of floating, he mused.

That's why he likes flying the Lake.

The plane that's been around in various incarnations since the 1950s isn't built for speed or soaring altitudes.

Its top cruising altitude is nearly 15, 000 feet, according to its specifications. Top recommended speed is 154 miles an hour, and while it can go faster, it is strongly advised to not push the aircraft past that, those same specs say.

No worries on either count for Moore, who has been flying since 1983.

That was two years after he turned his tassel at WVU, where he lifted off with a business degree.

These days, you're apt to find him enjoying his home state from around a bird's-eye 1, 000 feet up in his plane that can land on water.

Taking his time, as the operations manual decrees.

"Everything has to really be checked out, " as he reiterates, "because you always have to worry about power lines."

It's not like a window seat in an air bus, he said. Not at that altitude.

"You just watch everything unfold, " he said.

On any given week, he might file a flight plan for Niagara Falls or somewhere in Tennessee, oftentimes in the same day.

If the weather's calm, that generally means his coveted rivers and lakes are the same.

Feather-light, he'll make contact, and, as said, on the good days it will be smooth as glass—just the same as being in the air, save for the water hissing around the fuselage.

Like most West Virginians who went to school in Morgantown, he loves his native Mountain State and alma mater in equal measure, be it on the ground or at a vantage from above.

"You know what ? I've had a pretty good life because of West Virginia University."

Even though work took him enough different places, he and Betty always knew they would retire back to Bluefield.

In Morgantown, he first landed for his football games as an undergraduate at Old Mountaineer Field, that gloriously rickety bowl below Woodburn Hall on the downtown campus.

Gordon Gee's signature is on his diploma. He was university president then, and he's university president now.

Moore shook his hand two weeks ago when he flew in, then taxied in, via the ancient waterway, for the football home-opener with Kansas.

He also had another encounter, he said, chuckling, that may have had him walking on air for the moment.

That was when Ron Rittenhouse, the senior photographer for The Dominion Post, vectored in, with his ever-present camera.

"I read your paper every day when I was a student here, " Moore said.

"Ron was an institution back then. Everybody knew him. And he's still here, taking my picture ? That's a big deal."

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