duncan aviation mourns a legend: harry barr

July 13, 2020

Duncan Aviation has announced that aviation legend Harry Barr, friend to many and a vital company partner, died at his home in Raymond, Nebraska, on July 1, 2020. Born in 1935 in Clarinda, Iowa, Barr and Duncan Aviation founder Donald Duncan shared not just a home town but also a passion for flying, and the two partnered in several business endeavors after Donald purchased a Beechcraft distributorship in 1956.

Barr earned his private pilot’s license when he was 17 years old, and during his lifetime, he went on to fly aerobatic planes, experimental planes, helicopters, and jets. In 1964, Barr and his life-long friend Clay Lacy were type-rated to fly the brand new Learjet 23, one of the first of the then new class of high-speed business jets, and Duncan Aviation was one of only six US distributorships for the new jet. From shortly after Duncan Aviation’s founding until his death, Barr was a pilot for Duncan Aviation, and any time he wasn’t off flying, he was in his office at the company’s full-service facility in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Respected throughout the business aviation industry, Barr was also known and loved by many groups in which he was an active member, such as the Midwest Aerobatic Club, the IAC International Aerobatic Club, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Warbirds of America.

Retired aviation legend Clay Lacy met Barr at the first Learjet distributor meeting in Wichita, Kansas, in the spring of 1964. During the early days of the Learjet, Lacy talked with Barr many times to get his opinion on issues regarding the jet.

Barr died at his home in Raymond, Nebraska, surrounded by friends and family. He is survived by his son JB (Julie) Barr, grandchildren Noah and Luke Barr, and Harrison and Drew Clanton; his sister Barb (Lyle) Nothwehr; nieces and nephews; and countless friends. He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara Jean, his daughter Chandra Clanton, his brothers Robert and Lowell Barr, and their parents.

As tributes for Harry Barr pour in, Duncan Aviation Chairman Todd Duncan had this to say: Harry was my godfather, and he was a fellow pilot who absolutely loved to fly, and he was my friend. He and my grandfather Donald originally founded Duncan Aviation together, and he was there for my father after Donald’s unexpected death. He was a friend and mentor to people at Duncan Aviation for more than 60 years as well as throughout the aviation community. Harry never had a bad word to say about anyone, and I had the greatest respect and admiration for this man who lived his life so well and so fully. He will be terribly missed by all of those who knew and loved him.”

Duncan Aviation Chairman Emeritus J. Robert Duncan says that the stories about and with Harry will go on forever and ever.

“He was, and is, a legend,” Duncan says. “I first knew him as almost a big brother. He lived with our family for a while, taught me how to fly, and gave me my first flying job. The list goes on and on.”

Donald Duncan and Barr started Panhandle Aviation, a helicopter service company to support Boeing during the construction of the Atlas Missle sites in which Barr was in charge. The two also started an FBO in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Barr ran that.

“Harry was a natural pilot and athlete,” Duncan says. “His track record at Clarinda High School still stands (of which he was very proud). His handstands—on one hand—while drinking a beer are again, legendary.”

Duncan continues: “Harry could fly anything, and he did. His love for aviation—the equipment, the people, and the the places that aviation took him–Wow!”