Larry Hancock and Pat Reaume built their friendship in a typical way. Both had children the same age and in the same high school sports, and they followed them wherever they were competing. That allowed for a lot of time to talk and get to know each other. Pat is a retired airline pilot and Larry had his pilot certificate and used airplanes to get to farther destinations in his farming business. So, of course they had many airplane and flying conversations, that’s what pilots do!
Larry also drove up to 100,000 miles a year to keep up with his farming operation. As Pat describes it, “what should have been a life-ending accident” gave Larry physical limitations to where he couldn’t be a pilot anymore. Wanting to cut down on the amount of driving he did, Larry asked Pat if he wanted to fly for him. Pat was flying very little at the time and it would take four years for it come to fruition.
Building a business
Larry grew up in a farming family in southeastern Arizona and after he graduated from high school, he moved farther north to start out on his own. He took various jobs until he had enough money to lease some land to farm and kept expanding from there; soon, LKH Farming was established. LKH’s office headquarters are based in Ehrenberg, Arizona, on the state’s border with California. Larry, Pat and the aircraft are all based about 100 miles east of there in Wickenburg.
Larry currently farms about 11,000 acres and is one of the largest cotton growers in Arizona; he also grows alfalfa, organic vegetables and provides hay for ranchers in the Southwest. What has become Larry’s forte, though, is making worthless land profitable. The primary way he is able to accomplish this is through drip irrigation that is installed underground; this allows farmers to cut their water usage nearly in half. A big part of his business now is developing distressed property that has been purchased by investors. His life-long experience of farming has given him the gift of knowing what to plant, as well as how to enrich the soil. That, along with the irrigation, allows the land to become profitable.
Made for the mission
Larry owned a Cessna 421 when Pat started flying for him but he was ready for something else. When the two discussed aircraft options, Larry mentioned that he had always dreamed of owning a King Air. Pat told him that first they had to define the airplane’s mission and then the right aircraft would present itself. The mission was to access all of the farms, usually less than 1,000 miles away, and be able to land on various surfaces which Pat said dictated a turboprop. They looked into the Piper Cheyenne and Cessna Conquest, but the Beechcraft King Air became the obvious choice, especially since it uses phase inspections and they would fly less than 200 hours per year.
Larry is one of the largest cotton producers in Arizona; here is one of his cotton crops with hay, which he also grows, being stored in the background. (courtesy LKH Farming)
Once they had decided on a King Air, Pat contacted King Air expert Tom Clements. He wanted to get a feel of what to expect flying the airplane. “He has been there to answer any question I have had about the King Air and also gave me Dean Benedict’s name for maintenance questions. I consider both Tom and Dean my mentors,” Pat expressed.
Bill Woods at Western Wings in Oregon helped find the right King Air. A 1985 model F90 (N16WG) became available and looked like it would fit LKH’s needs. Bill flew it from Corrigan Air Center in Texas, where it had just received a new
interior and paint, to Wickenburg for Larry and Pat to look over. After a pre-buy inspection by Dean, they made a deal. Pat took his training through the King Air Academy, also located in Arizona, and says it was high quality and very similar to the standard he was used to atthe airline.
Something that wasn’t updated on N16WG is the avionics. “It’s all original, but I actually like it that way. I love where technology has taken aviation, but I’m fine flying the airplane as it is,” Pat explained. “Of course, we still need to add ADS-B and to what extent we upgrade everything else is still to be determined.”
The King Air has been more than fulfilling LKH Farming’s needs since they acquired it in 2016. A common trip would be Pat flying to pick up a group of investors who own land and want Larry to develop and farm it. Pat flies over the area to give the investors an aerial view and then lands on a dirt strip right where Larry is waiting to give them his recommendation on what would grow best there and propose his plan.
The F90 is also used to visit family, and to follow Larry’s son, Matt, who spends his weekends professionally racing UTVs (Utility Task Vehicle, also called a side-by-side). There are six races a year that they fly to in California, Washington, Utah and Nevada. “Matt recently won a pro race in San Bernardino, California; he’s a serious contender,” Pat said.
What is one of the things Pat likes best about the King Air? “Since owning N16WG, we have had 100 percent dispatch reliability,” he said. “We’ve flown it almost 400 hours and all I’ve had to replace is one windshield and the emergency exit seal – that’s it!”
He also appreciates the way the King Air performs. Flying out of Arizona, the density altitude starts at 7,000 feet and during the summer can be over 10,000 feet. When flying to the West Coast, the aircraft is great flying above the marine layer but also handles well flying IFR. “There have been times when I’ve transported six to seven people aboard the F90 and it’s all about the payload there,” Pat explained. “Everybody I’ve dealt with in the King Air community has been great. I have built relationships with all of them.”
Larry just turned 65 and Pat is the same age. When asked if retirement was in the picture, Pat quickly replied, “No way! Larry isn’t slowing down, and I can tell you that in my history of flight instructing, flying DC-6s out of Miami and flying for the airlines, the flying I’m doing now is fantastic. What pilot wouldn’t want to fly and maintain a great airplane?” The men’s families have grown even closer and become, Pat says, “more than friends. We spend the holidays together and we’re really more like family, in every sense of the word.”