One step into his residential hangar and it’s easy to see that Harlan Rohner really values his leisure time. A quintessential man on the go, Rohner's Willmar, MN hangar includes snowmobiles, boats, ATVs and vehicles, along with his Kitfox experimental airplane and his Enstrom 280FX Shark helicopter. Access to this impressive array of toys is made easy with a custom hydraulic door from Schweiss Doors.
The door measures approximately 50 ft. x 18 ft. and is driven by a hydraulic pump placed in the rafters, out of the sight and out of the way. The spacious hangar provides 12,160 square feet (80 by 152 feet) of floor space, so everything is easy to get to and easy to see.
“After looking over all the different style doors, I chose a Schweiss door because it is well engineered,” Rohner says. “They use a lot thicker metal than anyone else and by buying a Schweiss door you are buying a lifetime door — you’ll never have to replace it. I like the hydraulic door because I like it for the shade in the summer and if it’s raining outside I can be standing underneath it; and the pump is trouble-free.”
“Schweiss did a custom paint job on the doorframe for me,” Rohner says. “I had it painted the same color to match my building. Jeremy at Schweiss was good to work with and gave me some helpful advice. He sent down a blueprint showing how to reinforce my rafters and he talked to my contractor to get everything the way it was supposed to be to accept the door. It was really good dealing with Schweiss; everything they said, they did to meet my expectations. I’m 100 percent happy with them and the door.”
Rohner recently updated his man cave hangar. It has most of the amenities one would expect but it is not complete. On the owner's list of things yet to do are sheet rock walls and a liner for the spray-foam-insulated door.
Rohner can land his Kitfox on a stretch of lawn beside his home, and can set the helicopter down on an electric cart to facilitate moving it in and out of the hangar. One of the next things on his list is to build a hydraulic cart that he can fasten to a skidloader to bring his floatplane in and out of the water, and up and down the lakeside hill to and from his hangar.
To say Rohner likes to tinker would be an understatement. He’s a skilled mechanic who builds his own customized snow machines and motorcycles at two of his businesses: Harlan’s Snowmobile Parts & Accessories and Harlan’s Motorcycle & Salvage. He’s also a skilled pilot with around 3,500 hours of flight time. He once had a dealership for Quicksilver ultralight aircraft and is still licensed to provide ultralight flying lessons. He repairs them too. They're sent to his shop from all over the United States.
A lifelong snowmobile enthusiast, Rohner has amassed one of the largest-known vintage snowmobile collections on the planet. He stores many of his 700-plus machines, as well as hundreds of others used for parts, at Harlan’s Snowmobile Salvage, a division of his family’s 65-year-old auto salvage business just north of Willmar. His museum is open to the public and visitors are welcome.
One of his prized exhibits is a 1996 Arctic Cat ZRT 600, shaped by his own design from parts extracted from model sleds. It’s outfitted with a 1,200 cc engine and chrome carburetors, and was a featured as a story in The Wall Street Journal. He rode it to compete in an event known as radar racing, which is basically a test of speed for 660 feet. He managed 123 mph, though a lot of sleds will go faster than that now. He once built a a six-seat motorcycle too, just because he could, further illustrating his love of tinkering and creating.
He also likes adventure. “I had an ultralight about 1980,” Rohner recalls. “I’ll never forget the very first time I flew it, I was scared; nobody could help me. I was by myself and learned to fly myself. I just jumped in one and ran up and down the alfalfa field for four evenings. My neighbor told me, ‘You’ll never learn to fly!’ I said, ‘I’m going to try.’ He saw me fly several times and I gave him a ride. I bought my first Scorpion one-place helicopter from the Oshkosh Airshow about 1978. I never did learn to fly it, I’d just run it up and learn the names of the pieces. I wanted to fly it so bad, but I just couldn’t.”
Like many pilots, Rohner's love of flying began at an early age, long before he bought his first airplane: a Piper Cherokee 140 that he still owns today.
“When I was a little boy, I used to watch airplanes fly over our house and thought I’d like to be up there with them,” Rohner says. “When I was probably 10 years old, my brothers used to bale a lot of hay and put up these big haystacks. I wanted to fly so bad that I took a big sun umbrella off of one of the tractors and I’d run off of the haystack and glide down to the ground.”
The passions Rohner has for planes, motorcycles, snowmobiles, cars and anything else he can park in his new hangar shows no signs of abating. And while he may eventually worry about how to fit anything else in it, getting stuff out will likely never be a problem, thanks to the convenience and dependability of his Schweiss hydraulic door.