When Larry Linville wasn’t helping lives as a surgeon in the 4077th, he had a unique high-flying hobby. If his character Maj. Frank Burns seemed a bit flighty during his five seasons on M*A*S*H; it’s only because the actor took flight in his down time.
In a 1976 interview with The San Francisco Examiner, Linville was in the process of building a giant sky-glider placed in the middle of his living room in his California home.
Linville had been interested in flying since he was 12. According to the article, he had been hooked on the sport once he saw a Baby Bowlus American Glider on exhibition at the state fair in his local hometown of Sacramento.
While you may know him as the M*A*S*H actor, Linville considered himself a builder at heart.
“Why not turn a hobby into a profitable enterprise?” Linville said. “I’m a nut about soaring and love to get out there in the wide open spaces on the weekend. One day, up there in the blue, I was struck with the idea for a tailless glider. So, I went to work with an aircraft engineer to design it.”
He said he hoped the new glider would bring him prestige and profit in the aeronautics world. Having a role such as Maj. Frank Burns, which brought him new fame, didn’t hurt either.
According to the article, he started building his glider around 1966 and collaborated with Al Backstrom, an F.A.A. Engineer.
His glider wings were made of spruce and plywood and covered with fabric. It extended 32.8 feet when attached to the 9.5-foot pod of the glider. It was a “flying wing” craft with a vertical, but no horizontal, stabilizer.
“Our glider, the Super Plank, will be the smallest, lightest, cheapest, and easiest to build sailplane ever assembled,” Linville said in an interview with The Courier News.
According to the interview, the flying craft was expected to weigh about 220 pounds and cost around $500, which would be about $3,000 today.
Linville dedicated himself to building gliders all while balancing a busy, and we assume hectic, acting schedule. During his time on the series, the show underwent a few cast changes, which he admitted were difficult to adjust.
However, with a cast as great as the one on M*A*S*H, and with the series’ smash success, it gave him the tools to pursue his lifelong passion in a more realistic way.
“There’s nothing so rewarding as to stretch out flat on your back with a can of cold beer in the comfort of your own home and watch your program all cut together and know it’s working. That it’s good. It’s the ultimate moment for any actor,” Linville said.