Friday, July 4, 2008

My Cub

Picture taken in December 1976 of our Cub.

The Cub

I really didn’t want another airplane. I had a Fairchild 24R that I co-owned with Al Stix, a local businessman and antique airplane collector. That airplane was basically mine as he and I were the only ones on the insurance and he never flew it. I’ll always be grateful to him for making it possible to have a great airplane like the Fairchild. And I couldn’t really afford it at the moment as I had lost my job the previous January. I did have a bit of income coming in from contract flying though and I had just interviewed for a “real” job. And if that one didn’t work out, I rationalized, I could write stories about flying my two airplanes much as Richard Bach had done in the 1960’s. Or at least I thought I could.

November niner-two, six-three-zero was built in October of 1946. She left the Lock Haven factory painted as most Cubs were, Cub-yellow with a black lightening bolt down both sides. She started life as a trainer up in Ames, IA.

My family would be her 5th owners. I had known the previous owner since 1973 as he was a friend of my dads. He had recovered the airplane twice, rebuilt the engine a couple of times and the best part was he had let the airplane sit outside all of eight nights in that 25 years period. He had taken a path away from the Cub when she bent a rocker arm in 1996. Now he was into old cars and tractors and although he had the cylinders for her engine, he had never had them on the airplane.

My son said “I’ve always wanted a Cub.” There wasn’t anything that he didn’t “always want” so I took that as being it would hold his interest for a couple nights…maybe. I had taken him for a Cub ride when he was 4, but he didn’t remember it. My daughter was too young to voice an opinion either way. My wife needed convincing and for this I turned to two friends for help. Both had had antique airplanes for years and were very knowledgeable about the ways to convince wives as well as how to take care of the little, sometimes cantankerous ( a certain red-and-crème Fairchild 24 that will remain nameless! ) but always full of adventure beasts. One friend, Glenn Peck, I had known for about 15 years. He and I always flew to Oshkosh together, me in whatever I owned at the time and he in one of the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum (of which he was Director of Maintenance) airplanes. Glenn owned a Porterfield and a Stinson SR-5 and had rebuilt about 30 tube-and-fabric airplanes as well as performing untold annuals, Major Repairs or Alterations (Form 337) and several quick fixes. And that’s just on my planes! He had grease under his nails older and more experienced than me so I trusted his judgment. The other, Andy Kisela, flew Corporate for a firm in Detroit. He had a Commonwealth Skyranger, a Stinson 108, a de Havilland Tiger Moth and a couple other assorted airplanes cluttering up his garage and hangar. They both said the same thing. “If you can get it cheap enough, restore it and fly it, you’ll never lose any money. If you have to sell it, it will sell right away as a good Cub is always in demand. It’ll be a great father-and-son bonding project, the two of you can recover it, learn it inside and out to where you know every single piece, every single nut and bolt. It’s something Skyler (my son ) will treasure for ever. “

It would need a little work. New tires and tubes, the engine case was on the mount but the cylinders were off. I didn’t even ask about the mags or carb because my friend told me it all was there, sitting on a cement floor, covered in dirt, but in its hangar. The wings were covered in Stits and the fuselage in ceconite, both having been done in the early 1990’s.

“How could I lose?” I thought to myself. “I’ve known the airplane and its owner for as long as I could remember. It’s a Cub-the perfect training airplane and one that won’t cost an arm and a leg to go fly for thirty minutes every evening. “

What sealed the deal was when Glenn said he would supervise/help/tutor Skyler and myself during the rebuild.

She said yes. Just tell her if I needed to get anything expensive (which to her means over $5) before I bought it. It was a good investment, both monetarily and emotionally. I called my friend later that morning and said I’d take the aircraft. He was relieved. The airplane was going to a good home at a place where there were people who knew how to take care of her and who would fly her.

I now owned a Cub.

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