My Experience When Flying a 72-Year Old Piper Cubby Opinion Express July 27, 2018 0 comments
An unforgettable experience, flying a 72-year old Piper cub was exhilarating.
While driving the BMW X4 in South Carolina, I was with my friend Sidharth from the Car & Bike Show. A BMW cameraperson, Lucas, was following us in another car. Suddenly Lucas came over the two-way radio and said that he found a lovely place to shoot the car. And I turned around and drove into this small airfield, not really much more than a hangar and a clearing in the forest that had been fashioned into a runway.
The small field and three small aircraft hangar, well it was more like a garage really, was of a small flight school called ‘Old Time Aero.’ Its proprietor John Leupp, like most other folks from America’s deep south, welcomed us and was more than happy to let Sid shoot his pieces to camera at the location next to a Piper Cub.
This small two-seater was built in 1946, and it still flew — a 72-year old piece of working machinery. It was used as a trainer and leisure aircraft and built in thousands before, during and after World War II. Being a relatively easy plane to build and also fly, it was popular with people to get their wings. And in the War with the need for hundreds of pilots, more than a few Allied pilots in World War II had their first flights in the Cub. It also had military variants, used for battlefield reconnaissance as well as transport.
While my motoring journalist colleague went about his job, I went to the hangar and talked to Leupp. He took me around his hangar and showed me some of the other aircraft in his fleet. There was an old, late-1940’s vintage ERCO Ercoupe, a beautiful low-slung monoplane with a twintail, it looked like a classic sports car from the 1960s with its sleek lines. There was also a Cessna 140, a precursor to that all-time favourite, the Cessna 172. Later on, Leupp asked me whether I’d like to go up on a short flight. He explained that he had to start the engine anyway to take the aircraft back to the hangar, “It is much too difficult to push it uphill”, and I could guess why. But I would have been crazy to turn down his kind offer to fly on that old bird. Not only would it be the oldest plane I had ever flown, previously I had flown on an old Mahan Air Airbus back from Tehran, but this was a proper old-schooler.
Sid, of course, wasn’t the happiest camper, as he also wanted to go up. But this was a two-seater and I had called shotgun. But first, a couple of things beyond just the age of the plane. The BMW X4 that I was driving that day had 326 horsepower, this plane just had a mere 90. The BMW weighed almost four times as much, weighed down with safety features and strong build. The Cub was a basic tubular steel frame covered in fabric. But then again, this had survived 72 years and as Leupp, the proud South Carolina son said, he did not believe that the South Carolina built BMW would survive that long.
The take-off was an amazing experience. This was a true ‘wind-in-your-hair’ feeling in the open cockpit, because you don’t need helmets on planes. And boy, was it noisy? Even though the pilot was screaming the local sights to me, I could barely hear him.
There was something more exciting about this flight than the hundreds of others that I have flown in over the years. It was beautiful and the plane went around in a figure of eight over the rural countryside of the American south. It wasn’t the best view from a plane that I have ever had, nor was it particularly scary but was thrilling.
I would certainly recommend that you go up in a small plane and an old plane sometime, unfortunately there are not so many private small planes in India, and that is disappointing.
But in many flying clubs across the world particularly in United States, United Kingdom and Germany there are great flying machines that you can go on a ride on and have a great time. This will go down as one of my favourite #AvGeek moments of all time.
Writer: Kushan Mitra
Courtesy: The Pioneer