In the dozen or so years since moving to Washington State we had been gradually transitioning to faster,
heavier and more complex airplanes. We owned a Cessna 150 for a year or two, then moved up to a Grumman
Cheetah, then to a Beech Bonanza. We enjoyed each of these, and also enjoyed the excitement of moving up
the aeronautical ladder.
Over the five years we owned the Bonanza, though, two significant events occurred. First, the cost of fuel
doubled, negating any advantage we enjoyed in flying the Bonanza on long trips, versus buying airline tickets.
Second, the FAA adoped the new Light Sport
Aircraft rules, which made possible a new breed of
simple, affordable aircraft.
Since 1980 CubCrafters, Inc., of Yakima, WA,
has been in the business of rebuilding Piper Super
Cubs, and recently began building an improved
version, called the Top Cub. With the advent of the
Light Sport Aircraft rule, CubCrafters used its
experience and expertise to create a "clean sheet
of paper" clone of the classic, lightweight Piper J-3
and PA-11 Cub of 1937-49. The CC11 Sport Cub has
a strong resemblance to its forebears, but
incorporates dozens of improvements in safety,
technology, comfort and performance.
In June 2007, Ron Frederiksen and I flew to Yakima to visit
the CubCrafters factory and see the Sport Cub close-up. Suffice
to say we were highly impressed with the quality and
workmanship of the airplane.
Compared to the classic Cubs, the Sport Cub
has an all-new structure, flaps, vortex generators,
enlarged cabin door and four-inch-wider cabin.
Power is the proven 100-hp TCM O-200-A engine.
At first Cheryl couldn't understand my
fascination with a stone-simple airplane when we
had a gorgeous, classic Bonanza in the hangar. So I
took her with me to the CubCrafters Open House in
Yakima on September 22, 2007. She had never been
in a tandem-seat or tailwheel airplane before, and I
didn't know how she'd react to her demo ride. When
she climbed out of the Sport Cub after a 20-minute
ride with Clay she had this silly grin on her face.
Then they drove us back to the factory for a tour,
after which it was, "Where do we sign?!"
In early December 2007 it was determined that
our Sport Cub was to be Serial No. 62, and that it
would be ready for delivery by the end of the year.
We worked out a deal by which CubCrafters would
take the Bonanza in on trade, which streamlined the
It was also up to us to decide on a
personalized registration number. Years earlier
when our Cheetah was painted, we wanted to
change its registration to N121PS, for the 121st
PSalm. That number, though, was in a block of
numbers that had been reserved by the Aviat
company for its Pitts Special biplane production
line. Again we checked the FAA registry, and we
found that Pitts Special N121PS had been
de-registered and exported to Canada a couple of
years ago, so that number was now available.
Our Sport Cub, duly registered as N121PS,
made its first test flight at the factory in Yakima,
Washington, on December 21, 2007.
Why the 121st Psalm?
I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not
slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither
slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you-- the LORD is
your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your
coming and going both now and forevermore. [NIV]
Included in the airplane's purchase price was
tailwheel transition training -- a good thing, since I
only had a handful of tailwheel hours in my logbook,
the last of which was during the Nixon
On a stormy December 26, 2007, I drove to
Yakima for three days of flying with instructor Brian
Thompson in Sport Cub s/n 1. We were fortunate to
have good flying weather the next three days, but it
was cold -- in the high teens and 20's.
Brian introduced me to a kind of flying I'd not
known before. We landed on several grass and
dirt airstrips, and Brian helped me exorcise the
demons of crosswind operations. We visited the
airstrip (above right) of a local rancher, who
showed us his hangar full of historic aircraft under
restoration, then fired up his own Super Cub to fly
in formation with us over snowy south-central
Washington State to lunch at Prosser.
On Friday, December 28, I took time out from
flying with Brian to sign the papers completing the
purchase of N121PS (below) and to take a quick
first hop in our new airplane, with CubCrafters' Clay
Hammond coaching from the back seat.
While at the factory I noticed a new Sport Cub
with a custom crimson-and-white paint job and a
Washington State Cougars logo on the tail. It was
s/n 61, the one built just before ours, and
purchased by Scott Carson, CEO of Boeing
On New Years Eve 2007, Clay
flew N121PS from Yakima to its new
home at Pearson Field. I had doubts
he'd make it, as the morning fog
stubbornly refused to burn off. As it
turned out Clay landed at Goheen's
Airstrip in northern Clark County to
wait for the fog. Finally at
mid-afternoon it cleared just enough
for him to slip into Pearson.
I showed Clay around the
Bonanza, then he fired it up and took
off for Yakima, minutes before the
fog closed in again.
|Below: Rollout of N121PS from the factory, Dec. 28, 2007
Above: The avionics suite in N121PS: Garmin GPS496 with XM
weather and audio; Garmin SL40 com; Garmin GTX-327
transponder. Left: Shoulder harnesses with integral airbags.
We realized then (and still do) that going
from a Bonanza to a Cub is a huge transition
for us, and we're giving up some things. We
won't be going on any more trips several
states away (well, maybe as an adventure
someday), and we're limited to day VFR. But
we've discovered new joys. I've already seen
many sights within just a few miles of our
home airport that I had always missed by
going too high and too fast and being too
busy as a "systems manager" instead of a
pilot. Andrew Cleveland invited me to join
him and his Piper PA-12 in visiting Idaho
backcountry airstrips in the summer of 2008
(performance of the 100-hp Sport Cub is close
to that of his 150-hp PA-12, though of course
it can't carry as much load). There is peace of
mind in the simplicity of the Sport Cub and its
systems, its ability to lift off before the
second runway light and cross the departure
end of our 3200 ft runway at 500' AGL. Though
lightweight it is surprisingly stable, even
somewhat heavy on the controls. It handles
like a very substantial airplane. I don't miss
the autopilot and even the trim seldom
needs to be adjusted. The process of
mastering the tailwheel has been a real
People admired our Bonanza ("That's a [yawn] nice Bonanza ..."), but this Sport Cub draws crowds wherever
we go. Old-time Cub pilots are awed by it. When knowledgeable people look at the airplane the comment heard
most often is admiration for the workmanship and detail. One long-time Cub expert looked at N121PS and told
me, "Everything that was wrong with the old Cub, they fixed!"
I never really considered any of the other LSA's on the market. The Sport Cub looks and feels like a real
airplane, is of conventional (read: proven) construction and has an engine that every mechanic knows and can
work on. It's US-made (are you listening, Cessna?), and the purchase price stays in the local economy. The
factory is just a little over an hour away, even at Cub speeds. From the get-go we were very impressed with the
company and the people. I like the enlarged door and front legroom (I'm tall and cannot fit in the front of a
classic J-3 or J-5). The flaps and vortex generators (Vs0 = 32 mph) are a huge plus over the Cub-clone
"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky"
-- Amelia Earhart
N121PS has already become a local celebrity. Our airport has been in the news lately about its efforts to
get rid of the Canada geese which hang around for months in the winter, get in the way of airplanes in the
pattern, and leave messy little calling cards on the runways and taxiways.
In late February 2008 reporter Tim Gordon from Portland TV station KOIN-6 was at our airport to do a story
on the bird issue. Coincidentally I picked that time to go out and shoot some landings for a little aero-therapy.
Result, N121PS got her pretty yellow face on the six o'clock news, fortunately in a favorable light. Even more
fortunately I didn't botch any landings while a TV news camera was pointed at me!
In the first year of getting to know the Sport Cub, we
have taken it to many of the beautiful grass airstrips in
our area (right). In June 2008 I joined Andrew and half a
dozen other pilots and their airplanes for a trip to the
Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area in the
mountains of central Idaho (below). The Sport Cub
performed exceptionally well and felt right at home in
this environment. Click here for more photos and maps
of this great trip.