Taildraggers + Freshly Cut Grass = Party!


Evidently, I’m either a recovering taildragger guy or one who’s in denial, according to John Whitish, the marketing guy at CubCrafters. I suppose I could be both. This was revealed Friday evening when I was speeding away from Sun ‘n Fun in the Millennium Nissan and Whitish invited me down to South Lakeland for a spin in the Carbon Cub FX3, which is the company’s fast-build kit version of the wildly popular Carbon Cub. Hear a podcast about it here.

When I arrived, there was a yawning hangar door with tables set up, plus cold drinks and pizza. Outside, three CubCrafters airplanes were neatly lined up, free for the flying. At 6 p.m., it was a soft Florida spring day and the runway’s grass had been clipped enough just to throw a little scent into the air. I’m not given to gauzy, romantic paeans about tailwheel airplanes and grass runways, but on a scale of gauziness, it was a solid nine. For connoisseurs of the proper party-time-customer-relations interface, this is pretty much the modern exemplar. Believe it or not, CubCrafters exists in the same universe with companies that don’t even reply to repeated entreaties to write about their products, much less actually let you fly one.

Chip Allen and I went for a spin in the FX3. First, a word about Mr. Allen. Do not go near this man unless you’re willing to write a very large check for an airplane you didn’t know you wanted. Allen owns CubCrafters’ southern sales area, a place rich with both buyers and freshly mowed turf strips. Allen graduated magna cum laude from the Acme School of Aircraft Sales and he plies his trade like Bocelli sings arias.

And with that piercing segue, let me talk about the Acme landing gear. When Allen told me about this, I thought it was the setup for a Roadrunner joke. But it’s a real thing. The Acme Aero Fab company adapted automotive racing technology and applied it to the traditional Cub x-brace structure between the wheels. I’ll skip the details for now, but the effect is astonishing.

Allen told me the Acme gear will absorb hard touchdowns and completely suppress the bounce. I didn’t believe him. Now, even though I fly taildraggers a lot, when I get into a new one, it takes a landing or two to sort out a three pointer, so I usually bounce the first one a little. In the FX3 with Acme gear, I touched down a little hard and a little fast and the thing stuck like a fly in a molasses spill. Huh? I could hear Allen laughing in the back. But I still don’t believe it. So I’ll have to do some more flying of this airplane to gain further working knowledge.

Now, about the taildragger thing. Ahead of my being a pilot or a journalist, I am an iconoclastic contrarian. So I don’t subscribe to the notion that in order to be a real pilot, you have to fly taildraggers or that pilots who fly taildraggers are somehow more skilled. Now if you don’t fly them, I might think of you as a ham-fisted lummox with feet of granite, but I would never say that.