Unexpected Pleasures: Cub Landings

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South of Venice, we're blessed to have a nice little grass field called Buchan. Nothing fancy, just a couple of thousand feet of cleared Florida scrub maintained by the county. It's a dying breed, I guess, but it's perfect for the Cub so I use it a lot.

Our new Cub partner, Jack, lives on the corner of the airport and we chatted the other afternoon while my student, Jordon, was working on his solo wheelies. Soloing Jordon marked a couple of firsts for me. I'd never soloed anyone in a Cub and although I've flown plenty of turf, I never had a field as convenient as Buchan to myself just for the purpose of refining the fine art of taildragger flying.

To be honest, I'm not sure if it's more fun watching someone potter around the pattern or actually flying it yourself. Standing on a grass field watching a Cub fly a proper pattern—that's a 300-foot downwind and carving turns from base to final—it's quite possible to imagine yourself back in the 1930s, when that Cub came out of the factory toward the end of 1938. I wonder if Bill Piper had even the slightest notion it would still be teaching people to fly 72 years on.

But it is.

As Jack and I were watching Jordan's roundouts—would he use that taste of power just ahead of the touchdown or go for the power-off plant?—we couldn't help but remark on how quiet the Cub is. Even on the takeoff roll, it hardly disturbs the conversation and on the downwind, all you hear is a faint and distant putter. Wood props do that.

When we got there, I asked Jordan to do the standard three full-stops, then we would head home to Venice. But Jack and I were having so much fun, I must have sent him around 10 times. Of course, when we got back to Venice, we returned to the real world of people screeching at each other over the Unicom frequency the harshness of hard pavement.

I've never been one for nostalgia for the Golden Age of flight. I like to think of myself as persistently forward looking. Maybe I'm softening a little. If you see me in a pair of jodhpurs and a leather hat, kindly bother to reel me back in.

Comments (15)

Thanks for sharing the moment with us. A Cub landed well is a pleasing sight. I feel great pleasure watching my son land softly on one wheel in the grass at our airport. We have a paved runway, but the grass is so much better for a Cub. Saves those expensive 4 inch main gear tires too.

Posted by: Jake Jacoby | December 27, 2010 7:27 AM    Report this comment

Low, slow and tailwheel on grass is the very best whether a Cub, Super Cub, Champ, Stearman, PT22, Luscomb, Pawnee, homebuilt or whatever plane you fly. Landings on one wheel, two wheels or three pointer - it's just a lot more fun than pavement. Of course I am biased toward my airport - P15 Brokenstraw Airport, Pittsfield, PA. And I agree with you about making close in traffic patterns instead of those "Air Carrier" patterns. Keep up the great writing.

Posted by: William Holder | December 27, 2010 8:02 AM    Report this comment

We have a beautiful grass strip near seattle on Vashon Island where I soloed and now solo my students. It is rimmed with short apple trees that blossom in March and is beautiful!

Now I am spending my first winter in Mesa AZ with my cub and of course no grass but we do have dirt and I am finding them! Weather here is Pilot's Paradise!


Posted by: GEORGE HOOVER | December 27, 2010 8:47 AM    Report this comment

I've been into Buchan several times. Great strip. I'm a lucky guy as I get to land Cubs on grass and then snow year round. Great fun!

Posted by: Jeff Russell | December 27, 2010 10:48 AM    Report this comment

Recently I needed to do a checkride for a Validation of my license in a foreign country. The Examiner looked at my logbook and stated "Well, you have two choices of aircraft, a 1975 Cessna 172, and a J3 Cub." There was no hesitation in my decision. I can fly a 172 anytime, anywhere. But these days there aren''t that many J3's around . . . and available.
I (we) had a ball. To be concervative (it had been 35 years since my last tail wheel landing), my first landing was with power,on two wheels only. By the third landing I was back to full stall on all three simultaneuosly (almost). We spent an extra hour (beyond the sign-off for my Validation) just having good, honest FUN, FUN, FUN with that marvelous airplane. Thanks for sharing Paul. Great memories.

Posted by: BILL SCOTT | December 27, 2010 3:49 PM    Report this comment

Well, in 1967, I had about 130 hours, mostly in a Cherokee 140, typically flown out of ORL. There was a nice little grass strip, Flying Seminole Ranch, east of town. I had landed there many times. One day I decided I wanted to learn how to fly the J3, 7298H, they had there. The owner took me up and I did a couple of circuits in the pattern and he waved good-bye to me. Most incredible flying experience I have ever had. Years later, not current, living on memories, I met a man who had several airplanes including a J3 that he was very proud of. I told him I had soloed one after about 15 minutes of instruction and he told me he didn't believe me. He was a CFI and offered to let me put my money where my mouth was on the spot. We were having lunch in his club and he drove me straight to a small airport outside of town, hauled out the J3, propped it and off we went. I took off in it, did a few maneuvers out of the pattern and then shot about five touch/goes. All very nice landings if I must say so myself. The guy was shocked. He said he had not met that many people who could fly an airplane with a conventional gear. I never thought it was that hard. I think 7298H is still flying.

Posted by: Unknown | December 27, 2010 4:12 PM    Report this comment

Summer of 1972. I'd had my private cert for about a year and hadn't flown much. I was driving along a road somewhere between Cincinnati and Dayton, Oh. I looked up and saw a J-3 (it turned out) flying. It was in the pattern...maybe I could find the airport and get to fly it. I found the airport (sorry, don't know the name or if it's still there) and Red. Red had a stack of logbooks in a corner of the room that were ALL HIS totaling over 25,000 hours. I asked how much an hour of dual was...$6.00 including plane, fuel, and RED. I had so much fun and I never forgot
Red or the thrill of a taildragger on grass. Thanks Paul!

Posted by: Cathy Babis | December 27, 2010 5:49 PM    Report this comment

I can't wait for the snow to lift so we can get back to flying off the grass. We have a lot of nice grass strips in SW Michigan. I plan to land at as many as I can this spring, summer and fall. About 40 miles from my home airport is a grass strip where a guy built an old style ice cream stand. Can't wait to try it on a nice summer day, fly-in with the doors off. With gas prices going up and de-leveraging of the economy, I believe this type of grass roots flying is going to make a come back.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | December 27, 2010 9:05 PM    Report this comment

Cathy Babis - The airfield was 40I, Red Stewart Airfield. It's still there, and it's still a great place to fly. I know, I did 22 hours of dual in a Champ there in October. You had the privilege of flying with the founder. Red is gone now, but I had the privilege of flying one hour with his son, Cub, and meeting all the other great people at the airport. I can't wait to go back, whether it's just to fly in for a visit, or maybe an aerobatic or sailplane lesson.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | December 28, 2010 9:47 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for sharing this. You brought back memories of my own first encounter with another wonderful taildragger, the Aeronca 7AC Champ. I flew her over ten years ago to a small grass field called Keymar in northern Maryland. The memory of that crisp, clear morning flight and the touch and goes over that terrific grass field are enough to entice me back into flying after a long absence. It's time to fly again!

Posted by: Artemio Rivera | December 28, 2010 10:06 AM    Report this comment

I learned to fly in taildraggers, which in those days was considered "conventional gear". The Cubs, T-Crafts & Aeroncas were our way of affording our costly hobby. As is the case with many among us, in the quest for more effective use of aviation, I transitioned to faster flight & IFR became the norm. Now, as I get older, I`m plannining to transition back to slow flight in the form of LSA. I now look back & the "low & slow" of the Cub days seem to be the best memories. I loved those early morning flights over small Michigan towns on a sunday morning in summer.

Posted by: Alan Anderson | December 29, 2010 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Of all the planes I've owned and flown, the J3 is my favorite. I've flown over 1000 hrs in taildraggers and still find the simplicity and fundamentals of flying the J3 to be the most enjoyable flying of all. I fly out of Venice AP in the winters, and know Buchan well. It's back to a J3 for me.

Posted by: Howie Burch | December 30, 2010 6:32 AM    Report this comment

I purchased a CUB about 5 years ago just to get a tailwheel endorsement to get ready for the completion of my RV-6. At this time I really dont care if I finish the RV-6. Flying the CUB low and slow, enjoying the landscape, makes a person enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

Posted by: mark phillips | December 30, 2010 7:19 AM    Report this comment

Luscombe a great old airplane. In 1967 I had a fresh commercial (all in Cessna). No one would give me dual in the Luscombe (heel brakes on left side and no radio). I read a bit about tail wheel technique and got in and flew it. Went up high and tried to see what tricks the airplane had in store but found a very gentle airplane. Was soon able slip in to three point on the numbers landings. Most fun airplane I ever owned.

Posted by: dennis fisher | December 30, 2010 12:15 PM    Report this comment

OK, another story, also circa 1967. Another grass strip in Orlando was Hoquist Field. A vintage airport with a bunch of oldtimers hanging out, etc. I was out there one day and a guy who worked on gas pipelines and traveled across the US was there with a LUSCOMBE OBSERVER!!!! Google it up. Anyway, I was admiring this very cool airplane and he offered me a ride in it. Another one of life's great experiences. Only many years later did I realize how lucky I had been and how rare this airplane was.

Posted by: strutledge | December 30, 2010 12:52 PM    Report this comment

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