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My Inspiration to Build a Cub


Registered User
Whitehorse, Yukon
I have been posting updates on my fuselage build here for the last year and a half. Decided that I would relate to all of you what started this idea. I'm not even sure this is the right area to post it in but oh well.
The short version of the story is that one night my Dad and I were sitting at the local watering hole swilling beer to our hearts content. We were talking aviation as per usual (I mentioned bore that Dad was a career Jet-Ranger pilot who stopped keeping a personal log book when he hit 30,000 hrs), when out of the blue Dad says "Just once before I die I want to build an airplane".
Well a plan was born. "I'm in!", says I and we immediately start discussing the various merits and down falls of every kit currently on the market. This was in February of 2011. Over the next few months several conversations were had over which plane we were going to make our own.
Early that spring we got together (again over many cool, refreshing beverages) and I pipes up "The problem I have with all of those so called "kits" is that what you get is all of the welded components. I'm a red seal welder with a list of tickets as long as my arm. That's not building an airplane: that's assembling an airplane."
So the next week (it was mid-March by this time) I head back up to Dawson City for another season in the placer mines. A couple of weeks later I get the following letter (read: email) in my inbox:

"Hiya Zack,

Sent you a bunch of links from cub pages. I think we should build a PA-11 if we are serious about building an airplane.
I remember spending several hundred hours in a 60 hp lyc powered 1939 J-3 scooting around the country and learning how to do rudimentary aerobatics and practicing spray paths.(one errant practice spray run ended up by being drug into to the field by the sticky flax plants that were in full flower and full of sap. I had to pull about a hundred pounds of flax vines off the gear and drag the airplane by its tail out to a quarter section line to get going again to make it back to the Mohall airstrip.)
Cost me 12 dollars and an evening of cow towing and nicopressing to repair the landing gear stop cable that got torn off by the flax.
The airplane had no brakes (just a tail skid) so we learned to fly tail draggers before the high paid flying magazine writers had a chance to criticize airplane braking systems as the reason they had trouble keeping the pavement between their thighs. Once the tail was up it was either go or do donuts until you stopped, hopefully with both wingtips still hanging on the airplane! To this day I honestly don’t remember ever touching the brake pedals in any airplane until the takeoff or landing was over.
After sufficient cow towing and apologizing was performed about my run in with the flax, I got a job flying Marvin Thom’s PA-11 with a 95 hp c-90 in it. It had a 60 gal Sorensen belly tank spray set up with an air driven pump and a big motorcycle handle spray valve on the stick. The airplane had a 23 gallon wing tank in the right wing and nothing anywhere else so It was a matter of leaning left against the stick in varying degrees for the whole flight until the engine started to bark. If you were ever able to let go of the controls and fly in trim you were about five minutes from fuel starvation. There were no slosh baffles in the spray tank so if you yanked too hard at the bottom of a turn, or tried to shorten things up by slipping a bit you bobbed and weaved for about the first quarter mile of the run! If you weren’t leaning left against the stick the bobbing and weaving would be accompanied by the ubiquitous engine barks.
After a few hundred hours in the PA-11 I was promoted to a 135hp PA-18 with a 90gallon Callair tank with 60 foot booms on it. The Callair setup was an abomination of epoch proportions. It was basically a u-shaped tank that was wrapped around the Cub belly aft of the wing strut/landing gear frame attachments and roughly centered weight wise about the middle of the rear passenger seat. When it was full the tail wheel followed you on the ground for the last hundred feet of the take off run. Until you had pumped about 40 gallons overboard you could hardly gather the strength to push hard enough forward on the stick to keep from stalling. After the last 50 gallons was gone there wasn’t enough aft trim crank left to keep you level thanks to the 15 pounds of lead bar hung under the front of the oil sump required by the Callair STC.
The dump switch on the Callair was a revolutionary start and stop the wind driven pump affair that some Norwegian in South Dakota had brought back to modern aviation from the early bombers of World War One. It was so much fun to go back and visit fields of durum in July that you had sprayed for wild oats and rust in early June, and see U-shaped groves of oat tops at the lead ends of your runs perfectly matched with arrow shaped patches of the neighbor’s dead rye or barley at the turn ends of your runs. (it took about a second and a half for the infamous Callair brake to actually stop or start the pump).
Once the herbicide season had ended the experienced help all headed for Florida to spray weevils and leer at bikinis and as a result I got the chance to fly bigger airplanes. My first “big” airplane was a Pawnee 150 which actually weighed less than the Super Cub but looked a lot like a Walter Mitty sort of fighter plane. The bad news was that the wing area, horsepower, and gross weight were all about the same as the PA-18 only this time they packed a 120 gallon rubber tank somewhere close to where the instrument panel should have been. I had to learn a whole new routine of trimming as far aft as possible and wrapping my arms around the stick help hold back with all my strength against nose diving to a certain lip stand until the first 60 gallons were gone and then not having enough forward trim to fly home empty without folding a knee up to push against the stick to give my arm a rest.
I kind of wondered why, after the herbicide season, the high time guys had flushed and flown like quail to go spray weevils for ten cents an acre and allowed us little “rookies” to take the controls of Agwagons, Agcats, Pawnees, and Altairs at two bits a pop. It didn’t take long to find out!
When we started flying pesticide spraying for cutworms it all became clear. Weevils succumb to a concentration of simple castor oil of ten percent mixed with denatured alchohol and water. The critters we were assigned to kill, cutworms and grasshopper larvae, required a pesticide lethal to single celled, multi-celled, and quadzillion celled animals ( including humans) at a concentration of about one drop per square foot.
The designers of the Pawnee, Agroair, Agwagon, and Altair airplanes had thoughtfully installed “fresh air ventilator scoops” directly in the slipstream atop the little canopy affairs.
They then installed tanks or hoppers immediately upstream of the little canopies and equipped them with the leakiest four bolt lids they could possibly dream up.
After a while you kinda got used to going through the day with a magnum sized migraine headache and pissing out something the color of Shrek’s armpit hairs every hour or two.
The other detail that the high time, sky king, near astronaut status guys had neglected to pass on to us poor stick time hungry Walter Mitties was that herbicide and weevil spraying happened only in the calm early mornings and calm late evenings.
On the other hand, our sucking of agent orange went on from sunup to sundown ensuring total system saturation of the mutating abilities of the cutworm-hopper pesticides. The biggest tittiest, tightest buttiest, biggest lipped bar maids in Saskatchewan were totally safe from us chemical soaked science project subject pilots. We had a dim recollection of the purpose of the ganglia God had endowed us with but absolutely no idea what to do with it…….
At one point Marvin Thom bought us a large pervert-sized collection of Playboy, Verve and Penthouse magazines to keep us from missing our wives, girl friends, and **** buddies back home. We had no idea what to do with them and ended up trading them all for Modern Crochet Hook back issues with the delightful ladies from the Oxbow Sewing Circle Association.
I went back to fly for Marvin early the next spring and did a bunch of pre-emergence herbicide spraying in a G-164 Grumman Agcat which is the most fun you can have with your feet on the floor! You basically run your wheels right in the dirt which is a good thing cause the 164 runs a 755 Jacobs and you never want to be too far from your intended crash scene with a Jacobs. I did eventually run a 600 Cat with a fixed pitch 1340 and felt a lot safer with 950 lbs of steel between me and my intended crash scene.
Grumman knows how to design a spray plane with four enormous ailerons and two huge elevators and the hopper centered exactly on the center of gravity with enough slosh baffles crosswise, lengthwise and vertical wise to keep Buckminster Fuller happy. In addition a fresh air scoop and pipe system mounted at the leading edge of the upper wing, ahead of and above the hopper lids, completely pressurized the cockpit with clean air and kept the gonads happy and the bar maids scared!
I’m thinking that I might be able to figure out which bar maids had my kids by simply counting the toddlers with more than five toes on each foot. Apparently the grasshopper spray takes two years to completely exit the system. Whoah now! back up on that as I think it takes four years for sperm counts to return to normal. The ones that look like Lizardman are probably mine.
Anyhow in all the years and all of the dozens of different airplanes that I herded around the sky the one that I enjoyed the most was the lowly little PA-11.
Its light. Its quick as a mouse. And it leaps up and flies as soon as you tell it to.


Unfortunately I lost my Dad on Dec. 14, 2011 to a heart attack-- About two weeks after we received the Northland CD and about 4 days after I had ordered the 4130 from Wag-Aero.
So I felt the need to share this with the many people on this site who have helped me with guidance and advice so far, and who I hope will continue to help me see Dad's airplane to completion.
Thanks to everyone here on the "three year anniversary" of that fateful, beer swilling, just once before I die night:
February 12, 20110. The night "our cub" was born.

Zack Witham
Wronghand Welding
Whitehorse, YT


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Wronghand, Thats really quite a story. Your dad sounds like he was quite a guy. I hope you keep up your posting and progress on the project.

Thanks for the replies and encouragement. The fuse is ready for welding, will be starting that this weekend. It's just the bare frame mind you, still has to go back in the jig for the myriad of tabs, fairleads and attach points.
The old man was quite the character. About the smartest and funniest man I know. And could fly anything. Started at 15 with a glider license and then went on to fly just about any single engine A/C you can think of. Owned a C-185 and a Wilga-140 in my lifetime, along with two Jet-Rangers and a Long-Ranger. First airplane was a 1939 J-3 that he bought for $600.00 when he was 17. Hired an instructor to teach him to fly it. At his memorial service we used his first log book as a guest sign in. Lots of short hops in the opening pages from Mohall, ND to Grand Forks, Minot, etc along with some longer forays into Montana and Colorado. Flew to Oshkosh at 18 and camped under the wing of the J-3. He said that the ground handlers were really impressed when he declined the assistance of "wing walkers" to taxi to his parking slot with no brakes and a tail skid, along with throttles "bumps" and elevator inputs to steer.
I remember well the first time I actually took him flying and then foolishly touched the brakes on my landing roll out in a C-172. After the "education" (read: ass chewing) I got that day I have never touched the brakes while on the runway...Ever. Excluding potential emergencies of course;-).
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