September 2012

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned during the restoration of my neighbor’s 1939 Piper J-3 Cub. There weren’t any self-locking nuts in 1939; every bolt in the airplane is safetied with a cotter pin. The parts book is a joke. The Cub Club organization is super-helpful, as is Clyde Smith, Jr., aka “The Cub Doctor.”

Finally, unlike the parts situation with my own “modern era” airplane (the sweet-flying 1960 Piper PA-24 Comanche 180), every part we’ve needed has been readily available from either Wag-Aero or Univair.

We’d planned to be ready to fly N21938 south to the West Coast Cub Fly-in held in early July, but we didn’t make it. But we are making progress—and I’ll talk about the two types of aircraft maintenance progress later—and we are having a lot of fun.


This year celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Piper Cub, and the grand prize in EAA’s 2012 sweepstakes is N31085—a restored Piper J-3C-65 Cub. Cubs are simple machines that have served faithfully in the role of teaching stick and rudder skills to thousands of flyers over the decades. (The “Win the Cub” Sweepstakes is now closed to entries; the drawing will be held at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh on Sept. 10, 2012.—Ed.)

More than 14,000 Cubs were built in Lock Haven before production ended in 1946. In 1945, Piper built 6,320 J-3s—that’s 28 a day if the total number is averaged over a five-day work week. In spite of the low power loading (around 17 pounds/hp) and lower wing loading (6.25 pounds per square foot of wing area) when compared to more modern airplanes, flying a little yellow—they’re almost all painted yellow—J-3 Cub is near the top of almost every pilot’s bucket list.

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