The Forgotten Cub Special
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The first time I sat on the cockpit of a Piper Cub I thought 'This is smaller than a Cessna', and indeed it is, even if you consider that most Cessnas are no big deal either. The next time that I sat on a Cessna C-182, it seemed like a wide-body jetliner, compared to the tinier PA-11 on which I began my Private Pilot's License Course.
The PA-11 is a somewhat unrecognised member of the Cub family; first you have the famous J-3 variant which made the company famous thanks to its classical yellow paint scheme for the onlookers and superb flying characteristics for pilots; in fact, thousands were built.
Then, on the other side of the saddle you have the mighty PA-18, a beefed-up PA-11 with flaps and a powerful engine; this plane is a powerful machine capable of doing very hard work and taking off and landing in a true STOL fashion; that is, on very, very short spaces which not always are runways.
So, the PA-11, a development from the J-3 shortly after WWII has been left somewhat orphaned. Make no mistake, all Cubs are great little aircraft, but I believe that the PA-11 has gone somewhat unrecognised.
This variant of the famous Cub is an excellent and rather inexpensive aeroplane; it is very forgiving (take my word for it: if I am able to fly it, then it is as forgiving as a mother) and a real pleasure to fly due to its simple (really simple) panel and instruments.
No wonder that many flying clubs and schools in Argentina, where I live, dream about getting one or two, while others just keep whining about the fact that they sold what they had in stock to get more 'modern' planes. Only a few fortunate still have them, and prices for those little machines have been increasing in the market constantly.
You will not go fast on a PA-11, you will almost surely have to hand prop it to start the engine, which is a fancy way to say that you will have to move the 1,70 m - long propeller with your own bare hands until it starts rotating at - at least - 1.000 RPM right in front of you.
The discovery of the real goal of wind and turbulence in this world is another of the new experiences that - literally - shake the new PA-11 pilot.
But flying in such a simple thing without the inconveniences and inherent dangers of two-stroke ultralight engines can be described as unique. You get the feeling of an ULM, yet, you are flying a 'real' aircraft which is probably older than you and a sizable part of your family; in other words, you will be flying as it was meant to be.
So, the next time someone tells you that those old taildraggers are of little worth, think it twice: many pilots say that if you learn to fly something like a Cub you will be able to fly a Concorde, but even if you manage to fly a Concorde, you will not necessarily be able to fly a Cub like the kite it really is.
My instructor, Fernando Nieto, took this picture of this PA-11 as
I returned from one of my first solo flights. It belongs
to the Malvinas Argentinas Flying Club.
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