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Cubs Arrive at AirVenture for 80th Anniversary Celebration

By Katie Holliday-Greenley

July 23, 2017 - At approximately 6:40 Sunday morning, a line of tiny yellow dots appeared over the southern end of Runway 36 in Oshkosh as the Cubs 2 Oshkosh group arrived to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Piper Cub.

Cubs 2 Oshkosh organizer Steve Krog said 62 Cubs registered for the event, but weather delayed the arrival of several, as 40 were on the ground in Hartford, Wisconsin, early Saturday evening. The first Cub to arrive in Hartford on July 17 was a Flitfire, a rare variation of the J-3, but the celebration officially began Friday evening with a traditional Wisconsin fish fry. Steve said the group was also treated to a pancake breakfast and an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner on Saturday, followed by a pilot briefing.

“This is a real opportunity for Cub owners to come together, socialize, and talk airplanes and restorations and all that,” Steve said.

The Cubs took off around 6 a.m. Sunday from Runway 36 at Hartford Municipal Airport, launching every 20 to 25 seconds, and flew up to Wittman Regional Airport. The first Cub touched down at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh just minutes after the last one took off from Hartford, creating a nearly unbroken line of the classic aircraft between the two cities.

As the aircraft taxied in, flightline crews in matching orange vests worked in tandem to park the Cubs in rows across from the Vintage in Review area. By 7:30 a.m., all 43 arriving aircraft had parked, and about 50 Cubs total created a sea of yellow, occasionally dotted with cream, red, or gray.

“Boy, is this cool,” one arriving pilot said as a flightline crew member welcomed him to Oshkosh. That was the general sentiment among pilots, passengers, and spectators alike.

Owner and pilot Denny Schwandt, who flew in with his wife, Mary, from St. Louis, said he’s had his Cub for 15 years, and five years ago flew with Cubs 2 Oshkosh for the type’s 75th anniversary.

“When we came in for the 75th it had floats on it. We have wheels right now, but usually it’s on floats and we park at the seaplane base,” he said, noting that they decided to put the wheels on so they could park with rest of the Cubs. “I’m just so excited,” he said with a grin.

First manufactured in 1937, the Piper Cub has become iconic in the aviation world. Of the 20,000 built between 1937 and 1947, about 25 percent are still flying, which Steve said is remarkable for a type that old. The Cub’s longevity can be attributed partly to how ubiquitous it was, but also to the availability of parts for restoration.

“Virtually all of the World War II Army and Navy pilots learned to fly in Cubs,” he said. “It’s a very nostalgic airplane and one that people recognize worldwide. It’s the only … airplane built back then that you could sit down today with a Univair or Wag-Aero catalog and buy everything you need to build one from scratch.”

With thousands still flying, it’s safe to say the Cub will be around well past its 80th birthday.

“It’s one that everyone wants to fly or get a ride in,” Steve said. “Everybody wanted to own a Ford Model A. At one time everyone wanted to own an old Harley, and in the aviation business, everyone wants to own a Cub. They’re hard to get in, they’re hard to get out of, they’re uncomfortable to sit in, they’re noisy and slow, and they’re the most fun airplane you’ll fly in your life.”

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