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It's All About the Kids

By John W. Conrad

July 26, 2019 - Ask Don Wade, owner of Don's Dream Machines, why he is custom building an airplane and standing out in the hot sun for a week in order to give it away, and he will answer without hesitation, "This is important to me. It's all about the kids." The proceeds of this year's airplane raffle are directed specifically toward the many EAA programs for youth. This year there will only be 4,000 tickets sold at $100 each, dramatically improving the odds of winning over previous years. However, if you follow Don's way of thinking, when you buy a ticket you've already won.

With all the more-modern designs out there, one might ask, "Why a Cub?" Don said, "Because it is one of the best aircraft designs ever built. It's easy and honest to fly, it can go in and out of almost any kind of airstrip, it's nostalgic and just 'plane' fun." When talking to Steve Waltner of Benton, Kansas — a man who spends his workdays on computers — Don added, "And for a person like you, it is pure relaxation. Flying a Cub relieves stress and will add years to your life."

Don knows a lot about Cubs. He has been restoring them for more than a decade and, in fact, he restored last year's 2018 Sweepstakes aircraft, a J-3. This year he has set out to make the best aircraft ever designed even better. The aircraft he is building for you is a PA-18 replica with certain refinements. The large wing-tip bows of previous models have been squared off, which increases the surface area of the wing, and the ailerons have been moved outboard to improve low-speed handling. By using modern materials to keep the weight down, Don has been able to push the useful load up above 400 pounds and still keep the aircraft in the Light Sport category.

The 118-hp engine, custom built by Don's Green Machines, displaces 201 cubic inches, uses many certified aircraft engine parts, and bears a strong resemblance to what you will find under the hood of a Cessna 150. (When using certified aircraft components to build up an engine for experimental application, a certain nuance is required.) The engine will spin a custom Sensenich wooden propeller with the "50 Years of Oshkosh" logo.

According to Don and information previously released by EAA, your airplane will be fully tricked out with a VFR panel with iPad mount, ADS-B In and Out, LED lighting, landing gear with fatty 800x6 tires, steps for fueling, float fittings, vortex generators, a fully adjustable front seat, an 18-gallon fuel tank, a cloth interior, Oregon Aero seat cushions, and a large door for easier ingress and egress. The Airtex fabric finish will be an original yellow and blue design celebrating 50 years at Oshkosh. Sponsors for the airplane include Garmin, SteinAir, and EarthX Batteries.

Last year 601,000 people attended AirVenture; this year is on track to do as well. There are only 4,000 tickets available and sales are already brisk. Do the math. If you are interested in helping youth and you can raise $100, hurry over to EAA Four Corners just up the road from the nose of the giant UPS 747 and find your airplane in front of the EAA Member Center. Talk to Don Wade, who knows more about Cubs than Piper, and buy a ticket. Next year at AirVenture, you might arrive by bus and fly home in your very own custom PA-18 Dream Machine. For complete raffle rules and further details, go to: EAA.org/aircraftraffle.

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