I've been spoutin' off about the near-perfection status of the good ole original Piper J-3 Cub for a long time now, but my post the other day about Sonex Aircraft's Onex and how it might be able to fix the desperate condition of General Aviation gave me a chance to suggest something fairly radical. What if we took a giant step backward and made a hardcore effort to put 200 or more original Cubs to work all across America teaching people how to fly? Why would we wanna do this? Well, a fully certified Cub in good condition can be bought for under $40,000, which means you can get about THREE of these antique airplanes for the cost of one of those supposed-to-be-really-affordable LSA's. And while I admit that I haven't flown any of the new LSA aircraft, I do have a lot of time flying a clip-wing Cub around with the window down and the doors open... I know there's no way any of the modern LSA's can be more 'fun' than a Cub.
In my estimation, the 'fun' factor is essential in getting people into the amazing world of aviation. But we desperately need to find ways to make it more affordable too. The much lower initial investment of the Cub helps right away, and then the daily operating costs should be able to compete directly with an LSA, or maybe even beat it. Possibly most important is the idea that we NEED to make this kind of a solution happen. To me, this means that we need people passionate about flying that will dive in and make this work without the idea that it's all about money. I'm not suggesting they shouldn't make, sure they should! But if making money is priority number 1, then most likely the cost structure will be built in a way that makes it all cost too much.
I'm also thinking that we probably need to strategically place these Cub Training Centers at just the right spots around the country to be sure that they have enough activity going on to make the operations profitable. Ultimately, I think we need some benevolent, trusted group of people or organization to oversee this plan. With a bit of centralization, I would think the operations could be streamlined and standardized to make it all work very successfully.
About now is when some of you are shaking your head at all this crazy dreaming. Well, it is a bit crazy, but it's way past time we get some sort of active 'pilot producing' plan into action. With the buying power of the average American shrinking a lot over the last 10 years and the cost of avgas over $4 a gallon, what are we gonna do? We can give up and watch it all dwindle down to nothing, but you and I both know that's not really an option here.
So, the real point to this post is just to soak in a little Piper Cub imagery. The CoolPix pic above should stir up a little passion in you, and the video clip from One Six Right below should really get your grass-roots blood pumping. You can be sure I'll be back on this subject soon with more of my ideas on how to make Cub Training Centers a reality. Til then, feel free to leave a comment... even if you think I'm crazy : )