Cub Waits in Barn 59 Years
by Jared Calvert
As New Year’s 2009 rolled by, I was determined to acquire a flying taildragger. Needing tailwheel experience to prepare me for the Pitts, I inquired about a 1940’s Culver Cadet in central Texas. At first I was told the Culver was sold, but after the buyer backed out I decided to fly down and look it over. Upon inspecting the plane, I passed on making an offer. Left alone, I had nothing better to do but explore the airport. While exploring I met a volunteer of the local air museum. Although it was his day off, and he only stopped by for a moment, he offered to open the museum and show me around. I figured it was a good way to kill a half hour or so. Hours later I expressed my thanks and said goodbye.
As I walked to the exit something caught my eye. On top of a stack of papers were pictures of an airplane in a barn. A very filthy and tattered Piper Cub sat between a dirt floor and wood trusses. Curious, I took down the number on the pictures, said goodbye again, and left.
That evening I talked with a relative of the Cub’s owner. Asking how long the Cub had been sitting, I was only told “It’s been sitting for a while.” I expressed my interest and asked that the owner call me. I started to visualize retro paint schemes, clipped wings and engine upgrades. I kept telling myself I didn’t really want a second project, but a clip-wing Cub would make a nice hangar mate for the still unfinished Pitts. Over a week went by with no return call. I tried again and left a message. The next day, I received an invitation to view the plane. A few days later, out in the country, I was headed down a long dirt drive. I saw no runway and no buildings that looked like a hangar. The ranch house was abandoned and no one was in sight. I had to be lost. A call to the family revealed I was at the right farm and they’d be along soon. Waiting for them, I began to explore.
Walking from shed to shed, I peaked in at old farm equipment, homemade trinkets, and everything else you can expect to see on an old Texas farm. Looking to one final building I was overcome with a feeling that I can only describe as “you’ve got to be kidding me.” The galvanized metal structure was wide enough for the wings of a Cub, and just deep enough, but it was surrounded by twenty-five foot trees on all four sides. If the Cub was inside, just how long had it been sitting?
With the first step through the barn door, the idea of clipping the wings of this Cub was gone. I stood in awe at the sight. What I figured to be a high-time worn-out airplane parked in the 1980’s turned out to be something completely different. Seeing the abnormally short lightning bolt, “Cub” inscribed tires, and cotton fabric, I knew this Cub had not flown for a very long time. It would have to be restored to original.
When the family arrived, I began poking, tapping and scraping. The airframe was surprisingly solid and the engine had strong compression. Minimal rust and a considerable amount of cotton fabric remained on the airframe. I saw original instruments, aluminum rudder cable guards, canvas wrapped breather tube, and on and on. There was something exciting at every glance. Before me was a true barn find. It was the proverbial find, something pilots and restorers dream of, the ideal find that never turns up. Sitting a while? What an understatement!
In 1946, the Piper J3-C-65, SN 20304 was purchased new for $2,352.00 by rancher Charles Moseley. Taking possession of the aircraft in Fort Worth, Moseley flew it home to Coleman County, deep in the heart of Texas. For three years, Charles and his daughter Charlotte flew the aircraft to and from their separate ranch operations. When one ranch was sold, the plane was no longer needed. Charles last flew the aircraft on July 1, 1950. After that final hop it was pushed into its hangar at the corner of a 180 acre field. The doors were closed and the young Cub was put away into darkness. Total flight time was 197 hours.
When Charles was fatally injured in a farming accident in 1968, the Cub was passed on to Charlotte. Holding onto the aircraft for sentimental reasons for over forty years, Charlotte refused to part with it. Upon her passing in 2008, her son Jay began the search for a new home for the unique Cub. Jay found Ranger Airfield, with its extensive history, all volunteer workforce, and growing popularity to be a fitting place for the airplane. So after almost 59 years, J3 Cub 20304 was pulled from the barn and on its way to Ranger Airfield.
Although the Cub was completely assembled when discovered, it became a basket case quickly. Preparing for restoration, unique details popped up during the entire tear down. One feature in particular garnered great interest. Wired to the tailwheel fork was a tag reading “WHEEL BEARING SHORTAGE NECESSITATES TEMPORARY SUBSTITUTION OF WOOD BEARINGS.” Disassembly of the tailwheel in fact revealed wood bearings. Apparently Mr. Piper was supposed to mail Moseley the appropriate bearings, but they never made it to the airplane