Cub Waits in Barn 59 Years
New Year’s 2009 – As the calendar rolled over I was determined to acquire a flying taildragger. Needing tailwheel experience to prepare me for the Pitts, I inquired about a 1940s Culver Cadet that was for sale in central Texas. First I was told the Culver was sold, but after the buyer backed out I was invited to fly down and look it over. Upon inspection I passed on making an offer. Left alone I had nothing to do but explore the airport. While exploring I met a volunteer of the local air museum. Although it was his day off he offered to open the museum and show me around. I figured it was a good way to spend a few minutes. Hours later I thanked him before finally saying goodbye. As I walked to the museum exit something caught my eye. On a stack of papers were pictures of an airplane in a barn. A filthy and tattered Piper Cub sat between a dirt floor and wood trusses. Curious, I took down the number on the photos, said goodbye again, and flew home.
That evening I called the number and reached a relative of the Cub’s owner. When I asked how long the Cub had been sitting I was told “It’s been sitting for a while.” I expressed interest in seeing the airplane, which had not been advertised for sale, and asked for the owner to call me. In the days that followed I daydreamed nothing but Cubs – retro paint schemes, clipped wings, and engine upgrades. I knew I did not need a second project but I kept telling myself a Cub sure would make a great hangar mate for the Pitts.
As the daydreams persisted a week went by with no call. Then what I had been hoping for, a call and an invitation to view the plane. A few days later, hours from home and out in the country, I was driving down a long dirt drive on a west Texas ranch. I saw no runway or buildings that resembled a hangar. The farm house was abandoned and no one was in sight. I was lost. I had to be lost. A call to the family revealed I was at the right place. Waiting for their arrival I decided to explore.
Walking from shed to shed I looked in at old farm equipment, homemade trinkets and about everything else one could expect to see on an old Texas farm. Running out of structures and losing interest I looked out to the final building, a galvanized metal structure. I was overcome with a feeling that I can only describe as “you’ve got to be kidding me.” The building was wide enough for the wings of an airplane and just deep enough but it was surrounded by tall mesquite trees. If the Cub was inside, just how long had it been sitting?
Peaking through a small crack the Cub was revealed. I stood in silence at the awesome sight, frozen for a moment before realizing my heart was racing. I was excited beyond anything I had ever felt. Before me was a true barn find. The proverbial find pilots and restorers dream about. The ideal find that never turns up, that does not exist.
When the family arrived I began poking, tapping, and scraping the airframe. The tubing was solid and the engine had strong compression on several cylinders. Minimal rust and a considerable amount of cotton remained on the airframe. The area’s dry climate had been good for the Cub. I viewed the original instruments, aluminum rudder cable guards, and canvas wrapped breather tube. On and on there was something exciting at every glance.
I realized quickly that I could not clip the wings of this Cub. Seeing the unusually short lightning bolt, “Cub” inscribed tires, and cotton fabric, I knew it had not flown in a long time. What I had guessed from the pictures to be a high-time, worn-out Cub parked in the 1980s turned out to be something completely different.
In 1946 the Cub was purchased new for $2,352 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 it to and from their separate ranch operations. When one ranch was sold the plane was no longer needed. Charles flew the aircraft last. After that final hop it was pushed into its hangar at the corner of a cotton field, the doors were closed and the young Cub was put away into darkness. The Cub had flown less than 200 hours since new. The date: July 1, 1950.
When Charles was fatally injured in a farming accident eighteen years later, the Cub was passed on to Charlotte. Holding onto the aircraft for sentimental reasons, she refused to part with it for over forty years. Upon her passing in 2008 her only child, Jay, began searching for a new home for his family’s Cub. Jay found Ranger Airfield with its extensive history, volunteer workforce, and growing popularity to be a fitting place for the airplane. On a beautiful January afternoon in 2009 the Cub was pulled from the barn, its sheetmetal warmed from sunlight for the first time in nearly six decades.
Although the Cub was completely assembled when discovered it became a basket case fast. Preparing for restoration, unique details popped up during the tear down. One feature in particular garnered great interest. Wired to the tailwheel fork was a tag stamped: “WHEEL BEARING SHORTAGE NECESSITATES TEMPORARY SUBSTITUTION OF WOOD BEARINGS.” Disassembly of the tailwheel in fact revealed wood bearings. Apparently Piper was supposed to mail Moseley the appropriate bearings but they never made it on the airplane.
Once restored “Barn Cub” will give rides to kids at Ranger and flying events it attends. What better way to expose a young mind to aviation than through the open door of a Cub? The restored Cub will also be a platform to inform people about Ranger Airfield’s preservation, an undertaking to preserve one of the last all-grass municipal airports in the United States.