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Cub questions

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Well-known member
Nov 26, 2001
I'm looking at purchasing a Cub in the near future, and had a couple of questions I need help answering.

One of the planes I've been looking at has 33-year old Ceconite (sp?) covering. I have about a dozen, good, close up digital pics of the plane, and it all looks to be in very good shape. the mechanic said it had been hangered in So CA since restored in '69. I would think this would probably help the situation, with the nice weather in that part of the country.

Any thoughts on the life span of synthetic coverings? What should I look for to determine it's condition or remaining life? Is there any limit to the life of a synthetic covering?

Another Cub question... anyone out there with a Cub, what's your useful load? One of these I'm looking at has an O-200, electrical, 2 aux tanks and only about 215-lb of useful load. I know a 100-hp Cub could stand to be "loaded up" a little, but this just isn't much useful load. Any thoughts? ...please, no lectures on flying over gross. Just looking for some thoughts on Cubs.

Thanks for the help in advance.
ceconite is a very durable covering. I have heard it said that if taken care of well anough it can last forever. Although, I would suspect normal wear and tear of flying and handeling would take it's toll on the fabric. One thing you can do is have a fabric punch test done. It has no ill effects on the fabric and is a normal proceidure in a pre buy on a Cub. I dont have any expierience in the o-200 Cub jst the 150 hp and 180. I can tell you that a PA-18 is just as happy 100 lbs over as it is under.
Ceconite doesn't have a life limit. It tests on-condition. You can get varoious fabric testers, but beward that you can't get a definitive test from one; fabric "softness" varies from part to part of the airplane, the covering, batch, etc. Some fabric testers are punch testers, others test by pull, others simply push on the fabric.

The time honored field test is to find a taut part over a small area and try to put your finger through it. If the fabric has been on the airplane that long, and has had the same paint (virtually always the case), chances are that you'll crack the paint.

If the fabric has been on the airplane that long, make sure it has a good inspection. Rotting in the wooden members would be the first issue of concern. You can always recover, but when major structural repairs are required, you're into enoug bucks that the airplane may not be worth it to you. Pay special attention to any areas where metal fittings pass through the wood, such as spar attach fittings, strut fittings, etc.

Also bear in mind that wood can look perfectly functional, yet be completely rotted through. In some cases it can be caught with a tap test, but in most cases not. Be very sure what you're getting into with a wooden structure.

The same goes for the tube portion of the structure. Get back in the empennage and look for corrosion along the underside of the longerons and other lower members. Ceconite doesn't drain or breathe; anywhere that condensation occurs, or any time the aircraft might be outside, junk collects there. Dust collects, and then holds moisture, which contributes to rust and corrosion. This isn't as big a deal when the aircraft is inspected regularly, well cared for, and recovered every ten years or so. If it hasnt' been recovered in 30 years, it's probably due (I'd recover it just based on the time lapse).

Look to see if any of the rib lacing remains. Chances are that it doesn't. (Mice love it). Rib lacing is important, because if that fabric separates from the rib, you have some major problems. If it's ceconite, it's attached to the rib with Superseam, which is highly photosensitive. It deteriorates rapidly in the presence of sunlight. If you have a good silver coat and the paint is still intact, it's probably not too big an issue, however you want to check.

Many earlier airplanes such as the cub were glued together using aerolite, a two part organic glue. The FAA has determined that aerolite and other glues of that era (including many of the resorcenol glues that were previously thought to be superior) don't hold up as well as thought. This rethinking was reflected in the re-issue of AC 43-13 a couple of years ago. Pay close attention to everything, including any areas where glue may have been used.

Look closely at the engine. If it hasn't been recovered in 30 years, it's probably not been flown much in 30 years. The more an airplane flies, the better off it is. The less an airplane flies, the worse it is on the airplane. Something to think about.

Consider the location, too. Southern California is humid (the coastal portions, anyway), and the salt air can lead to corrosion issues that would be all but unheard of in say, central Arizona.

As for weight issues, while 100 hp will give you increased performance, don't count on much increase in useful load. Stick with the book figures. If the STC used to convert the airplane gives you a greater gross weight, then great. Otherwise, I wouldn't try to put any more on board. Carry less fuel if you need, but the J-3 isn't a truck. It also doesn't have much room for extra stuff. Expect to see better climb performance and shorter takeoffs (a redundant point in a cub), and possibly a slight increase in cruising airspeed, but don't expect an increase in useful load. With more accessories, electrical, and a bigger engine, expect a decrease in useful load. The price for the performance. .

I would think that the STC would cover some increase over the origional gross limitations. Have you checked on that?

Good luck!!
Twin Tails/Avbug -

Thanks for the help. I really appreciate your feedback.

I'm limited in my search right now to a Cub with an electrical system. The insurance with the club I plan to lease back the plane won't allow non-electric planes. Kind of a Catch 22 - the plane becomes much heavier and complex with the radios, starter, battery and alternator. But without it, the the leaseback is not going to happen. I am working on quotes from other insurance companies, but that's a slow process that still isn't resolved. If I could get the insurance to cover a conventional Cub. Then I'd be all over one with a C-85 or -90 and no extras. I mean simple, slow, low, quiet flight is what Cubs are all about.

Back to the one I'm looking at with the elect system. I'm still in the middle of researching the STC's applicable to the plane. I've called the FAA and requested the documentation for the plane. When I get the info from the FAA, I'll have a better idea of who did what under STC, field approval or whatever to outfit the plane as it has been.

I had hoped to get a few years out of the existing covering before restoring. Like I mentioned, I only have digital pics. They do look good, though. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll make a pre-inspection trip to CA just to look it over. I'll do the best I can to research the plane before (it's supposed to be receiving and annual this or next week) flying out West. Once I get there, I'll have to make the decision based on what I see first hand with the plane and logs.

Any idea what it would cost to recover and paint a Cub with a synthetic system?

Thanks again.

If you're serious about buying the airplane, be sure you get a good title search done, and a very thorough prebuy inspection. Don't rely on what you see first hand. Take a qualified mechanic whom you trust, and put it through a full inspection. Plan on about six hundred bucks for the inspection (or more), plus airfare, motel, meals, etc. It's expensive, but a necessary evil.

You should be able to get all the STC info directly from the paperwork with the aircraft. The owner should be able to verify any allowable gross weight increases or other changes to the limitations of the aircraft.

As for recovering, you can do it yourself for about 1,800-2,500 dollars. Paint will run about 500 if you do it yourself, and about 2,00-3,000 if you have someone else do it. You also have the option of having an auto shope do it, but make sure you coordinate it through a mechanic (A&P). This is especially true any time control surfaces are recovered and painted (particularly ailerons).

Bear in mind that while recovering is likely a good possibility after the time period you indicated it isn't an absolute necessity, and the determining factor is the actual condition of the fabric, paint, underlying structure, etc.

AOPA has a full service system that's well worth checking out when considering buying an airplane. There are a lot of hidden pitfalls, hidden liens among them. Look into their services; it may save you a lot of heartache down the line.
For painting there is a company out of Canada that does a very excellent job. We have a Baron that the paint was re-done by them 12 years ago. It was never hangered or waxed, it looks brand spanking new now. I will try to find out their name. They do excellent work at pretty reasonable prices.
Have you checked out www.cubcrafters.com? They've got everything you might and might not need when it comes to the SuperCub!

My father-in-law has a Cub in Alaska with 180 HP, "one ton cub" GW mod, VGs, Borer prop, tundra tires on Maule struts, belly tank, enough room to fit 8 mechanics (uncomfortable, yes, flyable, no, but we all fit!), droop wing tips, and aluminum flaps and ailerons. It's quite the performer!!!

You probably don't need all that, though!
Avbug -

Yes. I've talked with AOPA and plan to use their services for title search, etc. I've also talked with the FAA about getting microfilm/fische(?) of the 337's, history, etc. Between the two, I think I'll come out OK on the documents. As for the mechanic, I've been debating this one. I've got a A&P IA who's been around a while here at home who's been helping me with this thing. Whether I take him out to CA or find one out there, I'll have to make that decision. I know it's the prudent thing to do.

Thanks also for the info on the covering. I've seen several done and wouldn't feel too uncomfortable tackling it (and painting) myself. The problem(?) there is the desire to completly restore the plane after stripping it! I feel like flying, not restoring right now! :) Maybe after a couple of years...

ShawnC - I appreciate the tip.

ClearRight -

Thanks for the info. CubCrafters seems to cater to Super Cubs. They have a few bits of info relating to regular Cubs, but not much.
aggiepilot87 said:
Another Cub question... anyone out there with a Cub, what's your useful load? One of these I'm looking at has an O-200, electrical, 2 aux tanks and only about 215-lb of useful load. I know a 100-hp Cub could stand to be "loaded up" a little, but this just isn't much useful load. Any thoughts? ...please, no lectures on flying over gross.

I used to instruct in a Cub with a 85hp engine, metal prop, electrical system and aux tank. My useful load was about 300 lbs. I never had a problem with it, I just used common sense.

I once took a 300 pounder for a ride in it (I weigh 170). Basically if you can fit the load in it, it will fly, but expect a poor rate of climb and don't let it get slow. A cub will handle it's load if you're careful with it.

Bottom line is don't worry about going a little over... it'll fly. Just use common sense.
Please, no lectures about flying over max gross

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