Imagine this: You make a two-point landing...or a four-point! Then you back-taxi, take off and fly over to a lake. You land on the smooth-as-glass, sparkling water and beach the amphib next to your friend’s beach party. After lunch, you and your buddy pile in to lake-skim the local waterways at 20 feet. Welcome to amphibious flying, where your landing sites and possibilities for fun increase exponentially with the simple addition of water.
Four If By Land...
Aerodynamically and aesthetically, the Legend Aircraft AmphibCub is a distinctive creature. No longer a taildragger, the plane anchors to wheeled floats with rigid struts. That pretty much levels things up to tricycle-gear country.
I suppose, technically, the retractable wheels fore and aft make the lovely creature a “quadcycle-gear” airplane. And having four wheels bestows interesting characteristics for ground landings. You can land level on all four wheels, just like a flying car; nose-high on the two rear wheels like a tricycle or taildragger plane; or, in a crosswind, on the two side wheels of the upwind float. Now, how cool is that?
Back To The Ground
Presenting yourself to the airplane on land, you look up at the cockpit—and I mean up; it’s a tall bird. Aesthetically, this presents a sense-memory challenge for those with appreciable Cub time. The feeling of newness grows once you climb into that lofty cockpit. And what a sight you’re greeted with. Your head is nine feet above ground. Looking out over the nose to an open, commanding view is a kick...and we haven’t even fired up yet!
The metal Baumann BF 1500A amphibious floats, resplendent in classic Cub yellow, add so much sunshine you want to just soak it all in.
The LSA standard allows another 110 pounds on top of the max legal LSA weight of 1,320 pounds for duck feet, bumping max takeoff weight (MTOW) to 1,430 pounds. The Baumanns add a net weight of 160 pounds, resulting in a 990-pound empty weight and 440 pounds of useful load. Even so, the airplane cruises at almost the same speed as the wheeled version since the floats provide around 100 pounds of lift, helping unload the wing and resulting in less drag.
Taxiing from that lofty perch is way cool. Feed in pressure to the heel brake (Grove hydraulics) to initiate turns, taxi fast enough for rudder control, and you’re good to go. The 100 hp Continental 0-200 cranks a big 72-inch prop that’s pitched at 46 inches for a balanced off-water climb (750 fpm) and cruise (we saw 85 knots) performance.
All the controls are well placed in that roomier (three inches wider than a J-3) cabin. There’s a Johnson bar landing-gear lever on the floor—nice, long and smooth-working. All flight surfaces are cable-rigged but feel near pushrod-tight. And the airplane’s owner, Charlie Pickett, has some very cool modern gear in this classic son-of-a-fun flyer’s panel: a fully rigged Dynon SkyView with EFIS and synthetic vision, a Garmin 496 GPS, Garmin SL-40 nav/com, a PS Engineering PM1200 intercom, an all-electric panel, a...enough, the sky’s calling!
The AmpibCub is outfitted with metal Baumann BF 1500A floats; the LSA standard allows an additional 110 pounds over the max legal weight of 1,320 pounds, increasing max takeoff weight to 1,430 pounds.
Once A Cub...
On a beautiful spring morning, we roll down the runway and rotate (10 seconds) at around 45 mph. The ASI is marked in miles per hour, not knots. It’s a Cub, after all. I see 750 fpm climb at 60 mph. “Everything works good around 60 mph,” says Sehnert. “Climb out, best glide, and it’s a good approach speed. I always tell people, ‘If it all goes bad, find 60 mph first.’”
We climb east as Sehnert shares his deep Cub experience. “I tell people, ‘The bad news is, the Cub’s kind of a draggy airplane. And the good news is, the Cub’s kind of a draggy airplane.’ Even adding floats, you’re not really changing the airplane’s drag profile because you’re also taking off landing gear and struts, and it all kind of balances out.”
Flying the AmphibCub is pretty much like flying a Cub. The control inputs require firmness, and response in pitch and roll are smooth and steady and, all in all, no surprises. About the only difference is a slightly heavier control feel and a stable-feeling sense of a lower center of gravity from the mass below the airplane, which helps ride out the bumps a little better than the lighter land Cubs.
Floats also impart some pendulum stability. Pulling turns, everything feels familiar, rock-solid and friendly to me—pure Cub pedigree.
We run through a full stall series—a real hoot. Power-off stall comes at 33 mph with the dual sticks buried in our manly bellies. The nonevent maneuver delivers a mild falling-leaf descent at about 550 fpm with minimal rudder to keep things centered up.
Power on: That’s a roller coaster ride.
Our pitch-up angle exceeds 45 degrees at 40 mph! Again, the sticks are buried. Quick pushes on the rudder keep the mild rock and roll under control. Recovery is a slight nose over and...“That’s it,” says Sehnert...the Cub’s flying again.
For fun, we do an aggressive accelerated turn at a high bank angle: Back on the power; dropping through 50 mph; back, back, back on the stick; there’s the buffet—but the AmphibCub hangs solid in the turn. Yes!
A thin stream of morning dew drains out of the wings as Sehnert regales me with stories of a classic bush pilot mistake: the “moose stall.”
“They’ll see a moose, start circling to check it out...and stall the airplane. If you as a pilot don’t notice that the airplane’s buffeting hard, telling you what’s going on, well you have to be awfully excited; that must be one heck of a moose!” Maybe a Sarah Palin trophy moose?
Two If By Sea
Water operations are deceptively easy, though training in all aspects of water operations is not only legally required but important: Water operations are a whole new ball game. We set up to land on a small lake, lining up easily straight into the 10-knot wind, which paints gossamer foam lines on the dark blue-green water.
Sehnert visually checks the gear three times to make sure it’s retracted, double-checks the gear indicators, one on each float’s forward deck, then we do a normal pattern...at 60 mph indicated, of course. It’s a Cub!
Flare is smooth and easy, and it’s back with the stick, back more, and settles like a seabird. Haul the stick all the way back to avoid nosing over into the water. We decelerate, come off the step, and we’re water-taxiing.
The main rudder does a fine job for steering on water, too. The two water rudders are left up until closer to docking or beaching. Looking out the open side door, I notice the cable between the float noses. That keeps the floats from doing the splits, like we all did learning to water ski.
The two doors are an added boon on water, since you always dock on the side dictated by the wind. With only one door, if it ends up waterward of the dock, you’ve got an interesting challenge exiting the airplane.
A short stop yields a friendly chat with Jon Brown of Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base, where thousands of float pilots have won their...wings? Duck feet? Then we taxi out for some high-speed fun on the lake.
Boating along at higher, on-the-step speeds over roughish chop feels completely secure, though we’re only steering with the main rudder. “Be ready to give opposite roll,” Sehnert advises. “Tight turns can lift that outboard wing and dig your inboard tip into the water.” Hmm...dat not good.
He tells me of customers who fly the heavy iron, then rediscover the simple joys of flying in a Cub. The AmphibCub is the hot item right now at Legend, and no wonder. Of course, by now I’m thinking it’s time to get my sport pilot seaplane rating. Sehnert smiles. “It’s more fun,” he quips, “than anybody should be allowed to have.”
We laugh. Yeah, I get that. Way too much fun indeed.
The Coming Of The Super
What do you get when you take America’s top-selling Legend Cub airframe, swap in a 115 hp Lycoming IO-233 LSA engine, add flaps and rebuild the doors, seats, baggage door, cowl, boot cowl and some smaller components with carbon fiber? Answer: The Super Legend Cub.
Due for delivery next spring at Sebring’s LSA Expo, the first production model will go to Rich Giannotti—who also bought the very first Legend Cub! How’s that for a customer testimonial?
“All the orders on the book so far,” says Legend’s marketing whiz Dave Graham, “are from existing Legend Cub owners.”
Arriving at essentially the same airframe weight, the slightly heavier IO-233’s 115 hp, which comes with throttle body injector system, tuned intake manifold and dual electronic ignition, delivers greater short-field performance and cruise speed. And the flaps will augment short-field/steep-approach capability.
Another advantage of the Lyc is its certification to burn all grades of mogas (auto fuel)—even mogas with ethanol. That’s a real boon for everyone worried about changing fuel realities down the road.
“The Super’s not a redesigned aircraft,” says Dave. “Its wing profile and tail feathers are based on the original Cub and Super Cub.”
There also will be an Alaska Edition, with a bigger, longer baggage area to accommodate fishing poles and guns in the tail section; bigger tires; and a removable backseat for even better cargo hauling.