Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Piper Cub Heaven

Sentimental Journey 2011 at Lock Haven, Pa., where it all began

On an overcast, humid June day, I top a high dike built to prevent the Susquehanna River from flooding William T. Piper Memorial airport. The levee gives a wonderful elevated view of the eastern end of the airfield, nestled north and south by steep, tree-choked ridges rising above the once-thriving industrial town of Lock Haven, Pa.

Here's where it all took off for Piper Aircraft, until that dark day in 1984 when the company moved to Florida, and the factory forever closed its doors.

And here today is where more than 70 Piper J-3 Cubs, Vagabonds and a smattering of classic and antique taildraggers have come, for the 26th time, to celebrate Sentimental Journey, the annual pilgrimage of Cub owners to this verdant central Pennsylvania valley.

Below, parked Cubs on the lush green grass line up like niblets of corn, where thousands of Cubs once rolled off the line. Cubophiles from all over the country come to greet old friends, swap stories, compete in fun contests and take folks for rides. There are lunches, poker runs, live music and dancing (to '40s music, natch), awards and as much flying as the weather will allow.

On-site vendors sell homemade ice cream, barbecued chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, coke and beer. Booths, educational forums and nightly movies (Spirit of St. Louis, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo) give everybody plenty to look forward to, all four days.

More than 200 volunteers, such as Ed Watson and Kim Garlick, help organize the considerable logistics for Sentimental Journey, a true mecca for all things Cub.

Amy Gesch is a perfect example of a new-generation taildragger maniac. A 21-year-old phenom with 600 logged hours, she's also a light-sport CFI with 150 teaching hours. She also flies and reps a Dakota Cub (a Super Cub-clone kitplane) at air shows nationwide.
Gonna take a Sentimental Journey,
Gonna set ­­my heart at ease...
—as sung by Doris Day, 1944
I do declare without reservation that Gesch is a reincarnated Piper Cub pilot. She lives and breathes everything Cub and summons anecdotes, factoids and statistics with astonishing speed.

Ms. Gesch not only loves fun flight, but also has mad skills as a stick jockey. In three consecutive visits to Sentimental Journey, she has won the spot-landing contest twice, and also placed second and third. Why four placings instead of three? After winning this year in the Dakota Super 18 (two feet from the line!), she came right back, in the same competition, to fly friend Dave "Speedy" Richardson's PA-11 Cub Special to a third-place finish! Yep...a true Cub fangirl.


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