Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Piper Cub Heaven


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



Piper's Aviation Museum

Standing in the hangar of Lock Haven's Piper Aviation Museum (www.pipermuseum.com), Piper historian and board member Harry Mutter regales me with his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Piper. But for my money, the centerpiece of the museum is right here before us: a gorgeous restoration of the first private light airplane to fly around the world: the City Of The Angels, an immaculate PA-12 Super Cruiser.

The museum is chock-full of eye-catching memorabilia, including a Piper Tomahawk flight simulator and the original PA-29 Piper Papoose, a prototype fiberglass composite that Mutter describes as "a lead brick" and was never produced. There's even a store selling fun Cub stuff: T-shirts, mugs and the like.

But the City Of The Angels—now, there's a story. Owned by Mr. Mutter, restored by David Liebegott, it won Rolls Royce's prestigious Paul E. Garber trophy. Mutter has since donated the airplane to the museum.

George Truman, a 39-year-old pilot and former motorcycle racer, thought the Super Cruiser was the ideal plane for a record-breaking round-the-world flight. There was one problem: William T. Piper thought Truman was nuts, and declined his request for two airplanes to be donated for the flight.

Truman persisted. Mr. Piper, concerned over Piper's potential liability, agreed to finance the sale of two used Super Cruisers for $2,000 each. If Truman succeeded, Mr. Piper also promised to dismiss the loan.

"Piper was not one for profanity," Mutter recounts. "But when he tossed the papers at Truman to sign, he said, 'Why the hell do a fool thing like this?'"

Truman and Clifford Evans, in the other PA-12 (this one named City of Washington—now on display at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center) flew 22,436 miles and set the record. And William Piper, true to his word, tore up those loan papers.

Harry Mutter reflew part of that historic journey years later in the City Of The Angels, hitting all the Canadian and U.S. stops.

Yes, the other Super Cruiser may be in the Smithsonian. But Piper's museum has the one that landed home first! How fitting is that?





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