Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Flying Siegfrieds
Let’s fire up the flivver, kids: it’s family flying time! And, yes, you will solo at 14.
Every child remembers the alphabet blocks of kindergarten. But how many kids are raised with daily lessons in the art of flight?
Bob Siegfried came of age in the 1940s. His childhood memories, like those of his generation, were lit by the lightning of World War II. Through it all, one dream burned the brightest: “I always, always wanted to fly.”
One day in his 14th year, he took money he had earned from caddying at the local links to buy a ride with Marion Cole in a J-3 Cub (yes, that Marion Cole—the legendary U.S. aerobatic champion and instructor).
Flash-forward 65 years to an idyllic grass field—Florida’s South Lakeland Airport, or “X49” as it’s known locally. “Old Bob” Siegfried’s son, Rand, an accomplished pilot in his own right, rides rear seat in another Cub as his daughter, McKinley, shoots landings.
Now, as shadows lengthen, Rand climbs out and tells “Micky” she’s ready to solo the airplane. At first she protests that her landings aren’t quite good enough. Dad reassures her, so the 16-year-old taxis out to the sunset end of the picturesque home-lined strip, guns the motor and lifts off in the brand-new Cub.
Micky is only the latest member of a robust flying clan, the third-generation pilot of a family weaned on props and climb rates. But there’s an added wrinkle to this story: She and her dad built the airplane together.
So back off Britney, and later with you, Paris: we’re in family-values country now. And it all begins with a Cub.
| Probing the Siegfried variant of that eternal play of individual dreams against family expectations unravels a golden thread—love of family and the miracle of flight.|
In 2004, Darin Hart and friend Tim Elliott were looking for an airplane. Both had enjoyed success in aviation businesses. Both were eyeing the LSA phenomenon and wondering if it was time to get a fun flyer of their own.
They hit the bricks at Oshkosh ’04 just as the FAA gave its blessing to the light-sport concept with its publication of the LSA rule.
“We decided an LSA was the perfect airplane,” remembers Hart, “and maybe we should go into business producing one. But we wanted to go with something already well-known, not start with a clean sheet of paper like so many others were doing. And we all loved Cubs.”
Hart remembers thinking, “I know Cubs; I’ve done restorations and stuff. Why don’t we just build one of those?’ So Tim and I decided we’d each throw in $100,000. We’d either have the two most expensive Cubs flying—or we’d start a business with them.”
Although other start-ups already marketed ready-to-fly and kit Cubs, nobody had done one exclusively as an LSA. “The rights to the Piper Cub design had passed into the public domain,” says Hart. “That meant anybody could go to Cub Club [www.cubclub.org] or the Smithsonian and get every original Cub drawing.”
Hart and Elliott bought up plan sets for the entire series (J-3, PA-11 and PA-12, J-5, Super Cub, etc.) and promptly founded American Legend Aircraft (www.legend.aero). Four years later, nearly 150 Legend Cubs, and the Texas Sport experimental-build version (www.txsport.aero), have left the company’s Sulphur Springs, Texas, hangars.
Two dominant factors illumine Legend’s success: The quality and integrity of product and company, and the enduring appetite for the nostalgic flight experience of the venerable Piper Cub.
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Labels: Features, Journeys, Learn To Fly, Learning Center, People and Places, Taildraggers, Aviation Personalities