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Going Direct: CubCrafters Goes Public

Here’s the vision, and it’s a bold one.

CubCrafters Goes Public
Photo courtesy of CubCrafters

On the opening day of #OSH2022, CubCrafters announced that it was going public, opening the company to investment, and filing with the SEC to do so. It’s still in process, but the result will be a publicly traded company of which you can buy a piece.

The company says that it’s the first company that it knows of to go public during an AirVenture fly-in ever, and we won’t disagree. After all, it’s a big step for the Yakima, Washington, company to take.

“Advised by Manhattan Street Capital,” the company said in an embargoed press release, “CubCrafters intends to file with the SEC for qualification to launch their public offering in the coming weeks.” The idea, it said, is “to raise investment capital by selling preferred stock to its fans, customers, aviation enthusiasts, the investment community, and the general public at a price of $5 per share with a minimum investment of only $400 per investor.” The details of the offering are such that, explained CubCrafters, the offers that investors make would be non-binding but would reserve a space to buy shares at the price they initially buy them at, $5 per share.

For those of you not familiar with the CubCrafters story, the company has for 40 years dedicated itself to building and improving backcountry aircraft. Founded by Jim Richmond, who died last year, CubCrafters produces an impressive range of products, from overhauled Piper Super Cubs to kit aircraft, Light Sport models and Part 23 certificated planes, too. This broad and innovative approach was all Jim Richmond, who was an outwardly quiet and fame-averse thinker whose low profile belied his brilliant growth strategy for the company, as well as the technical innovations of which he guided the creation.

My initial response was that the company, now that Richmond is gone, is going in a new direction, growth wise at least. But CubCrafters says it just isn’t so. In its release announcing it was going public, CubCrafters wrote, “Our founder Jim Richmond initiated the plan to pursue a Public Offering with the intention to take CubCrafters forward to the next level and secure its future for generations of aviators to come. Jim’s vision will allow us to attain the key goal of continuing to innovate, increase market share, and accelerate the company’s growth.”

What this means, so far as I can tell, is that because it costs a lot of money to build planes and innovate, CubCrafters can’t grow production or its R&D efforts with its current sources of funding, which are aircraft purchases. By going public, it will be able to grow the company and its customer base and lineup much more aggressively. CubCrafters is a privately held American company, it pointed out in the release. My take is that while other companies, including Cirrus and Piper and Epic Aircraft, for example, have turned to foreign investors, CubCrafters wanted to go a different route, one that might offer them more control of the company’s direction and vision.

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With backcountry flying enjoying an unprecedented level of popularity, now seems like a great time to take this step, even with the economy a wild card right now, there’s some real risk involved, though if we’re honest with ourselves about it, this is always the case.

With Cirrus Aircraft focused on and dominating the personal transportation segment, CubCrafters seems to be setting itself up to be that kind of company only in a different market segment. Such lifestyle branding and marketing efforts are not new to aviation—in recent years both Cirrus and Icon have played that tune well. It’s just not a cheap move to make, but if it’s done right, the results can be measured in terms of airplanes sold and pilots created.

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