When it introduced its NX Cub prototype last year (see our review), CubCrafters created a backcountry airplane unlike any in the world, one that’s convertible between nosegear and tailwheel configuration. This week, the Yakima, Washington-based company announced that it would seek certification for the NX Cub, a nosegear/tailwheel convertible version of its XCub.
The company didn’t make the decision lightly. It was only after it had run the idea past thousands of customers, 300 of whom actually flew the plane over the past year, that the company made the call to certify and produce the NX version of its award-winning XCub (the official designation of which is the CC19).
CubCrafters president Patrick Horgan described the market survey process, which resulted, he said, in a clear mandate: “We went into this process not entirely sure if the market wanted to accept a nosewheel-type personal adventure Cub. There is no question now; we’ve had people wanting to place deposits for this aircraft from day one. Our customers have made it very clear that they want us to build this airplane.”
You wouldn’t think that coming up with a new model of backcountry plane would be controversial, but it is, at least in this case, because for many backcountry flyers, the tailwheel is more than a practical consideration—it’s a badge of sorts for those who see themselves as belonging to an exclusive club.
But one of the driving forces behind the NX Cub’s creation was to open backcountry strips to more pilots, including those who don’t fly tailwheel airplanes, or who prefer not to. Company founder and CEO Jim Richmond said it wasn’t a new idea. “This is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time,” he said, adding that he’s always “believed that back-country flying should be open to more than just tailwheel rated pilots.”
The NX Cub presents a package unlike any other in the world. Because it’s convertible between tailwheel and nosegear configuration, it’s really two airplanes in one, as Horgan describes it, “A fast, modern, easy-to-fly, tricycle gear aircraft and a traditional big-tire tailwheel Cub together. Both are very capable STOL aircraft designed for the backcountry missions that CubCrafters airplanes have always excelled at.”
The secret is the nosegear design, which is a simple, expertly engineered solution to mitigating the impact the nose gear can have on the airframe, especially the firewall. To absorb the loads, CubCrafters attaches the nosewheel’s trailing link suspension to a heavy-duty truss that’s attached to the engine mount, not the firewall, effectively transferring the loads almost directly upward instead of amplifying them, as traditional nosegear attachment designs do. That’s the big secret of the NX Cub, though it’s hardly its only innovation. Again, check out our story on it from last year.
The NX Cub has great bones to start with, the XCub, which earned a Plane & Pilot Plane of The Year award in 2017, was a powerful, advanced and light but rugged backcountry plane on its inception and has only gotten better. The company now offers it with Garmin G3X avionics and a 215-hp Lycoming CC393i fuel-injected engine with a Hartzell Pathfinder three-blade composite propeller.
CubCrafters is targeting 2021 for certification and production of the NX Cub. But if you can’t wait that long, you can get an experimental version of the plane through the company’s builder assistance program.