All about the immortal J-3 Piper Cub and L-4 Grasshopper, built by William Piper at Lock Haven, which evolved into the PA-11 Cub Special, PA-18 Super Cub, and the Legend Cub and other lookalikes of today
NC-21610 was completed in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, in August 1938. The buyer was Ed Brockenbrough, who began a life in aviation by assembling a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," the famous First World War trainer, from junkyard parts. After barnstorming and working as a flight instructor, "Brock" opened the Charlotte NC Flying School in November 1938, so buying Six One Zero was no doubt his first step toward independence. Starting a flying school during the Great Depression was an act of considerable courage -- it wasn't for another two years that the US began to hum again, thanks in large part to European orders for warplanes and other weaponry. The flying school soon had a hundred students and four instructors. The instructors were all men, of course, and they all wore ties.
1938 was the year when the iconic J-3 Cub replaced the J-2 built by the Taylor company before William Piper took over. The Piper company continued to build J-2s through the spring of 1938, and indeed two of the early J-3s were actually converted from the earlier design. Altogether, sixteen J-3s were produced before the first production run began, with serial numbers starting with 2001. So Six One Zero, with s/n 2467, is presumably the 483rd Piper J-3 to venture out into the world.
I used to think that it was odd that some early J-3s were equipped with "J-2 ailerons," meaning they lacked the extended nose of the aileron devised by engineer George Frise. When deflected upward, the Frise aileron added a bit of drag to that side, reducing the force the pilot needed for the stick and helping counteract the aileron drag from the other wing, thus reducing yaw in the turn. But Six One Zero -- built more than three-quarters of the way through that 1938 production run -- has the old-style ailerons, so most or all of that year's J-3 Cubs must have been thus equipped.
Though it went out the door with a 50-horsepower Continental, Six One Zero was upgraded postwar with the then-customary 65-hp engine. Perhaps at the same time, it got a new tailwheel, a Firestone boldly stamped MILITARY, no doubt manufactured for the L-4 Cub used by the US military. Mark Rhodes plans to use that historic bit of rubber, but the main wheels will be equipped with all-new tires and tubes. The brakes are original, however. He consulted with Clyde Smith Jr., the "Cub Doctor," about the barn-door ailerons, and plans to glue fabric along the hinge line to increase control and lessen yaw at slow speeds. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
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