Sorry Saga of the Brewster Buffalo


A J-3 lookalike for the 21st century

Legend Cub
The Legend Cub made its first flight on March 10, 2005. Now called the AL3 Classic Cub, it's a bit wider than the Piper aircraft of the 1930s. With a 100-hp engine and fuel tank in the wing, it also incorporates the refinements of the postwar PA-11 Cub Special. The bungee cords of old have been replaced by coil springs.

American Legend Aircraft Company flew its all-new Legend Cub for the first time on March 10, 2005. This was the first aircraft from Legend, a startup company with roots in corporate aviation. Similar in appearance to the J-3, the taildragger represented "an evolution in design and fabrication," the company promised. "Numerous enhancements make the Legend Cub a thoroughly modern aircraft. These include a 100-horsepower Teledyne-Continental piston engine, electric starter, and modern instrumentation. Options include a BRS parachute, Baumann floats, Garmin avionics, and a flat-panel display."

The new Cub flew for about 15 minutes on its first flight and a further 4½ hours in testing. At the controls was Legend vice-president Darin Hart, who reported that the airplane flew flawlessly and that "operating the Legend Cub was sheer pleasure." (Well, he was hardly likely to diss it :) Company president Tim Eliot declared that the Legend Cub would be available "in any color you like as long as it's yellow with a black stripe," showing that he had his priorities straight and also that he'd read up on that automotive legend, Henry Ford, who similarly offered his iconic Model T in just one color scheme (all black). Of course Mr Eliot's decree didn't survive very long, once the marketing people got into the act, and Legend aircraft are now sold in your choice of color and decorative finish.

The same was those of those handsome Continental cylinders sticking out to port and starboard. The AL3 "Classic Cub," as it's now called, was soon supplemented by an AL11 "Cub Special" which echoes the closed-cowl Piper PA-11 -- and of course there's an AL18 "Super Legend" similarly based on the PA-18 Super Cub.

The AL3 was designed to meet Light-Sport Aircraft category certification requirements. It had a maximum gross weight of under 1,320 lbs. With optional floats, the aircraft was capable of water takeoffs and landings, at which time that port-side door came in very handy. The plane was about three inches wider than the old J-3, probably as a concession to the evolution in the American butt since the Second World War. The base price in 2005 was $67,000 without any additions; now it's $144,900 with a shelf-full of options including flaps! (I have to admit that flaps add quite a bit to the taildragger flying experience, or anyhow the landing experience, though I missed the lovely feeling of dropping into a short grass field "high and hot and slipping like crazy," as Rinker Buck wrote of his outrageous dad in Flight of Passage.)

When Tom Trissell of Clarksville TX visited the American Legend factory (it's located in Sulphur Springs, some 30 miles east of Dallas), they were welding up the second aircraft, and meanwhile putting hours on the first one to get it ready for Sun-'n-Fun on April 12, 2005. "There was a keyed mag switch and maybe a amp/volt gauge in the left wing root," Tom reported, "and they are using Super Cub style glass tube fuel quantity gauges." I asked him if he'd trust his life to the welding he saw, and he replied: "Yes.... If you look back in the [Cub Builders] archives, you will see where I ... bought a Cuby license to build a Super Cub out of a J-3. From the looks of it, [American Legend has] done the things that I wanted to do, plus some things that I would not have been able to do on my own."

the Glen Edwards diaries

That was reassuring, and to my great joy one of the early purchasers was Mike Hart of Hampton Airfield in New Hampshire. In July 2008, Mike (no relation to Darin Hart of Sulphur Springs) took me for a check flight on N757LC. Of course I'd flown a Husky and a Super Cub from the front seat, and Seven Lima Charlie didn't seem that much different, though Mike did warn me to stay off the brakes. In the early years, the word on the internet was that 13 percent of all Legend Cubs had been nosed over, though the company hotly denied it. But it soon happened to Seven Lima Charlie, though I wasn't at the controls, I hasten to add.

Mike replaced the metal prop with a lighter composite one, and he required us solo renters to carry a 25-pound weight in the baggage compartment. That certainly improved matters, though I never really felt that Seven Lima Charlie wanted to land, and when she did touch down I was always nervous about getting on the brakes. Sure enough, she soon got nosed over again. After this second hard landing, Mike withdrew her from the rental fleet, and I went back to my beloved Seven Zero Hotel. In the meantime, I'd worked up a weight-and-balance for the Legend Cub, which you will find at the bottom of the page.

American Legend Cub specifications

Base Price$67,000
Cruise Speed83 kt
Stall Speed (clean)30 kt
Rate of Climb500 fpm
Takeoff Roll350 ft
Landing Distance350 ft
Maximum Range274 nm
Useful LoadNA
For more information, see the Web site.

Legend Cub weight & balance calculation

The following figures are for N757LC as modified after a nose-over accident in which a solo pilot applied the brakes too hard when taxiing. (In my experience, the Legend Cub has a definite tendency to stand on its nose. Indeed, after it happened a second time, Seven Lima Charlie was taken off the rental fleet.)

Datum: leading edge of wing

Replacing the metal prop with a composite version took 14 pounds off the nose, and switching to a more robust tailwheel added 3 pounds to the other end. All of which moved the center of gravity of the empty plane back to 13.7" (from 11.6" when Seven Lima Charlie was delivered). In addition, a solo renter is required to carry a 25-pound pack in the baggage compartment. For my purposes, fully kitted out at 180 lb, a full load of gas, and the mandatory weight in the baggage compartment, Seven Lima Charlie weighs 1,186 lb and our c.g. is 15.08" aft of datum--much better than before:

757LCWeight Arm Moment
Aircraft (with 5 qt oil, 2 gal gas) 861 lb 13.7" 11,796
Fuel: 20 gallons 120 lb 24" 2,880
Pilot, front seat 180 lb 11" 1,980
Passenger, back seat - 36" -
Baggage compartment 25 lb49" 1,225
Total 1186 lb15.08" 17,881

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Taildragger Tales

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