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#112 The Cub in a Barn

The Cub in a Barn

There is a recurring legend in aviation.  It’s one of those stories that keep popping up in different parts of the country and involving different people.  I’ve always thought it was interesting because it is popular among non-flyers and flyers alike.  It is the old story about “the cub-in-the-barn”.

From time to time an airplane will surface.  It was either a flyable plane or a kit that was never finished.  It was disassembled and, for lack of a better facility, is usually stored in somebody’s barn.  There it languishes for years, perhaps under a tarp and largely forgotten.  And then it gets found.  Usually, somebody is able to buy it from the inheritors for a song.  That’s an important part of the legend.

Many years ago, I learned how universal the legend was.  I was living in Florida and traveling all over the country to perform my airshow act.  We’d put our Cub in its trailer along with the big duck cage which housed our troupe of seven performing ducks.  Off we’d go until shortly before we got to one of the agriculture inspection stations.  We’d stop short of the station, put the ducks in their little catch cage, bury the cage under luggage in the truck and then proceed through the inspection station.  At one station in particular, the same officer would saunter out and greet me.  He recognized the rig.  We’d wander back and he’d stick his snoot in the trailer where the Cub sat.  Then he’d always turn to me and ask,

“You don’t happen to know of an old Cub in a barn anywhere, would you?”

Interested in flying, he was aware of the recurring legend and hoped that HE would find such a plane and make it his own.

“No, I haven’t seen one lately”, I’d answer.  I was thinking, “yeh, sure, if I find a Cub in a barn I’m gonna tell YOU about it!”.   He’d wish me a good trip and we’d be on our way.  We’d stop a mile down the road, put the ducks back in the trailer and continue on the trip.

It’s not that there are no Cubs in barns.  They are there.  It’s just that there aren’t too many of them and they are not all Cubs.  When I rented a little farmhouse a few years ago, there was a 172RG stashed in the barn.  It had been wrecked many years before.  The wreckage lay, covered with dust , in the barn and there were a lot of salvageable parts on it.

Neiport

A Nieuport biplane at a WW1 airfield

Years ago I came up with a story based on the concept.  The story concerns a U.S. pilot who is shot down over occupied France during the second world war.  He is hidden by a French farming family in their barn.  In that barn he finds an old Nieuport biplane that has lain there for years.  Over the weeks, he puts the old World War 1 fighter together and eventually escapes in it after a dogfight with a Messerschmitt in which he is victorious because he can out-turn the more modern fighter.  I still think it could be a good story if properly written and produced.

And that’s the legend of the “Cub-in-a-barn”.  They are rarely Cubs.  And you’ll probably never find one.  But the legend contributes greatly to the romance of aviation.

Keep checkin’ those barns.  And Happy Swooping!

Brian

8 comments to #112 The Cub in a Barn

  • Must be a fuzziness to a Nieuport…

  • Marty Winger

    Geez Brian,

    What a great story indeed if there was an old (really old) Harley along side!

  • RobertL

    Brian my ’51 L18C was indeed found semi abandoned at the back of a hangar in Ireland, with the original C90-8F and Irish linen fabric. Now providing sterling service with the original engine, since overhauled, and new fabric. As it served in the French ALAT (Artillery observer and mountain flight school), I used the French version of Ceconite for the cover – not original but hopefully quite durable.

  • Not a cub but a Model T. When I bought my first New Standard D-25 part of the deal was that the owner had to include an old 1926 Model T, two door sedan that was in the back of the hanger. Turns out it was a one owner, had belonged to a life long friend who had passed years before. His wife couldn’t part with it as it was their first car so ask the owner of the Standard if he would store it which he did. For decades. It’s the same Model T that Jessie Woods rides to her wing riding adventures on the New Standard. It was absolutely original down to the 7 decade old roll up curtain in the back window. Not a cub, but quite a find. You might like to know that as of earlier this year, it now resides at a private aircraft museum in Georgia and is the airport car, sharing it’s magic with anyone lucky enough to visit and get a ride.
    Steve

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