The Super Cub - A Blast From the Past!

Written by Shawn Bayless
Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shawn BaylessI wanted to take the opportunity to tell a little about our survey aircraft. The Super Cub (model PA-18) is a two seat, tandem aircraft made by Piper Aircraft since 1949. Piper discontinued production of the Cub in the 1980s, but a few other manufacturers currently produce similar models (Aviat Aircraft, Top Cub and others). Originally designed as a trainer, wildlife biologists have long recognized it for its superior visibility, slow survey speeds and short takeoff and landing capabilities. Ours, N704, belongs to Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Lewistown, MT. We contracted a well known Super Cub rebuilder from Baker, MT, (Roger Meggers of Baker Air Service) to build one three years ago. He acquired a wrecked 1959 model and literally rebuilt it from the ground up. With the exception of the original dataplate, the entire aircraft is new, including fuselage, wings, empennage, engine, avionics and interior. He installed larger tires and extended, heavy duty landing gear as well as a baby bushwheel tailwheel , which allows us to operate on unimproved landing areas without concern of damaging the gear or prop. Top speed of our Cub is about 110 mph. Wish I knew the last time a Super Cub was used on this survey, but would guess in the 1960s. We are flying retro!

We finished all North and South Dakota transects yesterday, as well as the southern-most MT transects and have moved into the Highline of Montana. I recall commenting last year on the number of drill rigs we saw, and am amazed this year at how many more drill rigs, pads, roads and truck traffic we are seeing.

Shawn Bayless and Jon Klimstra and the “Mighty Supercub.

Shawn and Jon and the “Mighty Supercub." Photo by Jon Klimstra, US FWS

Oil rigs are popping up all over the prairie.

Oil rigs are popping up all over the prairie. Photo by Jon Klimstra, US FWS

Another oil pad.

Another oil pad. Photo by Jon Klimstra, US FWS

Bonus shot: the North Dakota Badlands are beautiful from the air.

Bonus shot: the North Dakota Badlands are beautiful from the air. Photo by Jon Klimstra, US FWS

Bonus shot #2: More North Dakota Badlands.

Bonus shot #2: More North Dakota Badlands. Photo by Jon Klimstra, US FWS