CubCrafters’ LSAs flying high

For the past 31 years, the name CubCrafters has been synonymous with Super Cubs. But with its entry a few years ago into the world of Light-Sport Aircraft, its name now is tied to one of the most successful LSAs on the market.

The Yakima, Wash., company was founded by Jim Richmond, a Super Cub aficionado, who wanted to offer rebuild services for Piper Super Cubs. When the Sport Pilot and LSA rules went into effect, it was a natural progression for the company build its own LSA.

But CubCrafters’ first attempt at an LSA wasn’t such a success.

To be certified in the LSA category, a plane needs to have a gross weight of just 1,320 pounds. Richmond’s first idea for a CubCrafters LSA was to produce a scaled-down, and therefore lighter, Super Cub.

“He found out that you just couldn’t get a Super Cub light enough,” said Randy Lervold, general manager. “He realized that he was going to have to have a clean sheet design.”

Using computer aided design (CAD) and materials, such as composites, that didn’t exist when the Super Cub was developed in 1949, the CubCrafters Sport Cub S2 took shape.

“The Sport Cub is a reinvention of the Super Cub,” Lervold continued. “The need to keep the airframe light and strong led to a complete redesign of the wing. We have a saying at CubCrafters: ‘Light is right’ and we mean that.”

He notes that each wing assembly, which includes two aluminum spars, ribs, anti-drag wires, and compression bands, weighs 22 pounds or less. The fuselage is made from reinforced 4130 chrome moly steel with carbon fiber components.

The interior of the Sport Cub was also redesigned using a composite tray for the pilot seat and pedestal.

Additionally, the instrument panel is 4 inches forward of where it is on a traditional Super Cub, creating a more spacious cockpit.

“The cockpit is approximately 4 inches wider at the shoulder for both the pilot and co-pilot than an original Cub,” said Lervold. “There is also more head room. We have had pilots 7 feet tall in the Sport Cub. They have to bend their knees, but they fit.”

He notes that getting into the airplane is easier too, because of a large gull-wing door. There’s also removable windows for the pilot who wants the full “low and slow, wind moving through your hair” experience.

While some LSAs are designed to be “around the patch” aircraft because of limited fuel capacity, the CubCrafters LSAs are “go some place” airplanes. The Sport Cub has two 12-gallon wing tanks, a four-position fuel selector valve, and a gravity-fed fuel system. This is a big departure from the original Cubs, which sported header tanks.

“We also have an option for long range tanks that hold 44 gallons, of which 43 is useable fuel,” said Lervold, adding, “The fuel tanks are located in the wings. The fuel gauges are site gauges on the wing root. They show the fuel in both three-point and flight attitude with placards warning against takeoff if the fuel level is below a certain level.”

The Sport Cub is powered by a Continental O-200A engine rated at 100 horsepower. Lervold acknowledges that the choice of powerplant sets it apart from many of the LSAs on the market because the LSA industry standard is the Rotax engine.

The decision to use a Continental engine was debated, Lervold recalled, saying, “When Light Sport was introduced back in 2004, the Rotax engine hadn’t really won public confidence yet, and we didn’t want to build a Light Sport Aircraft per se. We wanted to build the best Cub that we could that would also be a Light Sport Aircraft.”

INSIDE THE SPORT CUB

When a pilot who has flown a vintage Super Cub gets into the CubCrafters Sport Cub for the first time, there may be a moment of confusion as they hunt for the flap handle.

“We repositioned the flap handle. It’s now on the upper left side of the cockpit,” said Lervold. “It’s a safety thing. In traditional Super Cubs the flap handle is down low on the left side of the cockpit. When you reach down for it, you have to take your eyes off the horizon for a moment. With the new position you don’t have to do that. You can see out of the corner of your eye, which makes it safer. Also, the new design has fewer moving parts, so it saves weight.”

CubCrafters offers four options for instrument panels in the LSAs: Basic analog instruments for the pilot who wants a pure “look out the window” VFR experience; glass panels featuring either Dynon or Garmin products, known as the Executive Glass Panel; or the recently developed MyPanel which, as the name implies, allows the pilot to customize the panel by installing an iPad.

“The MyPanel has a big dock in the center of it,” Lervold said. “We supply the hook up, the customer just plugs in their iPad.”

The iPad-inspired MyPanel has proven especially popular, says Lervold, noting that it was introduced in November 2011 and by December six airplanes with that configuration had already been sold.

The trend toward technological enhancement in the Cubs is both surprising and expected, said Lervold.

“The Cub has stood the test of time,” he said. “You can get low and slow and have the top technology at the same time. Really, who doesn’t want XM Weather in the cockpit on that cross-country flight? We also get requests for two axis autopilots that will lock onto your GPS and flight plan.”

There are trade offs when customers start adding options, he acknowledges. It not only increases the cost of the aircraft, but sometimes it also increases the gross weight. To help customers make their choices, CubCrafters has an application on its website that allows them to pick and chose what options he or she wants, then determines if those choices create an aircraft that is still in the LSA category — and still in their price range.

Some of the options include extended baggage, leather seats and lighting packages. Customers also can opt to remove the airbag system to save weight.

“We are in the business to sell airplanes and we will work with the customer as much as we can, be it on panel design or paint scheme,” said Lervold, who notes that the classic Cub yellow with the black lightening bolt is still a top design.

The basic price for the Sport Cub is $134,950. A deposit of $45,000 is required at the time the order is placed, with a $70,000 payment due when the panel is selected. The balance is due when the aircraft goes in for paint and certification.

“Currently we have 16 deposits on the books,” Lervold said, explaining that, “depending on the time of year and how busy we are, it can be three to six months before the aircraft is delivered.”

According to the latest figures from Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) and General Aviation News’ Splog (Sport Pilot Blog) column, CubCrafters holds about 8% of the LSA market, coming in fourth behind Flight Design (15%), Cessna (8.5%)and Czech Sport Aircraft’s SportCruiser (8.2%) (the former PiperSport).

For more information: CubCrafters.com

 

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