August 14, 2019
N88090 Serial No. 15706
When Piper built this little Cub in 1946, no one dreamed that so many would still be flying 73 years later. I’m sure they figured the vast majority of them would be in the junk pile after 30 years. Yet, each year many are still getting restored to like new condition.
After you’ve owned a few planes, you eventually realize that you really don’t own them. You are simply adopting them and taking care of them until the next person takes it over. This is paramount to the preservation of the aircraft. But, one of the things we’ve all been a bit short sighted on, is the story behind these aircraft. Yes, maybe you have a complete set of logs. But, what’s its story? What is the pedigree? Each plane has a story to tell, and as time goes on, I think that story will become more valuable, yet harder to document.
Generations of owners pass away, but the planes remain! With the passing of the generations the stories of our airplanes are lost forever, unless someone takes the time to document it.
So, here’s my little effort to preserve a bit of that past. Here’s the story of my little Piper J3 Cub.
N88090 rolled out of the factory in Lockhaven, PA on February 1 1946.
One very helpful practice from the 30’s and 40’s, was the documentation of each flight in the airframe log. This is something we no longer do, so we have no idea who’s been flying a plane we are researching. Who’s flying it, provides a wealth of information on where it’s located.
This little Cub was originally sold to a flight school in Memphis, TN.
While at the flight school, N88090 wracked up an impressive number of hours during the first 8 months of its life. By August 1946, she had 274.5 hours on her.
Then the airframe log skips to November 1946 and simply says, “Right wing, both struts and prop replaced”. That’s it, that’s all it says. Looking in the engine log, you also see that in November a 124 hour TTE C75 engine was pulled off of an Ercoupe and put on the Cub, replacing the 65 horsepower engine, that I’m sure was damaged in the wreck.
So, she received signifiant damage in August of 1946, and one of the unique things about this little Cub is that it has a metal spar wing, and a wooden spar wing. This is because, when it was originally manufactured by Piper, it was supplied with two wooden spar wings. By August 1946, Piper had stopped producing wooden spar wings for Cubs. So, the factory shipped them a brand new metal spar wing for the right wing that was evidently destroyed beyond repair.
So, this little Cub has had a metal wing and a wooden wing virtually its entire life. I know what your next question is. Could you tell? No not a bit. Does it need to be rigged differently? No, not a bit. In fact, I had forgotten that it had one of each, until I took it a part for restoration.
The Cub was in the flight school until July 1, 1947. It was purchased by Nolan W. Cardwell of Jackson, TN. The logs indicate that he flew it for 6 years as a trainer also.
Two Generations of Whitehurst Ownership
On March 10, 1953 the plane had a total time of 514.1 hours, and T.A. Whitehurst of Bolivar, TN purchased the plane and began giving instruction in it. This began a two generation ownership of the plane.
In June of 1953, the C75 engine had 600 hours TT. It was overhauled and converted to a C85 (85 HP).
By 1955, the Cub had 700 hours TTAF. T.A.’s name no longer appears in the logs. His son’s name (Billy) begins appearing in the logs. Within just a few pages, Billy’s name is the only name in the record, it no longer reflects training, but transportation. The little Cub became his personal plane.
In March of 1957, Billy Whitehurst recovered the plane with cotton fabric.
The records show normal annuals through out the 60’s and 70’s.
In December 1980, Billy again recovered the plane using cotton fabric. It had 1219.5 hours on it.
The little Cub was synonymous with Billy.
Whitehurst Family History
Billy and his wife Judy, built the largest privately owned flight school in the world during the 80’s and 90’s (Bolivar Aviation International School of Aeronautics). Thousands of their students are flying today, and remember Billy’s Cub.
More about that can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBEFz2TMlLg&t=935s
Another unique part of this Cub’s story, is the memorial that is on the door. One of Billy and Judy’s daughters was named Marianne. Tragically she was killed in a car accident on Nov 7, 1980. Billy recovered the cub that year too, and along with that, came the memorial to Marianne on the door.
Fourteen years later on December 30, 1994 Billy Whitehurst suddenly passed away. He was only 58 years old.
A New Owner
In 1995, Lyndol Askew, a dear friend of mine, traveled to Bolivar, TN to purchase the little Cub. I remember him telling me that he was struck by the family’s story, and that he ate dinner with the family, at their home, to discuss the purchase of their family heirloom.
Lyndol purchased the plane and flew it from Bolivar, Tennessee to Slaton Municipal Airport, just east of Lubbock, Texas. Lyndol stored it there in a private hangar.
In 1999 Lyndol moved to Pecan Plantation near Granbury, Texas. There, Lyndol built a beautiful new home and hangar just off the runway. It was quite the transition for the little Cub. Lyndol’s turbo charged V35B was relegated to the back corner of the hangar. Guarded by a black cat named Cramer, the little Cub was placed at the front of the hangar, where it was convenient for early morning and late afternoon flights up and down the Brazos River.
As beautiful as the Granbury area is, the dusty and arid Llano Estacado has an odd way of calling it’s own back home. In 2004, Lyndol sold his share of a gun manufacturing company (Bond Arms) and moved back to the Lubbock area. He began a third career as a corporate pilot first flying a Cessna 340, then a Citation 1SP.
He had moved all his possessions back, but the little Cub was still sitting in Stephenville, Texas where it had just completed an annual inspection.
Another Change of Ownership
My dad and I had been looking for a KitFox to put on our farm and ranch. But, I happened to run into Lyndol in town, not really thinking he would ever sell the little Cub, I asked if he would sell it to me anyway. Surprisingly, he said yes and a deal was struck.
On April 14, 2004, Lyndol and I flew down to Stephenville in his Bonanza, and I flew the little Cub back to Plainview, Texas and placed it in a T-Hangar there. My dad (Herman B. Rose) and I then built a hangar at our Farm and Ranch southwest of Olton, Texas and on February 27, 2005 it was moved there. That ranch runway is XS06 on the sectional chart.
Funny Damage History
On July 7, 2005 the Cub was damaged by my dad. Having landed a bit long, he ran out onto the hay field and the left main hit a center pivot sprinkler rut and broke the gear strut attachment bracket off on the left side. This laid the right wing on the soft cushion of alf alfa hay and it simply slid to a stop without damaging the right wing.
Working together, he and my mom (Ethel) picked the right wing up and using two links of dog chain, she placed a bolt through each end of the links re-attaching the the gear strut to the fuselage. It was then taxied a few hundred yards back to the hangar.
I arrived a few days later with a trailer to remove the wings and trailer it 30 miles to the repair shop. But, after looking at the dog chain repair, it was actually quite solid! LOL! Desperately, not wanting to remove the wings and trailer it, I said the heck with it, propped it off, taxied to the smoothest place to take off, rolled in full left aileron and took off on the left main. I flew it to Plainview, Texas and GENTLY landed it on the left main. It was repaired there by Ronnie Robbins, and taken back to Olton.
Another Generational Passing
Dad passed away on April 18, 2012. The little Cub remained at our farm and ranch in Olton, until the fall of 2010.
Living in an open hangar there, it was really dirty and the cotton fabric had become quite “marginal”. I flew it to Lubbock Executive Airpark, and placed it in a community hangar there. I cleaned it up, and did an annual inspection on it, which it “marginally” passed in EVERY respect!
Damage History Again
By then I had completed my own hangar at Slaton Municipal Airport and moved it there. I had a friend that wanted his son to learn to fly in it. In June of 2011, it was flipped over in a landing accident.
In September of 2011 we began the restoration in a t-hangar across from my private hangar. We disassembled it over a period of a few days. It was mortifying that we were still flying it! While we inspected the tail clusters at each annual by probing them with an ice pick, it showed no signs of corrosion. However, once uncovered, and able to really inspect, the top of the tubing in the tail clusters looked a bit suspect. I took a fairly large flat blade screwdriver and easily shoved it down through the top of the tubing! We also removed pounds and pounds of mud dauber’s nests!
Over the next 7 years I painstakingly restored the Cub. It was a labor of love.
In 2016, I carefully removed the fabric and memorial from the lower door. I started thinking about the Whitehurst family, and wondered if there would be anyone around that would care about having the memorial. It’s such a powerful story, surely there would be someone.
I started with a call to the airport. I learned that the airport had been named after Billy, and that there were pictures of Billy all over the walls there. But, the gentleman didn’t have a clue how to contact the Whitehurst family.
A bit of web sleuthing found the names of the Whitehurst family and I was able to contact Marianne’s sister on Facebook. It’s a scary thing contacting someone about something so devastating. I asked Sharon if she would like to have the memorial from the door. She was elated to have it. Her and her family had it placed in a shadow box and gave it to Mrs. Whitehurst as a Christmas gift! How cool is that?!!
Continuing The Memorial
I spent hundreds of hours restoring the Cub, and when you’re rebuilding something that has had someone’s name on it for the last 39 years, you can’t help but think about them. Billy’s memorial did its job. Marianne’s memory is not lost. People ALWAYS ask me who she is! I don’t think there was ever really a question about putting the memorial back on the Cub. But, after the family’s reaction to receiving the old memorial, I knew that it had to go back on.
For the rebuild story see it in our blog at FatTireCowboys.com “Cub Rebuild”