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#112 The Cub in a Barn

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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.

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!