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Cub in new paintwork

The Cub Comes Home

When Clarkson, Hammond and May pitted a 140mph Cessna 182 against a 250mph Bugatti, the car won. We pitched a 75mph Piper Cub against a 154mph Vauxhall, then a 155mph Bentley, then a 120mph Jeep and only the one with knicker elastic in the steering beat the plane home.

This trip was my introduction to the world of blogging using BlogSpot. As I've now retired that blog I've pulled this story over to here. This is partly because I know it's become popular over the years, but mainly because I look back on it as one of the most enjoyable episodes of my life.

Back in the noughties, phone cameras weren't the multi-pixel wonders they are today, so don't expect too much of the imagery.

The Background

It’s a Shaw family tradition to be fascinated by old aeroplanes. My first attempts at graphic design consisted of attacking my brother’s 1942 copy of Aircraft of the Fighting Powers with a biro. (I also threw his model of a de Havilland Vampire into the fire; another Shaw tradition is that I’ve always been an evil little git).

The brother in question bought a Boeing Stearman some years back. Predictably he wouldn’t let me near it with a ballpoint or a lighted match, so all was well until someone landed it ungently on its top wing. It was to be many years before the CAA could be persuaded it should fly again.

Stearman crash

A sad, sad Stearman. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt

So Martin started a quest for a Piper Cub. They’ve suddenly soared in value, so after looking at a lot of high-priced projects he felt himself very lucky when he found a genuine beauty for sale at sensible money. In the foothills of the Pyrenees.

A Cub can stay airborne for a safe two hours or so. At around 70mph, that puts your fuel stops no more than 140 miles apart. So the plan was born. Adrian Hall-Carpenter - unfeasibly tall, but a true gentleman for all that - was recruited for his flying experience, boundless cheerfulness and willingness to listen to profound bollocks for a thousand miles at a stretch.

My job was to provide ground support in the form of jerry cans full of fuel and baggage porterage. You’ve seen the films – you know I’m the one who’s going to get eaten by the lions don’t you? Yeah, right…

The Story >>

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