Saturday, 5 May 2007

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.

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. Two years on, the CAA still can’t be convinced that it should fly again.

A sad, sad Stearman. Blessedly, no one was 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…

It took us three tries, but gave us a great experience to look back on. What follows is the blog I texted back to the UK. The photographs were taken on my phone, so quality’s not a strong point.

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