The Legend Cub – A Retrospective, Part One

It was late 2004. I was approached by Tim Elliott and Darin Hart regarding the prospective launch of a remake of the Piper Cub. Development of a prototype new aircraft had been underway for several months. The two entrepreneurs were associated as members of a local EAA chapter and area business owners. Both were experienced pilots, both in high-performance and tailwheel aircraft.

The construction of the “new Cub” was being handled by Hart, who at the time operated a custom shop principally involved in the production of interiors and components for corporate and head-of-state aircraft. A licensed A&P mechanic, Hart had previously rebuilt a 1946 Piper Cub that was earned, among other awards, Best in Class at the Oshkosh fly-in in 1991. At the time I met them, Elliot flew a family-owned 1939 Piper J3 Cub purely for recreation and a Cessna twin for business purposes. Both founders contributed their unique vision of the new company that was soon to begin.

AL3 s/n 1 Legend Cub by American Legend Aircraft Company

First flight of the Legend Cub was celebrated at Sulphur Springs Municipal Airport (KSLR), home to the nascent American Legend Aircraft Company, on March 11, 2005. With 100-plus spectators present, including employees, volunteers, airport personnel, local officials, aviation and community press, family and friends, the bright yellow remake performed exceptionally. It was flown by Danny Goggans, a commercial pilot and local legend. Upon its return, the Legend Cub descended gently towards the paved surface of runway 19 steady into a headwind, and settling down slowly as if in a natural hover.

With decisive plans in place, and an added measure of panache, the Legend Cub debuted at Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in, April 2005. The startup’s “vintage exhibition,” as it were, drew large crowds and earned the new company an eagerly welcomed backlog of new aircraft production orders.

In June of that year, American Legend Aircraft Company announced the successful first flight of its Legend FloatCub. With KSLR situated on a lake and Hart residing on another nearby lake, adding floats to the airplane seemed an automatic next move.

Anticipating the company’s return to Florida in 2006, the first Legend FloatCub was transported to and debuted at Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base—a world renown facility for pilots seeking a seaplane rating and their #1 training aircraft are vintage Piper Cubs on floats. There it made a splash, confirming the universal love for the Cub and the ubiquity of its use on both land and sea.

When Piper produced the Cub, they tested numerous engines among many available at the time, eventually concluding that Continental Motors offered long-term stability both for aviation in general and Piper itself. The durability of Continental engines has proven, even today, their lasting relevance. Moreover, the sounds they produce are beyond compare. Four gently humming cylinders speak the sound of a “small airplane” while, in much the same way, the Cub’s bright yellow paint stirs emotion for flight.

Regulatory approval of the new Legend Cub came via the FAA’s newly authorized S-LSA designation. A set of consensus standards, published by ASTM, offered American Legend a streamlined means of obtaining airworthiness approval for their production of aircraft.

The new light-sport aircraft initiative set out to do a number of things, among them, reduce barriers to entry for both planes and pilots. The concept forged its appeal early on among an aging generation of pilots. Legend’s first customer was a prime example of this new trend. The third delivery of a Legend Cub was also significant as it was the first “glass panel” Cub sporting the newly introduced Dynon EFIS-D100.

The third delivery of a Legend Cub included EFIS and IFR instrumentation.

For most sky gazers, upon first glance of a small airplane aloft, the delightful Cub comes to mind. Yellow Cubs with their complementary lightning bolt stripe and black “eyebrow” cylinder baffles are perhaps the most famous. However, when Legend decided to offer a closed cowl version of its Cub, what came to mind for the paint scheme was a Cub Special. The new closed cowl Legend Cub featured an regal blue base on its belly and aft fuselage, including the vertical fin. This aircraft was unveiled as the Legend Cub Special and it too was an immediate success.

An order book numbering more than 50 in Legend’s first year led to a repeat customer buying the first Legend Cub Special.

Dynon was the maverick new company in experimental avionics in 2006. They offered many vivid new products which pilots were eager to embrace. Their FlightDEK-D180, combination EFIS and engine monitor, became standard equipment on the high-end Legend Cub Special. Niceties of the EFIS included display of fuel flow and carburetor inlet temperature, plus up to 16 engine gauges. This signaled the beginning of many new options offered on the now hallowed Legend Cub.