|Roger and Darin Maggers Super Cub is the first ever PA-18 and spent much of its life as the working airplane William Piper intended it to be. (photo by Russell Munson)
By Randy Dufault
In the general aviation boom that followed WWII new airplane types showed up frequently. Manufacturers of the day moved quickly to adopt new technologies and new techniques. Model numbers were changed, and new, better airplanes left the factory. There was very little time to spend considering what impact any of those new models would bring to the company or to general aviation as a whole.
So it was with Piper's PA-18. What started out as a set of improvements to the PA-11 model, and a new "Super Cub" designation on the tail, ultimately changed aviation history.
But William Piper did not dwell on that possibility.
The first Super Cub was completed, test flown, and sold to a customer. Within two months it had been equipped with a combination duster and sprayer rig and began a long life as an agricultural aircraft.
When a potential customer offered Roger Maggers of Baker, Montana, a beat-up, old Super Cub as a potential trade for one that Maggers had rebuilt, and identified the old plane as serial number 1, Maggers questioned whether that could possibly be true.
"I had heard that serial number four was the oldest one still around," Maggers said. "But I asked if he had the original logbooks and data plate, and he said that he did."
In the end Maggers bought the old Cub in 2010. Maggers and son Darin flew the plane as it was for about a year before a little prompting from the Super Cub community convinced the two to restore it in time for the Piper Cub's 75th anniversary celebration here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012.
Restoration began October 15, 2011; first test flight came on July 7 of this year, not long before they, and the airplane, needed to depart for Oshkosh.
Maggers' goal from the start was to restore the famous plane back to the exact configuration it was in when it left the factory.
"We cleaned it all up and tried to save as many of the original parts as we could," he said.
A key task was to remove a number of modifications made to the airplane over the years. Wing flaps and a balanced elevator had been added in 1950, the original 90-hp engine eventually was replaced by a larger 150-hp powerplant, and an electrical system had been added.
"We didn't want to use any non-Piper type parts," Maggers said. "We were able to find some new old-stock wing ribs. When we opened the airplane up we saw that it still had original type ribs."
Even though the airplane carries PA-18 serial number 1, the fuselage structure is stamped number 2. According to Maggers, the PA-18 is simply a civilian version of a PA-19 model originally intended for the U.S. Army. Only one of the three PA-19 Pipers constructed left the factory, and it left with fuselage number 1. Unfortunately that fuselage was lost when that PA-19, which still flies today, had its fuselage replaced.
Determining how the plane looked when it left Piper in November of 1949 turned out to be a real challenge.
"It was a bit difficult because there are no pictures of this airplane," Maggers said. "We worked with Roger Peperell, the Piper historian. He has been in Piper's vault and had never come across a picture of this airplane. He does have some similar pictures, and those are what we worked from."
Other original features include smooth tires and original blue-colored knobs on the throttles, control sticks, cabin heat control, and carburetor heat control. A new mixture control knob had to be fabricated from scratch when a suitably conditioned original could not be located.
One particularly difficult challenge was coming up with original, unshielded ignition wires for the engine. Maggers did locate a source for the wire, but he had to fabricate the entire harness from scratch.
The family plans to keep the airplane just as long as they can.
"We've had some offers that got my attention, but it is a part of aviation history," Maggers said. "If I ever do sell it I want it to go to somebody that's not going to modify it. Eventually I hope it ends up in a museum somewhere.
"I feel honored to own the airplane, and we are proud of the way [the restoration] turned out."