|Mike Finney stands next to the clip-wing, aerobatic Cub he scratchbuilt over the course of 10 years. (photo by Randy Dufault)
By Randy Dufault
At age 18 Mike Finney owned a 1939 J-3 Cub. After that one was gone he wanted another, but he wanted it to be brand new.
"I realized the only way I was going to have a new one was if somebody was going to come out with plans and I could build it," Finney said while standing next to his award-winning, plans-built, clip-wing Cub.
"Of course, that would be only if I could ever figure out how to build one from plans."
The first part of the equation was satisfied around 1975. Wag-Aero began offering plans for an airplane called the CUBy - essentially a homebuilt J-3 Cub. Finney, of Albany, Indiana, immediately ordered a set.
Now came the other part: Could he build an airplane from plans?
Ultimately Finney chose the Acro Sport II biplane for his first attempt at airplane construction. Working over the course of five and a half years, he completed the project and flew it to Oshkosh in 1994.
After flying the biplane for a number of years and considering what his ideal Cub would be, Finney decided to get to work on a clip-wing project, ultimately to be powered with a 90-hp engine.
"I had the Acro Sport II so I knew how to do aerobatics," Finney said. "I've also got some time in a Pitts. So it didn't make sense for me to have an airplane that I could not do aerobatics in. With the clipped wing you get a little stronger struts, stronger wing fittings, and so on.
"It is strong enough in case you want to do a loop or a roll here or there."
Construction started in 2000 and Finney faced some issues early on. He called Wag-Aero with a question and after sharing the serial number on his plan set, the company immediately sent out a newer, up-to-date set, at no charge.
Turns out a number of changes occurred over a quarter century.
"I did all the welding, the wood, the fabric, the painting, everything," Finney said. "Some of the parts I enjoy more than others. I really enjoy welding and doing all the work on the fuselage, so that's what I did first.
"Wings are not quite as much fun for me, but you have to have them."
One eventual compromise came up front - the cowl nose bowl.
Finney built a concrete mold and hammered metal; two or three discarded or failed attempts prompted him to relent. He purchased a commercially produced version.
"For me that was one of the more difficult things to do," he said. "I'm going to learn how to do it one of these days, but I wanted to get the airplane flying first."
The Cub's first flight happened in April of 2010 and it now has 125 hours on the airframe. This is the plane's first visit to AirVenture and it garnered a Silver Lindy award as the Reserve Grand Champion Plans Built.
Finney keeps the little yellow plane at his private airfield and obviously flies it a lot.
"It's a really nice-flying airplane," he said. "If you go out in the backyard, and it's a beautiful day, you can't hardly help but go for an airplane ride."