After lunch I went flying in the Cub with Tim Elliott. Getting into and out of the Legend Cub is just about as hard as it is in a regular Cub. Every Cub pilot has his own method but none of them make it easy. Even though it's just three inches wider, the cockpit did seem a lot roomier than a J-3's, but some of that effect might have had to do with the extra door. And the leather seats and redesigned structure make for a very pleasing environment.
After a short taxi, we lined up and took off from SLR's long paved strip, and headed off to the north to play a bit. Unfortunately, by the time we got flying the air was full of energy, and we got a wild ride in the turbulence. It's not what Cub flying is supposed to be about. I flew from the front seat, which is where I suspect a majority of owners will sit, as that is where the flight instruments are located. The Cub I flew was outfitted with the Dynon Avionics EFIS D-10A primary flight display. It's a very cool instrument, but I have to admit I had a hard time remembering to look at it. In Cubs and their ilk my scan is a bit different: A turning prop is primary for engine power, and a football field's worth of open space or so is primary for getting your butt safely back on the ground if the lack of prop movement indicates a problem in column "A." But if you accidentally found yourself with your head in the clouds, the little PFD would sure come in handy.
Like an actual Cub-actually better than an actual Cub-the American Legend Cub flies smoothly and with light and harmonious stick and rudder forces. It's not an airplane you need to boss around like a strong-willed dog; instead, you guide it around, directly but with finesse, like you handle a cat. That said, you'll never mistake this airplane for a Cessna 150 or Piper Cherokee.
Aerodynamically, there hasn't been much done to the Cub design-it retains the basic Clark Y airfoil of the original and lacks the aerodynamic niceties of more recent airplanes. So you still need to use your feet when you fly it, and you need to stay ahead of it. And just like a Cub, it flies well slowly but it won't fly fast at all. In my review of the Flight Designs CT, I wrote that it was about as fast as it could be without busting the upper limits of the LSA category's restrictions of 120 knots. The same is not true for the Legend Cub. With a cruise prop and a 100-hp engine, this airplane still has to dive to hit 100 mph. So if you're buying an airplane to travel in, pick a different one (which, by the way, is what Legends sales reps tell callers, too).
For trying some landings we came to our senses and used the grass strip just east of the main runway. On my first approach, since there are no flaps and I was a bit high, I slipped the airplane, though it didn't seem to help much. So I chopped the power, settled it in through the cut out in the trees at the threshold, held it off and let it land. (Is there any sweeter feeling in the world than letting a taildragger settle down in the grass on a warm summer afternoon?) As far as taildraggers go, this Cub is an easy landing airplane. After the fact it occurred to me why the slip wasn't very effective. With both doors wide open, the sideways airflow air that slows down a regular Cub flows right on through the Legend Cub. Elliott says it works much better if you close the door leading into the slip. Good idea.
In addition to the subject of cost, a question I get asked all the time about LSAs is, "Are they going to sell?" To be honest, I don't know, but, again, there are promising signs. Elliott says that American Legend has 25 orders for their Cub, and those orders are backed up by 10 percent non-refundable cash deposits. So those are serious buyers. The company expects that level of business to last, and it's ready to gear up to build as many as 100 airplanes in 2006.
A level of 100 airplanes a year would be quite a success, and the American Legend Cub is not an inexpensive airplane. At its base price configuration of $74,000, the airplane costs a lot more than even a nicely restored J-3, but with it the customer is getting things you simply can't retrofit into a vintage airplane.
As some have predicted, many of American Legend's buyers are more experienced pilots who are looking not for their first airplane but for one with a touch of nostalgia they can grow old with. Some of these customers have let their medical lapse and plan to fly their Cub as sport pilots, and some of them have sold conventional certified transportation airplanes, Bonanzas and the like, to make a place in the hangar for their new light sport aircraft.
Sounds like a great plan to me, and the Legend Cub seems to fit the bill perfectly.
The company's website is www.legend.aero.