I jumped to the Cub, hit the master and radio switches, and then transmitted in the blind. I was hoping the chopper pilot was listening on the emergency frequency, 121.5.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday, Piper 1858 Alpha, Piper 1858 Alpha, north end of Caribou Mountain. Helicopter over the Stony River, you copy?”
“Yeah, roger on that, 58 Alpha. Are you the yellow Cub over there with the goofy parking technique?”
“Yeah, that’s me. How busy are you these days?”
“Just finished a job at Aniak, and I’m deadheading to Merrill Field. Looks like you could use a hand down there though, that right?”
“I’d sure appreciate it. Got time for a short visit? I’ve got a jug of hot coffee down here.”
“I could use the coffee. I’ll put this egg beater in your backyard there in just a minute.”
Over that cup of Thermos bottle coffee, I learned that the pilot, a retired Army colonel, had formerly flown with the crazy Jolly Green Giants out of Thailand and Vietnam. He agreed to lift me off the mountain and drop me down at the campsite on the Swift. That would save me a seven-mile walk through some pretty tough country. After that, he’d help with the crippled Cub. First, though, he had another contract to perform. He’d be back for the Cub work in a couple more days.
He flew me about 40 miles across the Stony River to Cairn Mountain, where Sparrevohn, a former U.S. Air Force White Alice radar site, was located. At Sparrevohn, I was able to get a radio patch through to my mechanics back in Anchorage. Finally, the chopper pilot dropped me back at my gravel bar campsite before departing for his flight through Merrill Pass and back to Anchorage. That left me alone to nibble on survival rations while a family of wolves watched with curious faces.
The next morning, my two mechanics arrived in a Cessna 170 and, after we had again climbed the flanks of Caribou Mountain, began work on the Cub. Once the wings had been carefully removed, the two mechanics and I hiked back down to the gravel bar campsite.
The next day, the colonel returned with his chopper. It took him only two trips to sling the broken Cub from Caribou Mountain to our little gravel bar campsite.
Our first chore was to place the right wing upside down on the gravel bar, where I could jump up and down on it to stomp most of the bend from the main spar. Many pilots would find that procedure a bit crude. On the other hand, it does work. The wing later got the Cub back through Merrill Pass and home to Merrill Field. A new wing had to be installed before the Cub could fly again. The new one was a 15-rib wing, rather than the 13-rib model that my 1952 agricultural-model Super Cub originally wore on each side. A new 41-pitch Borer prop was screwed on, the air intake replaced and the landing gear repaired. The wings required re-rigging, of course, but that’s an easy job. It calls only for a good spirit level, one wrench and a bit of patience. After that, Mr. Piper’s tough little Super Cub was once again ready for the air.
Thousands of hours of Alaska outback flying had allowed me to become seriously inattentive and casual during a chancy bush landing several hundred miles from the nearest town or maintenance facility. It’s true that familiarity really can breed contempt. What did I learn from that experience? I learned to always inspect both my intended landing spot and the overrun area beyond. Such an inspection here would have saved me thousands of dollars, considerable time and a very red face.