CubCrafters will soon be providing aircraft for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to a media release from the Yakima, Washington-based aircraft manufacturer, this is the company’s first fleet contract for the modern, certified, CC19 XCub.
CubCrafters is known for its Part 23 certified “Cub-inspired but improved upon” designs as well as its light sport and experimental aircraft. The company was founded in 1980 by Jim Richmond, a backcountry pilot who made it his mission to build Cubs with more modern materials and manufacturing techniques.
The XCub will be used in place of the USDA’s fleet of 30-plus-year-old legacy Piper PA-18 Super Cubs that are currently in service.
The USDA utilizes turbine-powered helicopters and single-engine airplanes in multiple operations, such as the aerial application of herbicides, fertilizer and insecticides, surveying crops and wildlife, feeding fish, the application of seed in remote areas, and for support of wildland fire-fighting services.
Airplanes are usually significantly less expensive to operate than helicopters, said Brad Damm, CubCrafters’ vice president of sales and marketing, noting the operational cost of one of their Cubs is about $250 per hour while a turbine-powered helicopter runs approximately $2,500 per hour.
“The first two aircraft [for the USDA] are in production now and scheduled for delivery in August and September of 2023,” Damm said. “Under the contract, they have fixed price options to purchase additional aircraft in both 2024 and 2025. Our goal here at CubCrafters is to provide them with such a good platform (an aircraft that is more capable, more cost effective, and safer), that they ultimately replace their entire current fleet of around 40 legacy aircraft with the XCub.”
The aircraft are equipped with a CubCrafters CC393i, a lightweight 4 cylinder 215 HP fuel injected engine with dual electronic ignition that CubCrafters developed for the XCub in partnership with Lycoming.
It is Damm’s understanding that the USDA aircraft will be somewhat customized for the intended mission.
“Probably the most exciting modification will be an experimental FLIR camera,” he said, “set up to display directly through the Garmin G3X, to help identify wildlife and increase pilot situational awareness in low light or low visibility situations.”
Damm noted that CubCrafters is hopeful this infrared (IR) technology could eventually be offered to the civilian market, noting it would provide a great pilot situational awareness tool for seeing terrain in low light or low visibility—for example, flying in the backcountry during a smoke event.
“The pilot would have both synthetic vision and enhanced vision on the G3X, in addition to what they could see out the windscreen. Similarly, in low light or at night, the IR camera allows a view of terrain that the human eye simply can’t see,” he said.
CubCrafters Popular with Pilots
Last summer CubCrafters announced the company was going public, with a goal to raise $50 million. Within a few days, 10 percent of that goal had been achieved, said Rod Turner, CEO of Manhattan Street Capital, adding, “It’s a true testament to the reputation CubCrafters has earned over their 40 years in business.”