Deep within hangars filled with the airplanes that man-made machines created, hidden to the layman behind Bonanzas and Barons are the apples of my eye, the pure manifestations of those who share a true passion for flight. Having yet to meet the hands and the hearts behind masterpieces such as this, I know short of the required casual introductions, the hours of conversation that would follow would appear to the onlookers as if the reuniting of lost souls was taking place; the truth being their observations are not far from the reality of the situation.
The Curtiss JN-4 Jenny was the Cessna 172 to the pilots who flew in the aerial wars of World War I. Originally thrust into the air with the OX-5 engine, 38262 was reborn with something slightly more modern, as to not take away from the experience of flying one of the few Jennys across the country, but rather in the hopes that its ability to sustain reliable flight would grant its pilot and passenger the opportunity to travel not only back in time, but further from the pattern that most OX-5 engines would allow. Other accoutrements such as a custom-built tailwheel that keeps the original tail skid clear of the ground when operating from modern landing surfaces grant air show participants these same opportunities.
Vintage airplanes may come with a complete history of the hands that not only built them, but restored them, flew them, and share them with others. Legally, the FAA will dub them “owners”, but a Disciple of Flight sees the relationship differently, leaning more towards the steward or caretaker label, placing the emphasis on who truly wears the pants (or the silk scarves).
Airplanes like my Cub have histories that will surely outlive mine, and while it’s acquisition was initially an effort to turn a small project plane into a bigger project plane, I’ve come to the realization that we’ve adopted a 750-pound 72 year old child that loves calm wind days in the canyons more than anything. My only hope is one of my five children will not only do what is necessary to keep those wings in the air when I pass, but build upon the legacy of 37H, and planes like 38262, inviting the passion of flight back into the hardened hearts of childhood barnstormer pilots who once turned arms into biplane wings, and help them turn those dreams into reality.