Friday, February 19, 2010

Going skiing in the Cub

Plane: Cub, 85 hp + Skis
Instructor: Emerson
Route: 40I-2OH9-40I
Weather: Clear, 23 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 6 knots

If there's one good thing to come of the crazy amount of snow on the ground here in Southwest Ohio, it's that Stewart has the Cub on skis. Last year our one big snowfall melted so quickly that I never had a chance to fly it in this configuration. I had today off work since we're headed up to Michigan for a wedding Gina's in and took the opportunity to head down to Waynesville and go flying first thing this morning.

THIS is what winter flying is all about!

Emerson cleaned the frost off the wings and windshield while I completed the preflight. Then I hopped in and he propped using the cold-start procedures. He taxied us over to the fuel pump and I waded through the 2 foot drifts (they were up to my knees or higher) to fill our tank full of 100LL. Engine running again, I ran through my full CIGAR checklist sans run-up before taxiing towards the runway.

He had instructed me that we would almost need full throttle at times to move through the heavy snow. As I brought the power up and wiggled the rudders back and forth to break the skis loose, we started to move away from the fuel pump. There's a lot less friction when you move over top of existing ski tracks in the snow, so you have to constantly adjust the throttle to keep moving. Just as in soft field procedures, you never want to stop moving of you run the risk of getting stuck.

Stewart - the only way to get in or out is on skis

Silos and houses off the end of Runway 26 at Stewart

I made a big left circle to ensure the pattern was clear and then rolled onto the runway. Full power and we started to move. As we picked up a little speed, the wings began to develop lift and you could feel the weight come off the skis. I held in back pressure to keep the tail close to the ground as you do in a soft field takeoff in the Cub. Before I knew it, we had smoothly lifted off the snow and were quickly climbing and I snapped into usual pattern mode. Turn crosswind at 1,500 feet, downwind, throttle back and level at 1,800 feet (though I ended up at 1,900 most of the time today) on downwind.

Abeam the numbers I pulled the carb heat and slowly brought the throttle back to 1,500 RPM to ensure I didn't shock cool the engine. On final I could tell I was a little high and I brought the throttle almost to idle to bleed some altitude. About 20 feet above the runway I added in a couple hundred RPM (soft field technique) and made slight corrections all the way to the ground until we touched very softly. Emerson said "good job" and I have to admit I was quite proud of the landing, too.

Snow-covered fields

The valley surrounding the Little Miami River

I made another two circuits around the pattern at Stewart, each time departing with a very smooth takeoff and a very cushioned landing where you could just feel the skis kiss the snow. Based on this flight and my last one in the 150, I'm starting to think having Emerson along is my good luck recipe! After the third landing at Stewart, he asked if I wanted to go over to the gliderport for a few landings. They're more protected by trees and the snow is deeper so I said, "sure, let's go!"

Caesar Creek Gliderport on downwind to Runway 27

It's only about 3 miles away, so I was almost in their pattern by the time I leveled off after takeoff. On downwind for Runway 27, I could see just a few ski tracks on their otherwise very smooth and snowy field. There's some large high-tension lines about 1/2 mile out on final so I ended up a little high and floated about 500 feet down the runway before touching down. It was such a smooth landing that you could actually feel the back of the skis hit first and then settle down as the weight of the plane brought them fully into contact with the snow.

Some beautiful houses nestled in the woods near the river

Taxiing in the heavier snow, I had to keep the throttle around 2,000 RPM most of the time to stay in motion. On takeoff you could actually feel the lift build on the wing as our acceleration was slow at first, then picked up quickly as the weight came off the skis - very cool. I made two trips around the pattern here as well, with an extremely smooth takeoff and two very, very smooth landings. The soft snow really cushioned the landings (it's like landing on cotton almost) but I was also doing a great job managing throttle and stick for nearly zero-descent touchdowns.

You can see the thin haze layer as you look towards the horizon

I asked Emerson to fly us back to Stewart after my third takeoff at the gliderport so I could take a few photos on the way home, which I've embedded throughout this post. He kept us around 500 feet AGL and I really enjoyed seeing all the snow from such a great vantage point. I took the controls again on downwind and brought us back for another smooth landing.

Emerson flying us back to Stewart

About to fly over US-42 between Lebanon and Waynesville

You can really see the ski tracks in this shot

Most of you know how much I love the Cub in general and how much I rave about flying around in warm weather with the door open. Well, that's all awesome but this whole skis business is the next level of awesome. Today was an absolute blast and it introduced me to yet another wonderful part of the J-3's personality. Seriously, it's nearly impossible to imagine more fun per dollar ($62/hr at Stewart) available in an airplane I can rent!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.0 hours
Total Time: 141.8 hours


  1. Steve, this is awesome! Happy new year, btw!

  2. I always love the view from the sky. Nice snow pics :)

  3. A belated Happy New Year to you too, Mike!

    I do love aerial photos - too bad it wasn't so cold out. It would have been nice to not have to shoot thru the windows. Though then I guess there wouldn't have been much snow to photograph...

  4. Very Cool!!!

    380+ hours and I haven't tried a turf strip......I can't imagine how cool the skis would be.

    As always great pictures! It was a different look at the snow from above. I enjoyed my flight today and the pictures my passenger clicked off. Looking down on it sure beats shoveling!!

  5. Well whenever you come out my way, you'll have to land at Stewart.

    Or, fly into someplace nearby and I'll take you up in the Cub!

  6. Steve,...

    You Suck.



    :-) Awesome to say the least, that is a great experience. I'm lined up to get my tailwheel endorsement this summer, looks like a blast!

  7. My offer to Gary offer stands for you, too! :)

  8. Great pictures...awesome write up. As much as I'm sick of snow, nice job :)