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Thursday Morning Thoughts

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Apr 7, 2019
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Caution, hand propping rant.

I've been a Cub owner for about 5 years now and been a member here for a while. I pride myself on flying a somewhat original 65 hp hand-propped Cub. It gets the job done in every way. Everyone else around me has 85 hp and most with starters. I bought my Cub with the idea that my two boys would grow up with nice memories of flying with dad in the Cub and maybe do some learning with it. I started in a Champ, but somehow found myself a Cub enthusiast.

Now I have been hand-propping aircraft for years and am completely comfortable with it. In fact, pulling from the back side and holding on to the door frame like most of us do, is one of the reasons I love the Cub. I have an AC winch that I use to pull the Cub into the hangar as there is a slight upslope to the door. I use the winch attached at the tail when I'm alone to start the Cub safely as standard procedure.

I operate at a privately owned public use airport that actually has an 85 hp Cub in the school fleet that has to be hand started. They are very strict about who can prop their Cub for students and instructors. I believe there is usually one instructor and maybe two mechanics that can do it. My "away from the hangar procedure" for propping, involves having some tall plastic chocks roped together on the main wheels and starting from the back side. Our gas pump is directly across from the airport office and I get frowny faces when I get gas alone and start the Cub at the pumps. So, I generally use some 5 gallon cans and fill her back at the hangar. Not a big hassle, but lifting 5 gallons does get to be fun when your feet are slightly wet from the morning grass.

I realize that hand propping outside our vintage aircraft groups really just scares the straights. I had a guy come running up to me from a Bonanza (yes, I judged him) when I flooded the Cub from over priming at an airport cafe. He wanted to jump in the Cub and operate the throttle for me and started giving me a story of a guy he knew who had an airplane run away on him and got hurt. And yes, I have a friend with whom this has happened. I politely opted not to have him help, as adding someone I don't know to the starting procedure, seems more of a problem than a benefit. I have what seems to be a quarter of an inch between starting throttle and 90% power, and having someone crawl in and out of the Cub without nudging that wall mounted throttle is probably a bad idea. And yes, I could have him at the controls and start it from the front and monitor the throttle as he gets out, but I'm unwilling to give up a control of the procedure when I'm not at the back of the prop. I had my chocks on a leash in place, I gave it a 1/8 inch more throttle, and it started on the second try.

So why move to 85 hp and a starter? My wife wants to start flying the Cub and she is not copacetic with the hand start. I had a hard time introducing her to kick staring our vintage BMW motorcycles, but she can do it. Do I want my boys messing around hand starting for me or doing it themselves in the future? Sometimes I want to just roll to the gas pumps and fill it up after a long day of flying, or when I plan on using the wing tank next time, and not get the stink eye. As I get older and my mood moves toward peeing in the potted plants in the doctor’s office, maybe I will just continue with the hand propping. But, everything is pushing me for the easy start option. Is it weird I love the hand prop credibility?

Don't get me started on ADS-B complaints that I get at non-towered airports. That is a completely separate rant.

Happy flying.
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