The Legend Cub – A Retrospective, Part One

In late 2004, I was approached by the duo of Tim Elliott and Darin Hart with their prospective launch of a remake of the Piper Cub. Development of a prototype had been underway for some time. The two were associated with their local EAA chapter, both pilots and business owners. The construction of a new airplane was being carried out by Hart who at the time ran a manufacturing firm involved primarily with the production of custom aircraft interiors and components. Hart, an A&P, had rebuilt a 1946 Piper Cub that had earned several awards including Best in Class at the Oshkosh fly-in in 1991.

AL3 s/n 1 Legend Cub by American Legend Aircraft Company

The Legend Cub debuted at Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in 2005. This display drew big crowds and earned the new company a backlog of production orders.

In June of that year, American Legend Aircraft Company announced the successful first flight of their FloatCub. KSLR, home to the Legend Cub is situated on a lake. With Hart residing on another nearby lake, adding floats to the airplane seemed an automatic next step. Anticipating a return to Florida in 2006, the first Legend FloatCub was being readied. Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base is a world renown facility for pilots seeking a seaplane rating and their #1 training aircraft are vintage Piper Cubs on floats. The universal love for the Cub and the ubiquity of its use in both land and sea operations were a recipe for success, it seemed.

When Piper produced the Cub, it demonstrated numerous engine offerings among many available at the time, eventually concluding that Continental Motors offered long-term stability both for aviation in general and Piper itself. The durability of Continental engines has proved, even today, their lasting relevance. Moreover, the sounds they produce are beyond compare. They speak “small airplane” in much the same way a bright yellow airplane sparks an interest in flight in general.

Regulatory approval of the new Legend Cub came via the FAA’s newly authorized S-LSA designation. A set of consensus standards, published by ASTM, offered American Legend a streamlined means of gaining an airworthiness certificate for production of aircraft.

The light-sport aircraft initiative set out to do a number of things. Among them, reduce barriers to entry for both planes and pilots. It was very appealing to an aging generation of pilots. Legend’s first customer was a prime example of this new trend. The third delivery of a Legend Cub was also significant as it was the first “glass panel” Cub sporting the newly introduced Dynon EFIS-D100.

The third delivery of a Legend Cub included EFIS and IFR instrumentation.

For most sky gazers upon first sight of a yellow airplane aloft, the delightful Cub comes to mind. Yellow Cubs with their complementary lightning bolt stripe and black “eyebrow” cylinder baffles are certainly the most famous. However, when Legend decided to offer a closed cowl version of its Cub, what came to mind for a paint scheme was the Cub Special. The new closed cowl Legend Cub featured an elegant blue base on the belly and aft part of the fuselage as well as its vertical fin. This aircraft was unveiled as the Legend Cub Special and it was an immediate success.

An order book numbering more than 50 in Legend’s first year led to a repeat customer buying the first Legend Cub Special.

Dynon was the maverick new company in experimental avionics in 2006. They offered many stunning new products which pilots were eager to get their hands on. The FlightDEK-D180 combination EFIS and engine monitor became standard equipment on the high-end Legend Cub Special. Niceties of the EFIS included the display of fuel flow and carburetor inlet temperature, up to 16 engine gauges. This signaled the beginning of numerous future options to come available on the beloved, newly built new Legend Cub.