“Classic Cubs, Microlights and a BBQ at Te Kowhai…recreational flying doesn’t get much better than this!”

Ace boy-reporter, Mike Feeney, soaks up the atmosphere at the Labour-Day Fly-in and Eat-in.

A fine aerial view of Max Clear's airstrip, Bantam plant and the extensive array of hangars. Te Kowhai village may be seen in the background and the west coast and Raglan Harbour are just a few miles past the hills to the west. Drew Barlow, who is on the committee of the Whangarei Flying Club, took this shot during the fly-in and counted 74 parked aircraft.

A fair sky, a soft spring breeze, a springy green-grassed airstrip, a Piper Cub and happy people; a combination that has maintained great appeal since the first Cubs appeared back in 1930.
All of the above were present on Labour Day at Max Clear’s Te Kowhai airstrip, north-west of Hamilton.
As it is now 80 years since the first ‘Cub’ took to the air, a brief outline of the type’s evolvement is in order.The history of the ‘Cub’ began when C. Gilbert Taylor designed the first Taylor E-2 Cub. Soon after, William T. Piper, who made his money from oil, bought Taylor out bur retained him as President. 1,200 E-2s were sold. When Taylor was on extended sick leave, Piper made changes to the aircraft and called it the J-3 which incensed Taylor. Piper bought Taylor’s shares and he left, to, in 1936, establish the Taylorcraft company which produced several attractive side-by-side two-seaters from which the Auster series was derived.
The Piper J-3 used 50 and 65 bhp motors and sold in large numbers. The Government-funded Civilian Pilot Training Program used the J-3 with 75% of the 435,000 trainees receiving their primary training on them. About 20,000 variants of the J-3 were produced. During WWII it was used by the US military as the L-4.
I may be one of the few in NZ who has flown a side-valve engined J-2 as well as a range of PA-18s. I recall saying to my chum Glenn Ridgeway as we attempted to fly a standard 1,000 foot circuit at Mangere, that it was like flying a series of cross-country sectors! The J-3, when flown solo from the rear seat, was a little better on the climb, but still required much time and patience. Having flown the 150 bhp version on glider-towing, I can say that even with a heavy glass glider on tow, this version has, relatively, rocket-like performance.

In 1946, Piper upgraded the J-3 into the 90 bhp PA-11 ‘Cub Special’ which featured fully-enclosed engine cowls. They even experimented with a nose-gear version. In 1949, from the PA-11, Piper produced the first PA-18 ‘Super Cub’. In NZ, our aero clubs primarily purchased the 90 bhp model whilst the aerial topdressing operators bought the 135 and 150 bhp version which has small wing flaps. The PA-18-150 proved to be a good payload lifter (up to 400 kg) and, when lighter, is a true STOL machine which can land and take off from tiny locations as it has an excellent initial obstacle clearance performance. They are still used extensively world-wide as a light ‘bush’ machine and fly well with floats or huge ‘Tundra-tyres’.

This is a pleasant shot of a pleasant couple; Neroli and Bill Henwood beside their much-treasured ZK-BQV.

Bill and Neroli Henwood have been flying since the 1970s with Neroli obtaining a PPL. Bill has taken a keen interest in aviation since he was a child when he absorbed all of the “Biggles” books. After obtaining his CPL, he has flown a wide variety of single and multi-engined piston and turbine-engined types which include the Convair 580 and Boeing 737. He has also instructed on pretty well all of them; with the exception of the 737. Bill’s current airline roster allows enough spare time to carry out programmed flight instruction. Bill has just clocked up 15,000 logbook hours.

The couple have been operating “Classic Cubs” since 2007 and specialize in PPL training, taildragger ratings, mountain-flying and airstrip training, biennial flight reviews and aircraft hire. Bill’s mission is to provide quality training and a sound way to achieve this is to extend the student’s experience and “broaden their horizons”  by using affordable and ‘fun’ taildragger aeroplanes; the Piper Cub being a classic example. Both of their daughters have begun learning to fly, in the Cub, with their Dad; so it looks like the family passion is set to continue through the girls.

Their easy-to-use and well-designed website, www.supercub.co.nz  is well worth a look as it contains an interesting range of topics about their operation and also has many links to subjects relating to Piper Cubs and taildragger flying techniques. I enjoyed the photo gallery which has a fine collection of flying activities and various trips the couple have made around NZ.

Max Clear’s Te Kowhai complex has certainly expanded over the decades and now, along with the Micro Aviation Bantam B-22 manufacturing plant and offices, has many more hangars in which are housed privately owned aircraft. There is also ample space on which to park aircraft outside on the expansive grassed areas. It is an idylic setting for recreational and sport flying activities. The east-west (05/23 M) 700 metre airstrip (NZTE) is in good condition and is available for general use by agreement with the Operator. Just contact Max or Maxine on: Phone: 07-8297837 or Email at: admin@microaviation.co.nz

Because the airstrip is only about one nautical mile sou-sou-east of Te Kowhai village, the circuit direction is right-hand for 05 and left-hand on 23. GPS ref. is S 37 44 42 and E 175 09 31. By the way, the wires marked on the AIP chart are no longer there.

Micro Aviation has several orders currently building and has sold 344; over 90% of them overseas. They are now planning to enter the Argentine market and a new powerplant option is under test. This is a fuel-injected, electronic ignition 95 bhp Belgian engine. More on this later when I do an article on the project.

The Fly-in day itself:

The superb sunny weather and gentle westerly breeze played a part in attracting an unexpectedly large number of pilots and crew to the Fly-in which was jointly hosted by Micro Aviation and Bill and Neroli Henwood. Aircraft began to converge on Te Kowhai in increasing numbers from 09.00 with most having a go at landing near the the canvas marker on the edge of RW 05. Max Clear had opened up extra paddocks for aircraft to be led to their spots by the busy ‘Follow-me’ quad-bike. The aircraft with the least distance to travel hopped just a few miles from the Collins Road airstrip and the furthest were ZK-BRO and BMY from Hastings. That is a long haul in a Tiger Moth! I live near to Te Kowhai, and have never seen so many aircraft there before. In the heaviest, Harvard 91 from Tauranga, were Derek Williams and Edith Robinson who, I presume, executed the ultra-greasy short landing as it hard to imagine a 31,000 hour Fletcher driver having such finesse! (Thank you Edith for the 70th birthday greeting yahooed from your cockpit as you taxied past.)

As the number of aircraft swelled to eighty six! (86), Neroli became increasingly alarmed that supplies to feed the two large BBQs would prove insufficient so made a timely dash into town to secure ample tucker to satisfy the hungry hordes so all was well with strawberries to top it all off. Then Bill and Neroli awarded the prizes fot the spot landing and thanked everyone for travelling to Max’s lovely rural airstrip which he keeps in such an immacculate state.
1st was Rod Miller (0 metres) in ZK-TXS; 2nd, Judith Grant (1 metre) in ZK-VCT and 3rd equal (2 metres) were Lloyd Morris in ZK-MPO and Irene Law in ZK-JBL.

And so another jolly day was enjoyed by our aviation fraternity. What a great start to our summer season of gatherings where old chums meet and younger folk begin to experience the comradeship that exists within our green and pleasant islands and, relatively, uncluttered airspace. Thank you so much Max, Maxine, Neroli and Bill for your initiative and good-natured fellowship.
And so it is farewell for now from your roving boy-reporter.
Jolly cheers and chocks awaaay!

And this is the Henwood's ZK-BQV at Te Kowhai. The 90 bhp 'Super Cub' (without flaps) was imported in large numbers from the late 1950s and was used mainly by aero clubs as a trainer and consolidation aircraft before pilots did a type-rating on various three and four-seater types such as Austers, Piper Tripacers, a few Cessna 170s, an increasing number of Cessnaa 172s and then the Piper PA-28 Cherokee series. The 135, 150, 160 and 180 bhp PA-18s were a quantum leap from Mr. Taylor's original E-2 Cub, but his original concept was sound and has stood the test of time. Using my rule-of-thumb (square root stuff), the 90 bhp Cub should be about 30% faster than the E-2/J-2 and the 160 bhp variant approx. twice as speedy.

This is an actual 40 bhp Taylor E-2 Cub. Note the little four-cylinder side-valve horizontally-opposed engine. The later Piper J-3 Cub is quite similar but has a 65 bhp motor which markedly improves climb performance. It is a long time ago, but I hazily recall that the J-2's tailplane trim was worked by using a sort of string on the left cabin wall.

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