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Piper PA-18 Super Cub

Piper PA-18 Super Cub (4)

The Piper PA-18 Super Cub is a two-seat, single-engine monoplane introduced in 1949. It was developed from the Piper PA-11, and traces its lineage back through the J-3 to the Taylor E-2 Cub of the 1930s. In close to 40 years of production, over 9,000 were built. Super Cubs are commonly found in roles such as bush flying, banner and glider towing. It was built between 1949-1983 and 1988-1994.

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The Ranch Hand Super Cub

The Ranch Hand Super Cub

Bryan Prevost’s good-looking PA-18 has flown four generations of one family around the grasslands of eastern Montana. 

Unless you grew up in a residential airpark, or maybe in Alaska, you probably didn’t have an airplane hangered in your backyard. But Bryan Prevost did. 

In places like Lambert, Montana, where the Prevosts have a farm and ranch, an aircraft can be as useful as a tractor or a horse—perhaps even more so. With a population of 483 in the settlement and a population density of one person per square mile in the vicinity, there’s some serious territory to cover. 

“My dad purchased the Super Cub that we have today back in 1976 from the North Dakota Game and Fish Dept.,” Bryan said. The Super Cub had seen a lot of flying before the Prevost family acquired it—and it’s seen a lot since.

Growing up in the backseat

“Growing up with a plane, it was like having another vehicle for us,” explained Prevost. “I’m the third-generation aviator in the family. My grandfather and my father were both pilots. My grandfather Joe flew a Waco, a Luscombe, and was the crew chief on the P-51 and P-38 back in World War II.” 

Prevost’s grandfather was part of the 55th Fighter Group and 442nd Air Service Group. Much of Joe Prevost’s deployment was spent in England, and he returned home with a Bronze Star for his service.

Bryan’s father, John, loved to fly the Super Cub. “I can remember as a kid hearing the plane start up in the morning,” Bryan said. “I always made a mad dash to get to the plane when my dad was getting ready to go flying. I guess it was a good way to get me out of bed,” he joked. 

“Every time that plane started up, I was in the backseat. And when I couldn’t go, I was bummed. My mom has a home video of me at age 5 coming out of the Super Cub after a flight. In the video, I’m crying—because I didn’t want to stop flying.”

“My dad taught me the basics of flying that plane,” he continued. “As I got older, I would actually go out to the plane when my dad was gone and start it up and taxi it around—the only problem was, I couldn’t push it back in the hangar,” he admitted. “My dad was not happy. He said, ‘You need to take lessons.’” 

Father and son spent many hours together in the Super Cub. Unfortunately, Bryan Prevost lost his dad suddenly in 2011. John was only 60 years old. “I think we flew together the week before that,” he recalled. “Dad flew.”

 A circuitous path to piloting

“I began flying lessons at 16 or 17,” Bryan explained, “but I just didn’t have the time. I was involved in sports in high school, and it took a lot of my free time.”

When it came time to consider post-high school education, Bryan considered aviation. He went to his high school guidance counselor to talk about attending the University of North Dakota (UND). 

“I struggled in high school with math and science,” Bryan said, “and when I mentioned to the guidance counselor that I was really interested in aviation, he said that there’s a lot of math and science in aviation, so he would advise me not to go into aviation.”

“And I listened to him.”

“I pursued becoming a teacher,” Bryan said. But his heart wasn’t in it. “After three years of college, I decided to come back to work with my dad on the farm.” 

“Then on my 21st birthday, my parents bought me a one-hour aerobatic ride over in Minot, North Dakota at Pietsch Flying Service. I remember when Eric Haagenson rolled the Pitts S2B over, I just said to myself, ‘This is what I want to do!’”

That first logged lesson in a Pitts Special did the trick for Bryan Prevost. He attained his private pilot certificate in 1995, but the training setup wasn’t ideal. 

He explained, “My private pilot training took a while; a little over a year. It was expensive—and difficult to coordinate with the instructor, who also had a full-time job. So I decided to go back to school to get the ratings I wanted.” 

Bryan received an aeronautical science degree in aviation from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana in 2000. With the previous college credits, the program took him about two years. When he graduated he was a private pilot-instrument, commercial, multi-engine and is a CFI and CFII. 

The classes were difficult, but not impossible and Bryan learned an important life lesson. “When someone tells you that you shouldn’t do something, you should go for your goals no matter how big they are,” he said. 

Prevost has about 2,000 hours now. He flew some game surveys for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) in the early 2000s and has done a little bit of instruction. These days he primarily works on the farm and ranch, as he took on those duties full-time after his dad’s passing.

PA-18 Super Cub Photo: Moose Peterson

PA-18-135, N3689A 

The Prevosts’ Super Cub is a 1953 model. “Before my dad purchased the plane from North Dakota Game and Fish, it was a sprayer down in Pierre, South Dakota,” Bryan explained. 

“We had a total rebuild back in 2005 from a gentleman named Wayne Mackey. He did a fantastic job,” Bryan said. 

At that time, the aircraft received a new fuselage—the original one was completely shot—and all new fabric. The original fuselage had 8,500 hours; the new one has about 500 hours. 

“We went with a red-and-white color scheme. I don’t necessarily want the plane to stand out,” he explained.

“During this time I took the engine to Jeff Skyberg in Circle, Montana. Jeff and Ly-Con Aircraft did their magic: it’s a 160 hp Lycoming O-320-B2B that now puts out almost 180 hp,” Bryan said.

Other features include ThrustLine’s engine mount extension, a Sutton exhaust conversion and Micro Aerodynamics vortex generators. Regarding the new thrust line angle, “I think it does help,” Bryan said. “I also have the CubCrafters’ elevator and rudder gap seals, upgraded seats made by Oregon Aero and a Reiff engine preheater.”

In addition, N3689A was outfitted with landing gear safety cables and an extended baggage kit from F. Atlee Dodge; a Cleveland wheel and brake conversion; an 82-inch McCauley “borer” prop (GM8244) and 29-inch backcountry tires from Alaskan Bushwheels. “I absolutely love these tires,” he said. 

They suit his backcountry flying well. “I don’t hardly land anywhere but turf. I probably fly four or five times a week and just land in the middle of the pasture to check on cattle. I’ll bet I touch down on asphalt about 5 percent of the time—mainly when I need to get fuel, is all.”

“As far as avionics, it’s just the basic intercom and com radio with a Garmin GPS,” Bryan explained. “In the winter, with the weather here in Montana, we don’t fly the Cub too much—mainly because the heater isn’t so good.” 

Safety is foremost for Bryan Prevost. “I respect the weather 100 percent,” he emphasized. “Dad and I once got caught in a windstorm and it got really bad, really quick.”

Jeff Skyberg at Circle Aviation performs the annual inspections and maintenance on the aircraft. “I’ve known him for 25 years—he’s very knowledgeable,” Bryan explained. Circle Aviation is the FBO at Circle Town County Airport (4U6) in Circle, Montana.

Achievements

Prevost likes to share his love of aviation, too. He helped coordinate the Wings of Freedom airshow in Sidney, Montana in 2004, 2009, 2013 and 2016 and seems to have a knack for persuading talent to come to Montana. 

In addition to bringing the Canadian Forces Snowbirds to perform in Sidney—three times!—he also booked Danny Clisham, “The Skytalker,” as announcer for the show. “He’s the best there is,” Bryan said, “and it was great for our audience of mainly non-flyers to have an expert.”

It seems the goodwill Bryan Prevost extends comes back to him. “The highlight of my aviation journey—hands-down—is when I was invited to fly with the Canadian Forces jet demonstration team in 2013. The Snowbirds brought to me a whole new concept of close flying.”

“The one thing that stood out is their skilled teamwork—the ground crew, pilots, everyone associated with the flight—it was unbelievable. I was so honored and privileged to be able to fly with the Snowbirds.”

“I’ve been very lucky to be able to get a couple rides from Warren Pietsch in a P-51 Mustang, and also log some AT-6 time as well,” he added.

Prevost Family PA-18 Super Cub (Photo: Moose Peterson)

A family of friends and mentors

Bryan Prevost was inspired to take flight by his grandfather, his father—and episodes of “Black Sheep Squadron” on television. Today Bryan is inspired by the work of the Texas Flying Legends Museum and all of his many mentors. 

“You’ve gotta have mentors. I truly believe that,” he said. Some of the mentors that Bryan mentioned include Kent and Warren Pietsch in Minot, North Dakota and Jim Peitz in Pierre, South Dakota. “Jim said something one time that has stuck with me,” Bryan explained. “He said, ‘Your heroes become your friends.’ That sure has been true for me.”

The photography on these pages was done by Moose Peterson. “Moose takes a lot of photos for the Texas Flying Legends,” Bryan said. “Brian Strum was the pilot in the 182RG, with Moose doing the photos. I was flying the Super Cub, with Warren Pietsch as my safety pilot.” 

The fourth generation takes flight in the PA-18 Super Cub (Photo: Moose Peterson)

Like having another family member

It sounds like Bryan will never let go of the Super Cub. “We are very fortunate—still are—to have a hangar and the Cub. “It’s like a family member now,” he said.  “Ideally, I would like my kids to keep the Cub in the family,” he said. 

Bryan and his wife, Cassie, have two young children: Ryder, age 5, and Natalie, 3. And it sounds as if the next generation will be growing up in the plane, just as Bryan and his sisters did. “Last year me and my son went up, marking the fourth generation that has flown in that plane. It was a proud moment for sure.” He plans to take Natalie for her first flight soon.

Although Bryan also owns and flies a Beech Bonanza V35B, it doesn’t have quite the same charm as the Super Cub. “If I had a chance to pick any airplane, I’d still pick the Cub,” he said. 

PA-18 Super Cub

Photo by Moose Peterson

 

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STCs and Modifications 

– PFA Supporters

 

CLEVELAND WHEEL AND BRAKE CONVERSION KIT
Parker Hannifin
  
VORTEX GENERATORS
Micro AeroDynamics Inc.
 
MCCAULEY GMA8244 PROPELLER 
Univair Aircraft Corp.
 
Other STCs and Modifications
 
ALASKAN BUSHWHEELS
Airframes Alaska
 
ELEVATOR AND RUDDER GAP SEALS
CubCrafters, Inc.
 
EXTENDED BAGGAGE KIT, SAFETY CABLES
F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services, LLC
 
ENGINE OVERHAUL/SERVICING
Circle Aviation
406-485-2481
 
Ly-Con Rebuilding Co.
 
ENGINE PREHEATER
Reiff Corp.
 
SEAT UPGRADE
Oregon Aero
 
SUTTON EXHAUST CONVERSION
Professional Pilots, Inc.
 
THRUSTLINE ENGINE MOUNT
ThrustLine Products of Alaska LLC
Originally appeared in Piper Flyer magazine March 2018
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