Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? Well, do you?
(I did and I was)

Landing on World's Shortest Runway: dumb things that I've done

Text and photos by Budd Davisson, Air Progress, '72 (or so),

One of the enduring legends of the J-3 Cub is its ability and propensity for operating out of just about ally kind of field. Since it stalls at only 38 mph, fully loaded, it will practically hover in a good wind and you can get it into and out of a pea patch. But, how short is short? 1000 ft? 500 ft? I can't talk for the next guy. but the shortest field I've ever put a Cub into and still flew it out was about 22 ft. long. No, that's not a typo overlooked by some sleepy editor.

22 ft. is the length of the runway Ernie Moser used to show me how to really short field a Cub.

Jim and Ernie Moser, my late, extended family. Notice how tall they both look compared to the truck height, which is a regular sized truck, not a Japanese midget. They were both around 6'7".

By now most readers know who Ernie and his son Jim are. They operate AeroSport in St. Augustine. Florida (Ed note from 2009: We lost them both and when cancer took Jim, I felt as if I’d lost my brother.). They also have a touring airshow and seem to get a kick out of showing the kids standing by the fence how it's done. In this particular case. I was the kid and "it" was landing their Cub on a platform fastened to the top of a clapped out pick-up truck.

I was fortunate enough to spend a frantic, fun-filled week at AeroSport, flying their airplanes and eating their barbecue. Throughout all the and good natured ribbing, they kept egging me on. "Yeah, Budd, hang around and we'll show you how to land the Cub on the truck." No thank you guys. I'm still a little surprised when any of my landings work out, much less one on a 22 foot carrier deck doing 50 mph.

In actual fact. I was dying to try it. It looked like a great way to see how much precision you've got in your hands (had I known what an understatement that was, I wouldn't have been so gung-ho). It didn't look that hard, but at the same time, I wasn't all that sure I wanted to take a chance on, A), bending their Cub and making a fool of myself or. B) not being able to land it, thereby making a fool of myself or C) making a fool of myself. You sec, I have this insecurity problem…
I think Jim could see me weakening, because he began pressuring a little harder each day. His dad. Ernie, on the other hand, was so hot to get me out there you'd have thought he was the head cheerleader at an Aztec sacrificial rite. I should have sensed something right then. Was I being set up? Only the phantom knows.
Okay. Enough is enough. Leave me alone, I'll go out there and crash your damned Cub, if it'll make you happy.
What I didn't know was that they had just sold the Cub so all they had to lose was the truck. What I had to lose, beside the obvious. was my wife. When I got up early that morning, I told her I was going out to shoot pictures while it (or I) was still calm. Had she known the truth, she would have had the tables set at a catered divorce by the time I landed. As it was, she hit the beach and I hit the road to the airport. By the time I got to the airport, it was obvious that Jim and Ernie had “mentioned” the event to a few friends. Besides the truck, car loads of grinning pilots, most of whom had already successfully completed the Cub-to-truck trick, wended their way down the taxiways to the longest runway. I don't mind making a spectacle of myself in public, but I prefer a little less public.
Ernie gave me about a five minute briefing on what to watch for in approaching the truck and how best to get the Cub down. He was going to ride in the back seat (he won't fit in the front of a Cub) and act as the voice of authority, if things got tight. What did he mean, if things got tight? All through this briefing I could hear Jim Moser and Greg Koontz, one of their airshow pilots, regaling themselves with the frantic details of the time Greg got the tail too high and sawed right through the platform with the prop. Right about that time I began to see the wisdom of collecting broken seashells with my wife and kids.
I'm positive I was much more nervous about making a good showing than I was about actually being able to get it landed. It was, I reasoned, nothing more than working in close formation with a low flying truck, very close formation. In theory, I was absolutely correct. In practicality, it didn't seem to work out that way.