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AVIATION: Carbon Cub Builder Profile

CubCrafters.com — March 2018

On nearly the exact opposite side of the globe from CubCrafters’ Yakima, Washington headquarters is a land of epic beauty. With spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, and subtropical forests, New Zealand is in many ways a paradise. And so, naturally, it’s an ideal place for a low-and-slow, open-air machine like a Carbon Cub.

Carbon Cub builder Terry Wilkins is a lifelong resident of the island nation, hailing from the small Southland town of Balfour. A pilot for 45 years, Terry has had the good fortune of being able to keep business and pleasure closely linked by flying from a small grass farm strip, which the locals have nicknamed Balfour International.

Farming and flying have always been intertwined for Terry, going back to when he was a child. “I’m sure the interest was triggered at an early age with the ex-WWII pilots who started crop-dusting businesses in the area with de Havilland Tiger Moths and Cessna 180s,” says Terry. “With each load as a five- or six-year-old on the farm we would stand behind the tail as full power was applied. We were blown to the ground, awaiting the next load with excitement.”

When Terry was old enough, in the early 1970s, he took flying lessons for a whopping $7.50 an hour, which he financed by playing in a band. Much of his early flying time was in a Cub. After getting his license, he continued flying tailwheel aircraft, including a Cessna 185 that has remained in the family for decades.

But fast forward to the recent past. Terry no longer held a PPL medical, but he wasn’t ready to quit flying. And so, an LSA (or Microlight as they’re called in New Zealand) would be the ideal solution for him to continue the kind of flying he enjoys – cruising around the dramatic, glacier-carved terrain of Fiordland, and taking fishing trips to the local rivers that are renowned for Brown Trout.

Terry evaluated and flew a number of LSAs before choosing one, but there were no CubCrafters planes in New Zealand to see for himself. So, in March 2013, he took a leap of faith and ordered a Carbon Cub EX kit based only on the articles, reports, and user testimonials he had read.

The timing of the decision was fortuitous. Terry just happened to have been planning an ambitious motorcycle trip that would encompass nearly the entire northwest United States, taking him right by CubCrafters’ headquarters. “Now with the order for my kit placed, I had the opportunity to call at the Yakima factory,” he says. “We travelled with a bunch of Kiwis, leaving from Los Angeles, to the top of Alaska, Sturgis, Death Valley, and back to L.A. with everything in between – 12,000 miles in two months.”

By the time he got back home to New Zealand in early September, friends had uncrated the kit and got things set up in his workshop. One of those friends in particular would prove especially invaluable to the project. “My good friend Dave Witherow – who has his aircraft in my hangar, which he built – was the backup man and put considerable time into the project … along with many others who got the tap on the shoulder.”

At the same time, Terry would also rely a great deal on another key resource: Mitch from CubCrafters. “Being in a different time zone in New Zealand, Mitch was always available. Even out of work hours he took calls,” says Terry. “One day he was out on his Harley with Randy when he returned a call from up the Snake River somewhere when he got back into coverage.”

Although one wouldn’t necessarily think Terry’s years on the farm would be the ideal preparation for building an airplane, he says it was actually a good practical education for the project. “Being a farmer all my life, I was able to turn my hand to most things to keep something going on the farm,” he says. “That turns you into someone quite practical and useful when building an aircraft.”

After 1650 hours of building time spread over 15 months, Terry’s Cub was completed. Next came the usual red tape required before the first flight. This proved to be an opportunity for a unique custom touch to the plane. “I was lucky to track the person who had the registration ‘ZK-CUB’ on-hold with the CAA,” says Terry. “He was most generous seeing it go to a good home, as he had the same intention with a Carbon Cub build, but couldn’t see the time.”

And with that, the Cub was ready to take its first flight on December 12, 2014. There were, of course, the usual concerns before the daunting first flight, but the milestone went without a hitch. “To show the quality and precision of the Carbon Cub kit and build, it flew hands-off first time up,” says Terry.

Looking back, Terry clearly feels his Carbon Cub project was a great experience. “In hindsight, I was very fortunate in opting for a CubCrafters Cub,” he says. “The build support is incredible.

“Now, with 50 hours up, the tweaking is all behind us, and all the great enjoyment ahead.”