When my friend Mike Porter calls to talk airplanes, I listen.
Mike is a bit of an airplane bigot. He only wants to fly planes with radial engines, more so if they are bolted to the front of his award-winning Women’s Air Corps Stearman. Then again, Mike does have a pre-war J-3, complete with the accurate Navy markings his plane hosted during the war. So maybe he isn’t that much of a radial bigot. In fact, we have discussed the various Cub-a-likes many times, the gist of each conversation being that they still weren’t a Cub. That changed when he called to discuss a flight he had recently taken in an S18-160EXP Dakota Cub and insisted I fly one at my earliest convenience.
Does it fly like a Cub? Yes and No.
With so many Cub-a-like kits out there, what makes the Dakota Cub so special? First, it does fly like a Cub—a Super Cub that is. The example I flew for this report has a 160-horsepower Lycoming O-320 and modified wings, which help it jump off the ground.
A Dakota Cub wing, complete with leading edge slot. This example was on display at AirVenture and looks too pretty to cover.
The squared-off wings with ailerons that go all the way out to the wingtips give the airplane more roll control and a quicker roll rate. Make no mistake; with a 35 foot 4-inch wingspan, the roll rate is still Cub slow, but faster than a J-3 Cub. What surprised me is that the roll rate is noticeably more instantaneous; the Dakota Cub starts to roll as soon as the control stick is moved left or right. Of course, gobs of rudder are required to keep the ball centered. In simple terms, the Dakota Cub will make sure you know what those rudder pedals are for.
The magic starts here; the leading edge slot is what allows the Dakota Cub to fly so slow and not roll into a spin when fully stalled.
The other enhancement Dakota Cub made to their wing is adding leading edge slots, which help set this Cub apart from the litter.
Taking off from a small grass strip just north of OSH with myself and company demo pilot Dave Richardson on board, the S18 lifted off quickly and promptly climbed to a Cub-like cruising altitude of 1000 feet AGL. So far, standard Cub flying.
After climbing up to a safe altitude and performing some clearing turns, I learned what impressed my friend Mike—it was the power-on and power-off stalls I tried to perform. I say tried because, if a stall is defined as the angle of attack when a wing stops producing lift, then technically, I never stalled the Dakota Cub. What I did do was pull the power off and let the S18 decelerate while slowly pulling back on the stick until the tail stalled. What’s that you say, the tail stalled?
Demo pilot Amy Gesh not only knows everything Cub, but also won the spot landing contest at Sentimental Journey in 2011, flying a Dakota Cub.
With leading edge slots, those long Cub-like wings never stop flying. However, what does stop flying is the horizontal stabilizer. This happens with wings level and just a little bumping noticed on the stick, the plane descending in a slow, falling-leaf-like state, with the airspeed indicator reading zero.
The next trick has to be experienced to be believed. With the stick fully aft, I tried the ailerons, first left and then right. What surprised me was the airplane was completely controllable and didn’t try to roll into a spin. It was at this point that Richardson asked for control of the airplane. One thing I’ve discovered when flying with demo pilots is that they tend to know the quirks of their airplanes; I trust their skills. (Just make sure there is plenty of altitude before allowing them to begin their demo. In this case, I don’t think it would have mattered how much or little altitude we had under us.)
With the airplane fully stalled, Richardson kicked in right rudder and left aileron. I’m thinking to myself, this is about to get really interesting. Well, it did get interesting, just not in the way I thought it would. The S18 just sat there. Richardson then changed to left rudder and right aileron. Again, nothing happened. The S18 continued to descend, wings level, with the airspeed reading zero.
Now I understood why my friend was hooked on this Cub-a-like. Well, that and my first landing with the airspeed reading zero. Those big 27-inch bush tires and bungee cords made me think I might actually be cut out to be a bush pilot—the touchdown wasn’t even close to being bone jarring.
The tail of a completed Super 18 Light. In the background is a fuselage ready for shipping. Some assembly required, but no welding.
Cub Kit Like No Other
Dakota Cub has a unique business model. They got their start by rebuilding and improving Piper PA-18 Super Cubs. Part of that business model includes Part Manufacturer Approval (PMA) PA-18 ribs. Those ribs led to another PMA part, which led to yet another PMA part. Today Dakota Cub offers every part a Super Cub rebuilder might need.
When ordering a Dakota Cub kit, the builder receives a complete PMA Super Cub in a box, less a data plate. Thus, if at any time during the build the user gives up, each and every part can be sold off to someone who needs PMA parts for their restoration project. That is something that no other kit manufacturer can claim. It also justifies the kit price.
Ordering the Dakota Cub kit can be a bit of a challenge. There are a number of options for the budding Cub builder. You can elect to build an LSA Cub using the standard fuselage, or go with a wider fuselage. Then there is the selection of rounded or square wingtips. After that, you have to decide on wings with or without leading edge slots. (Go with the slots!)
With a Garmin 496 and simple instruments, there is more here than a typical Cub pilot will ever need.
If you want a Super Cub-a-like, you can go with the beefed up wings and fuselage for a gross weight of 2300 pounds. Then there is the question of engines: 100 hp, 160 hp, or 180 hp. And don’t forget about the wheels, floats, or skis. (All Dakota Cub fuselages come with the required tabs already installed.)
Big, bigger, or biggest wheels and tires are next on the list, followed closely by your selection of gear legs.
In addition to all those options, builders can install Dakota Cub flaps, which are 44% larger than what you will find on a PA-18.
The kits come with all welding completed, hardware, instructions, etc. The builder will source a few items such as the engine and prop (no surprise there), wheels, tires, brakes, avionics, fabric, dope, primer, and paint. In other words, you will need to purchase all the things that will make a Dakota Cub your personal, customized Cub.
By selecting the right combination of options, you can easily build a very strong LSA Cub-a-like or a monster-load-hauling, back-country, game-getting, water-skiing, snow-skiing, float-flying, bush plane. Of course, you could also do all those things with the LSA version.
If a truly custom Cub is your desire, the Dakota Cub catalog is the wish list you need to read.
When talking to the people at Dakota Cub regarding the options available to the builder, my head was swimming with the possibilities. There are so many options that any prospective kit buyer should take their time, study the web site, call the factory, and go for a demo ride.
Just don’t drop it in from five feet like I did. And if you do, don’t say you read in KITPLANES that you can drop it in.
The wider fuselage is most noticeable when you are sitting in the front seat and reach for the flap handle, in blue on the left. Yes, heel brakes are standard fare.