When Meredith Tcherniavsky and Dana Holladay conceived a plan in 2011 to fly an airplane to all lower 48 states, not just any airplane would do. It had to be a Piper J–3 Cub. Low and slow is the only way to see America, they reasoned—and the Cub excels at low and slow. Its nostalgic value was a factor, says Holladay, who notes that the Cub taught “four out of five people how to fly back in the ’30s and ’40s.” He adds, “It’s my favorite airplane.”
They bought the 1938 J–3 in Florida on December 31, 2011, and flew it back to their home airport in Fallston, Maryland, checking off six states en route. But the real journey began in July 2012, when they packed little more than toothbrushes and cameras and launched from Fallston. Their route took them through New England; to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to join the Cubs 2 Oshkosh mass arrival at AirVenture 2012; and eventually to the Pacific Ocean. It was there, says Holladay, that they experienced one of many emotional moments—the realization that they had literally gone as far as they could go. The J–3 touched down at 104 airports over the 56-day journey, and the couple logged 137.7 hours. The J–3 went through 626 gallons of fuel, burning about five gallons an hour.
They bunked with old friends and new friends made along the way; they camped outside a few times and camped inside on an FBO sofa. They took copious notes and shot video and photographs that they intend to turn into a book. From The Right Seat will share the journey, says Tcherniavsky, but it also will relate how flying helped them to cope with some rough times—and how aviation brought them together. Tcherniavsky and Holladay were married in 2010. For you aviation romantics out there, Holladay proposed during EAA AirVenture—on Compass Hill, to signify the new direction in which their lives were headed.
Their love affair with the Cub will endure, but their ownership of the airplane was brief. As this article goes to press, the Cub has a new home and a new owner in Indiana. Why? Some news learned during the 48-state trip means a bigger airplane is needed.