After an interruption, Allison takes a break to show off his prized creation, a replica of the late western artist Charlie Russell’s detailed saddle. A member of the Montana Arts Council’s Circle of American Masters, Allison waxes about horses, saddles, and ranching—until the subject turns to aviation. Then, it’s obvious this cowboy is also an aviator at heart.
Flying and ranching have gone hand in hand for Allison and his wife. The two met when Allison’s brother started working on Brenda’s family ranch. Her family introduced Allison to flying, and he earned his pilot certificate at age 21. “It’s just like getting on a good horse,” he said of flying. The two married 48 years ago and have been working together since, whether flying, ranching, or creating art from leather.
The couple previously owned the AOPA Super Cub Sweepstakes airplane, purchasing it in 1991 after Allison hit a pronghorn antelope with his motorcycle one night while checking water lines and decided that it would be safer to perform the checks from the air. The Super Cub became a ranching tool, enabling the couple to efficiently monitor 54 water tanks on 24 miles of water lines, spot fires after lightning strikes, and find lost cattle on their ranch near the Tongue River outside Miles City, Montana. “We used that plane for a workhorse,” Allison recalled. He could fly over the ranch and check everything in 35 minutes, he said, versus six hours of driving. “It saves you a million miles on your pickup.”
The trusty aerial steed was refurbished in 1995 with a new orange-and-white paint job and interior. Brenda, who is also a talented stitcher and works with her husband in their shop, sewed new seat coverings and the headliner for the Super Cub. On July 7, 1997, after a visit to Allison’s parents, the couple crashed propeller-first after takeoff on their return home. Both escaped from the aircraft before it caught fire. The aircraft did not have shoulder harnesses, causing facial injuries to both occupants. The two were hospitalized for one night, and the next day, Allison was back in the fields baling hay.
It’s a “sad picture, but it’s cool that it’ll be flying again,” Brenda said as she looked at pictures of the accident in a scrapbook. The duo continues to fly and currently owns a Citabria—which has shoulder harnesses, as has every aircraft they’ve owned since the accident.
The Allisons sold the Super Cub wreckage to the mechanic who had previously restored the aircraft, and intended to do so again. However, the aircraft sat in pieces for years. Roger Meggers of Montana-based Baker Air bought the damaged aircraft when the mechanic retired.
Meggers and his son, Darin, are aviation artists, restoring Super Cubs to mint condition. The Meggers have restored 40 Super Cubs, spending an average 1,500 hours on each project. A craftsman himself, Allison understands the workmanship that the Meggers will put into restoring the AOPA Super Cub Sweepstakes airplane.
“Well, I wished I had it,” Allison said of the thought of the finished product. “Good to get it flying again.”
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