General aviation enthusiasts can recognize a CubCrafters airplane thanks to a few key characteristics—exciting color schemes, a nosewheel on the front of a Cub, or the signature smile of the air intake. The man behind the smiling airplane, company founder and backcountry aircraft innovator Jim Richmond, died November 21 at the age of 67.
“CubCrafters is truly a family. Our employees, customers, and affiliates all feel Jim’s loss,” said Pat Horgan, current company president and CEO. “In everything we do moving forward, Jim will be with us. It was his stated intention that CubCrafters would continue as the market leader in the design and manufacture of the best backcountry aircraft in the world. Both Jim’s family and the CubCrafters leadership team are fully committed to continue growing the aviation legacy that Jim started.”
“Picking up basically where Piper left off more than four decades ago, Jim coupled renewed thinking about design with the latest engineering and materials technology and innovation to reinvent what many had thought was an airframe that had reached its limits. Instead, the result was first STC’s on the original PA-18 family of airplanes and later of course the all-new, game-changing airplanes of CubCrafters,” said Todd Simmons, who served as president of CubCrafters from 2005 to 2008 and is now president of customer experience at Cirrus Aircraft.
In 2004, Richmond introduced CubCrafters’ first certified aircraft—what the company dubbed a "modern iteration of the Super Cub" known as the Top Cub. Since then, around 1,500 airplanes, including seven variants of the modern-day Super Cub, have redefined what it means to be a Cub pilot. One variant in particular—a nosewheel, tailwheel convertible XCub—has made the backcountry accessible to more pilots.
"We like to talk about the technology in aviation, things like weight and speed and climb and distance, but Jim deeply believed that more than the hardware, it was about the pilot experience, especially in backcountry aviation,” said Brad Damm, CubCrafters vice president of sales and marketing. “He was always looking for a better experience for our customers, and that set the direction for the innovation [that] CubCrafters is known for."
“Jim was an innovator, that much was widely known but he was also very humble. He was the first to thank others for their work and quick to give credit to the entire CubCrafters team,” said former CubCrafters Customer Experience Manager Laceigh Nelson. “He always jumped in to help, even at midnight wrapping airplanes with blankets and cellophane, down to making sure we had a can of whipped cream in the fridge for our morning coffee before heading to the booth.”
In a video shared by Nelson, Richmond was captured thanking his dedicated team at the conclusion of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this past summer. Richmond said, “I get a lot of the credit, but it’s because of you folks. Everybody always tells me what a great organization I’ve built, but I didn’t have much to do with it other than selecting good people to lead… and we’re making history and we’ve come a long way in a short period of time and I just want to say I appreciate it.”
In a November 22 press release, the company said Richmond “will be missed greatly by family, friends, customers, and coworkers alike.” A memorial service is scheduled for December 4 at the CubCrafters factory in Yakima, Washington. The family requests that donations be made in his name to the Idaho Aviation Foundation in lieu of flowers.