Family celebrates 72 years with J–3 Cub

Father-daughter duo complete cross-country Cub flight to preserve family’s legacy in aviation.

It’s not very often that you hear of a family owning the same airplane since Harry Truman was president, but the Jones family has managed to do just that. Now, they’re on a mission to preserve and document their family’s legacy in aviation.

Bob Jones and Emily Herron are flying their 1946 Piper J-3 Cub around the Southeast to preserve their family’s history in aviation. One of their first stops was in Georgia to visit with local pilots and the author. Photo by Leigh Hubner.

Second-generation aviator Bob Jones and his daughter, third-generation aviator Emily Herron, recently completed a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in the family’s 1946 Piper J–3 Cub. This Cub has been in the Jones family since Herron’s grandfather, Kenzie Jones, purchased the airplane in 1949 for just over $700. He owned the Cub named "45 Hotel" for 64 years, until he died in 2013. After his death, the little yellow airplane was passed down as a family heirloom to his son and grandchildren.

The Cub has been meticulously maintained and cared for by the Jones family. In the 1960s, it was equipped with an 85-horsepower engine to accommodate flying out of short grass strips. “It wasn’t very common to upgrade from a 65 to an 85 back then,” said Jones. In addition to engine improvements, “45 Hotel” has also been equipped with Super Cub bungee fairings and a dry cell battery to power lights and a starter. The Joneses have also re-covered the airplane a handful of times since 1949.

To honor “45 Hotel’s” almost lifelong stay with the Jones family, the father-daughter duo came up with a plan to preserve the Cub’s and their family’s aviation history. Their goal was to visit all the airports at which the Cub has been based since Herron’s grandfather bought the airplane in 1949. “The point of our trip is to document the story of our family’s history with our Cub…I hate that my grandfather passed away, and we never wrote down or recorded his stories about flying the Cub, and I don’t want to have that regret with my dad,” said Herron.

Jones and Herron made stops in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama before they returned to their home airport in Kentucky. "The best part of the trip, hands down, were the people. We got to meet new friends or friends we had only known through social media, and we saw old friends, some that we hadn't seen in years. I loved going to dinner one night with some guys my dad coached in football 40 years ago in Palatka, [Florida] and listening to some of his players talk about taking their first airplane ride...and how special that was to them. We also enjoyed meeting various people at the airports we stopped at, even the stops we made just for fuel. Everyone seemed to love hearing the story of our family Cub. We are thankful for all of the friendships we have made because of aviation and 45 Hotel,” said Herron.

In order to stay true to their original mission of flying to all the airports where the Cub has been based, since 1949, the father-daughter duo isn’t done just yet. The two still plan to visit airports in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois next week. “Those will all be done over the course of a couple of days flying from home since they aren't too far from where we live,” said Herron.

“Our little Cub is seemingly insignificant when compared to the world we live in today, but when I think about all of the people who have had a few moments of joy on their first airplane ride in the back of ‘45 Hotel,’ that’s how she is changing the world,” said Herron. “One flight, one smile, one ounce of joy at a time.”

Cayla McLeod

Cayla McLeod Hunt

Social Media Marketer
Social Media Marketer Cayla McLeod Hunt is a private pilot with a love for tailwheel and backcountry aircraft. When she isn't writing stories, she enjoys flying with friends and introducing others to general aviation.
Topics: Taildragger, Vintage

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