As a taildragging enthusiast I’m typically in the know with the latest developments of the backcountry world. But I was dumbfounded when fellow Carbon Cub pilot Greg Simmons asked, “Have you seen the Patriot yet?” during the opening day of the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo.
At first, I thought Simmons was asking if I had watched the popular American Revolution movie starring Mel Gibson, but then I quickly remembered hearing whisperings of a certain Patriot Aircraft project in Bessemer, Alabama.
Simmons replied, “Oh it’s just the coolest thing ever. You need to go see it at the STOL demos tonight. You’re going to love it.”
Well, that was all the convincing I needed.
A couple of hours later, some friends and I made our way to Paradise City— a grass strip on the Sun ’n Fun grounds that is reserved for nightly short takeoff and landing competitions. Although we arrived shortly after the scheduled demo start of 6 p.m., we still managed to find a decent spot in the grass next to the crowded bleachers.
The first aircraft that caught my eye was none other than Steve Henry’s Just Highlander. Although I have watched Henry compete many a time online and on social media, this was my first time seeing him fly in person.
Flying right behind Henry was a grey and white camouflage Carbon Cub (or so I thought). Once the airplane turned short final, I noticed the aircraft’s cowling did not match that a standard Carbon Cub’s. Instead of a happy, smiling air intake on the front of the cowling, this airplane’s intake gave off an aggressive expression.
Super Patriot, the new kit from Patriot Aircraft.I soon figured out that this was the
After an hour of watching the aircraft fly in the STOL demonstration, I kept trying to figure out how this airplane differed from a Carbon Cub. It looked similar to a Carbon Cub, and it performed like a Carbon Cub, so I assumed it was just a carbon copy.
At the conclusion of the demos, I found Simmons talking to Patriot Aircraft owner Don Wade. Wade is best known for his Continental and Lycoming engine shop, Don’s Dream Machines in Alabama.
After a brief re-introduction, Wade said the Super Patriot “ain’t your Daddy’s Super Cub. It’s our baby that we’ve been working on for about two years now. It’s kind of been a top-secret project. There are just so many details to this airplane. You really have to come see it.”
So that’s just what I did.
Wade led me to the airplane and immediately reached up to the locking T-handle window latch under the wing. “This is one of the very first things we designed,” said Wade.
As someone who enjoys flying with the windows open, the latching and locking window T-handle is a significant improvement from the sometimes-finicky standard Super Cub/Carbon Cub latch.
Although the T-handle was a nice touch, it was going to take much more to convince me that this airplane was just that different.
“You’re really going to love this,” said Wade as he walked under the strut towards the passenger-accessible baggage area. “It’s always so difficult to reach in behind the passenger seat to get baggage in and out. Now you don’t have to,” said Wade as he opened and folded down the entire aft left window. “Just throw those bags right in!”
Admittedly impressed, I was still feeling hesitant. In a way it felt like I was cheating on Big Brother Red, an EX-2 Carbon Cub that I fly, but at the same I was paying more and more attention with every modification Wade revealed.
“Wow, that’s super helpful, but what else do you have for me Don?” I asked.
“Honey, I’m just getting started,” said Wade. “Come check out the rear seat. My wife and grandkid fly in the back at the same time. It’s just that roomy.”
In addition to an incredibly wide backseat Wade also pointed out the wide fuselage. The width is similar to a Carbon Cub but much wider than a standard Super Cub fuselage.
“Look down here at the pedals,” said Wade. “We 3D printed these to match the ergonomics of the foot. Hop in and you’ll see.”
After Wade gave a quick explanation on how to move the seat forward and aft, I climbed in and noticed how every aspect of the airframe seemed to fit. As a smaller pilot, I hardly ever feel like an airplane fits like a glove but the pedals, the seat, and the panel were positioned perfectly.
Although most pilots might not notice, the Super Patriot’s seatback is positioned in a more vertical position than a standard Carbon Cub or Super Cub seat. Thanks to my five-foot, four-inch frame, I have never been able to rest my back against the seat, even with the seat in the fully forward position. To say this was one of my favorite features of the Super Patriot would be an understatement.
In addition to a more upright seating position, the seat also moved forward and aft easily. A simple handle on the left side of the seat was all it took— no pins required.
Noticing that he had captivated my full attention, Wade redirected my eyes towards the Dynon panel.
“Check out the panel. Do you see how it’s curved? It’s looking at you, just like you’re looking at it,” said Wade.
Not thinking that a curved panel would have made the slightest difference, I turned to Wade and said, “Wow, I thought you were crazy for saying this would make a difference, but it really does. It looks 3D in a way.”
After taking a thorough look at the panel, I turned my eyes towards the floor where a fuel selector switch was positioned in clear sight, just to the left of my left knee.
“We wanted the fuel selector to look right at you. It’s not something you will ever have to fumble with or worry about,” said Wade.
In addition to the modifications mentioned above, Wade and his team also included several other creature comforts including increased upward and side-to-side visibility, a hand rest on the stick, LED lights to illuminate fuel gauges, a defroster, and Acme Aero’s BlackOps Suspension System, Stinger tailwheel, and titanium gear legs.
The Super Patriot is designed for a modified IO 320 with an Air Flow Performance fuel injection system and electronic ignition rated to 176 horsepower. Additional specifications are posted online. The cost of a completed aircraft ranges from $280,000 to $380,000, depending on selected options.
“We’ll fly it up to Peach State and let you fly it. Then you can truly compare it to the Carbon Cub,” said Wade.
“That’s a deal, Don.”
I look forward to reporting on my Super Patriot flight experience in the near future.