Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Aviation company displays Clearwater man's restored Piper Cub to mark 75th anniversary

Geri Crosby of Clearwater was asked to bring her husband’s 1946 Piper J-3 Cub to Lakeland’s recent Sun ’n Fun air show to commemorate Piper’s 75th anniversary.

Piper Aircraft

Geri Crosby of Clearwater was asked to bring her husband’s 1946 Piper J-3 Cub to Lakeland’s recent Sun ’n Fun air show to commemorate Piper’s 75th anniversary.

CLEARWATER — After her husband, Walter, died in January, Geri Crosby figured her days of Piper Cubs and air shows were over.

That all changed last week after Piper Aircraft asked her to bring her late husband's restored Piper J-3 Cub to the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, an annual air show that attracts tens of thousands to the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. Piper Aircraft wanted to display the pristine plane, built in 1946, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of both the Piper Cub and Piper Aircraft.

So Geri, a Clearwater resident, went to the air show and told the story of how Walter's friends had finished restoring the plane for him as he was dying from cancer and how he watched it fly just days before he died in January.

At the air show, the plane drew much praise while stirring up lots of memories and emotions for onlookers.

"People talked about how they took their first plane ride or flying lessons in a Piper," said Geri. "And those who knew Walter said he would be so pleased to know his plane was featured in the air show."

Not only that, it was entered into judging at the air show and was named the best restoration for classic aircraft with engines under 100 horsepower.

Geri and Walter were 15-year volunteers for the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, which ended this year's six-day run on Sunday with a performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. This was the first time Geri had been there without her husband.

"It could have been very difficult, but it turned out to be wonderful," she said.

Jacqueline Carlon, director of marketing for Piper Aircraft, said the company had been on the hunt for a special Piper Cub to celebrate the 75th anniversary when they heard about the Crosbys and their special story.

"Even though we don't build the plane anymore, we wanted to pay homage to the Cub because it is such a symbol of our heritage," Carlon said. "William T. Piper's intent was to make flying accessible to everyone. He wanted it to be just like owning a car."

The plane, typically yellow and embellished with a black lightning bolt on the side, has become the icon of personal flight for many Americans. Cubs were simple, lightweight and affordable, making them an ideal aircraft for training civilian and World War II pilots to fly.

About 20,000 Piper Cubs were manufactured between 1937 and 1947, Carlon said.

In January, a Tampa Bay Times story detailed how the couple bought the classic two-seater plane for $650 in 1962. Over the years, Walter's plans to restore the dilapidated plane were stymied by family, work and other obligations. For decades, its wings, fuselage and propellers were stowed in the attic, under beds, in the dining room.

When he retired, Walter finally began a seven-year restoration effort and also earned a pilot's license. Six years ago, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and began battling the disease.

But late last year, when it became apparent that Walter didn't have much longer to live, his aviation buddies worked day and night to complete the restoration and get the plane airborne.

Though Walter would never fly it or ride in it, he did see it take off twice from his bedroom window overlooking Clearwater Airpark — 50 years after the plane was rescued from a scrap yard.

Piper isn't the only one with a 75th anniversary to celebrate. Geri will turn 75 this year. Walter would have as well.

"I'm sorry I don't have him around to tell this great story to," Geri said. "I hope though — I believe — he already knows."

Aviation company displays Clearwater man's restored Piper Cub to mark 75th anniversary 04/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 6:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.