by Alan Hodge
Family heirlooms come in all shapes and sizes but very few can exceed 100 miles per hour and soar above 10,000 feet.
For 29-year-old Garrett Fisher of Huntersville, however, and his 1949 Piper Cub Special airplane, that’s just the case.
Based at Bradford Field airstrip in Huntersville, the yellow and blue Cub has taken three generations of Fisher family members into the air, starting with grandfather Gordon Fisher Sr., passing to father Gordon Fisher Jr., then finally to Garrett.
Built in June 1949 by Piper Aircraft Corporation, the Cub first saw service in York, S.C., as a crop duster. After spending several decades working in the Palmetto State, the plane was bought in derelict condition by Gordon Sr. in the late 1980s. He gradually restored it to airworthy condition..
In 1998, Garrett’s dad made his solo flight in the Cub and took over ownership. After he passed away in January 2010 the aircraft, which was in the Fishers’ home state of New York, was handed down to Garrett Fisher.
Garrett took his first flight at 2 years old. At 15 he began receiving informal flying lessons from his grandfather, who was living in Florida at the time.
“We flew out of a cow pasture, literally,” Garrett recalled. “We would open some gates, taxi through and close them so the cows would not get in my grandfather’s yard. The next step was to make sure the cows were out of the way. They would run in a panic from the plane. The horses could care less so we had to rev the motor to shoo them away. After a flight we had to buzz the field to get the cows out of the way for landing.”
According to Fisher, buzzing, or low flying, was one of his grandfather’s favorite activities.
“He would roar overhead at a handful of feet clearance at 100 mph and full throttle,” Garrett said. “When I was at his house and he buzzed my grandmother, it was even better. The dishes would rattle and the dogs became thoroughly unsettled. My grandmother could care less. She would say, ‘Do you know how many years I’ve been putting up with this?’ and return to her business.”
Gordon Sr., now 80 years old, is still flying He got a helicopter license at age 76.
When Garrett, a financial consultant, and his wife Anne first moved to Huntersville in 2004, the Cub stayed in New York. Finding aircraft rental in the Charlotte region too expensive – more than $100 per hour. Fisher didn’t fly for seven years, until his mother sent news that the Cub was going to be handed down as part of his father’s estate. So, in October 2010, Garrett went back to New York and brought the baby home, so to speak.
What’s it like to ride with Garrett in a little airplane that’s been in his family for a couple of decades? In a word: awesome.
After cranking the propeller by hand, the little engine roars to life. Earplugs are a good idea. There’s not much between the passengers and the outside except for some painted fabric, since the plain is covered in cloth. Cabin heat is equal to a matchstick and the wind rushes through little sliding side windows.
All of these minor discomforts disappear when Garrett opens the throttle and the Cub leaps into the air. Once up, you get a real sense of how flying was in the golden age of aviation, when pilot’s used highways and railroad tracks as waypoints.
“I prefer to navigate looking out the window and can’t really be bothered with GPS,” he said. “I have taken many long flights with just a map and compass.”
As for the future, Garrett Fisher and his wife hope to have children soon.
“I would pass on the Cub Special if circumstances allowed,” he said. “Four generations owning the same plane would be amazing.”