New Life for a Classic Aerobat

New Life for a Classic Aerobat

By Randy Dufault

It looks a lot like a Piper Super Cub, but with the wings in the wrong place and a single open cockpit — a configuration Mr. Piper and his company probably never envisioned. Over the course of more than 30 years, people up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. recognized this unique plane as the Midwing Special, an air show regular piloted by Ned Surratt.

Now owned by Ben Anderson and based at the Hartford County Airport in Maryland — its original home airport — the white, red, and blue plane actually did leave the Piper plant as a 90-hp 1957 Super Cub.

“It was crashed somewhere around 1960 and the whole top turtledeck was all messed up,” Ben said when asked about origins of the design. “A guy named Jack Poag was getting into aerobatics so he decided to build an aerobatic airplane out of it. He kind of wanted to make it a low-wing at first, but for [obvious] technical reasons that didn’t work out. So it turned into this.”

Ultimately, Jack shortened the Cub fuselage in the back and the front, shortened the wings at the root, changed the rudder a bit, and created the single open cockpit.

He completed the craft in 1962 and flew it in air shows until 1966, when he sold it to Ned. According to Ben, Ned regularly flew it in air shows until 1998 and then flew it recreationally on and off until 2003, when it was disassembled and retired to the back of a hangar.

Ben struck up a friendship with Ned many years ago, and although he never saw the modified Cub fly in an air show, he often asked Ned about purchasing the unique aircraft. Ben finally bought the Cub three years ago when Ned moved to the Phoenix area.

“This past year, I really had time to work on it,” Ben said. “I completely redid the fuselage. There were a lot of tubes that had to be replaced.”

Working with Aaron Harrington, a friend and aeronautical structural engineer, Ben wanted to ensure the 55-year-old modifications were still up to aerobatic standards.

“We drew it up to see if there were any possible problems,” he said. “We [changed] one spot in the center section and that evened out a lot of the stresses. We didn’t really change a whole lot, but there were some things that we modified that Aaron helped me out with.”

One concession to modernity is the addition of a starter and a battery. Ben said the plane’s configuration makes hand-propping by yourself very difficult.

If all goes well, he hopes to begin flying the plane soon in entry-level aerobatic competition.

The plane has less than 20 hours on it since coming out of its restoration effort. The goal, as is common for many projects, was to get it to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, but not just to show it off to the crowd.

“I had a big push to get it done and get it to Oshkosh because Ned might come out and see it, but he’s in bad health,” Ben said. “I just sent him pictures and told him that there is a lot of interest in the airplane. It puts him in good spirits to see that the airplane is being enjoyed.”

The Midwing Special is parked at EAA AirVenture this week, just east of the IAC building.

Photo by Jim Raeder
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