Bouncing cartoon-fat arctic tires across a clover-covered grass runway near Brandon, pilot Wes Hebert gunned the Piper Super Cub 18's 160-horsepower engine, pulled back on the stick and lifted effortlessly into the air at a harsh, 50-degree angle of attack.
"That was about 100 feet, I'd guess," Mark Erickson, owner of Dakota Cub Aircraft, said of the length of grass Hebert needed to get the blue-and-white two-seater airborne. "I can get any of these airplanes off the ground in the length of my building. That's 105 feet."
Dakota Cub manufactures Federal Aviation Administration-approved replacement parts for Piper aircraft, the only company in the state that can make that claim. The six-person operation also received its FAA certification to sell its Super 18-180 kit aircraft to civilian pilots.
But what makes Erickson's aircraft business soar is his extended slotted wing design, a replacement part that allows Piper aircraft to take off and land at slower speeds and in shorter distances.
"Where most of these planes take off, whether it's a gravel bar in a river or a community airfield, there's one thing that is at the end of that runway - trees," Erickson said. "These planes will climb right off the ground at a 50-degree angle, no problem. It's really quite phenomenal what this slotted wing can do."
Photo from Dakota Cub Aircraft