Paul Isakson says that in 1936, Taylor Aircraft Company only made about 1500 of its J2 ‘Cub’ aircraft. There’s less than 100 still flying today, and one of them belongs to him.
Isakson came across the skeleton of his airplane in 2009. It was in pieces, and had passed through several owners as it moved from storage to storage.
“Actually, it was very complete. I was very surprised the instruments were still there and everything,” he says.
There wasn’t much to go on. A vague parts book. A few pictures.
“I’m a hands on guy, I like fixing and repairing things.”
From his heated hangar, Isakson spent six years putting the puzzle together.
He points to parts of the wings that were a bit of a challenge.
“This leading edge was all scrunched. Some of the ribs were broken and cracked.”
And then there was the door. “This enclosure was rusted off, so I had to rebuild it.”
From the fabric around the wings to the paint job, he tackled it all.
Six years and 989 hours later…it flies.
He had a little help with the engine, which he admits, was one of the more expensive pieces of the puzzle. He had to hire a certified repair shop for the job.
“Nobody wants to work on an engine that’s almost 100 years old.”
The antique motor was made before electronics. Isakson explains that you have to start it the old fashioned way—with a turn of the prop.
Despite getting the original engine running, it let Isakson down pretty early.
Literally—in a hayfield.
Not long after that he invested in a new motor, with insurance.
“This one has two magnetos in it, in case one fails.”
And today, the Cub is as good as new, maybe even better.
This September Isakson felt confident enough to take it on its longest trip yet, to a gathering of the Antique Airplane Association in Blakesburg, Iowa.
“Five hours there, five hours back,” he says.
And just a few stops for gas each way.
The Cub won’t carry much more than Isakson himself, and maybe a suitcase.
Isakson estimates 350 other planes also made the trip.
The journey was well worth it. And as it turned out, so was the destination.
He was recognized with two awards from his peers, earning the Wisconsin Chapter Choice Award, and the Robert L. Taylor Award, named for the association’s founder.
Not bad for six year’s work.