For our girls one of the highlights of going to Oshkosh was seeing the display booth for Aviation Products, the company that sells plans and kits for plywood pedal planes. These planes are usually set up to drive around, using a left-right stick input for steering. The fancy ones even have propellers that turn. During the show, they prop up the wheels so that the kids can hop in and pedal without running amok and disappearing into the busy show. Here are some shots from 2016:
In 2018 and 2019, there were efforts to spread pedal plane joy by having a parade, and our girls were lucky enough to be able to participate using borrowed planes:
After seeing how much joy all of this brought to them and everyone else, we figured we should build a couple of Bearhawk pedal planes. We were in luck, because it also happened that one of the largest planes that they were able to try out was the Super Cub.
The kits are slow to ship because they are assembled by a small business, but once we got the kits, it was fun to work on putting them together. It’s no small undertaking, though all projects are relative and it’s certainly not as big of a job as building a flying Bearhawk. We finished one to be a miniature 805TB, and finished one to be plain white. Our thinking was that we’d be able to temporarily decorate the white one depending on the occasion, and perhaps pass it along to another young Bearhawker once we were done. That new owner might have a special paint scheme in mind.
Adjusting the Super Cub into a Bearhawk was about as easy as you would expect. We squared off the rounded wingtips, and omitted the air intake under the cowl. We also omitted a wing strut, but it would probably be just as well to leave on both wing struts. Nobody taller than 3′ can really see them anyway, and having both struts would add lots of strength if someone decided to do a little wing walking.
There is a narrow window in which kids are big and strong enough to power a pedal plane, but still small enough to fit in it. We were certainly on the old side of this window, but still in it, and looking forward to bringing our own planes to Airventure 2020! Sadly, the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. We still enjoyed a few local outings with the planes, and had plans to perhaps deploy them at the next Christmas parade or something similar. Even more sadly, around a year after their completion, we lost both of our pedal planes in the hangar fire. Here is how we found them after it was all over.
Between missing out on getting to take the planes to Oshkosh, and losing them in the fire, our pedal plane story is certainly a sad one. But on the plus side, we had a great time building them. The display pedal planes were always special to the girls, and getting to relate that experience to their own family plane was also a very rich experience. By now, they are both too big to enjoy them if we still had them. Life has so many of these windows that open and close, whether we are ready or not.