Photos of Bryan Rose’s 1946 Piper J-3 Cub by Jack Fleetwood (

By Diana Jones with Bryan Rose, A&P

If you ask Bryan Rose what’s so special about the J-3 Cub, he would say, “It is the most iconic tail dragger on the planet. And for good reason! Look, a Champ is a wonder plane. But, if you fly a Champ and then immediately get in a Cub and fly it, there’s simply no comparison.”

Rose would know. He’s been flying his J-3 Cub since 2004 and commented, “The thing that a J-3 does better than any other plane on the planet is teach. If you are listening to her, she will teach you airmanship foundations that can and will save your life. A lot of pilots simply want to know how to take off and land an aircraft. The Cub is very intolerant of drift during the touch down. She absolutely demands micro control of drift. So you will learn to not allow drift or you will wreck it.”

Initially, Rose was looking to get a Kitfox as they were half the money and plentiful. But once his dad got wind that he was looking for a plane to hangar on their farm and ranch, his dad asked if he could own half the plane. This changed the equation! When he mentioned to a friend that he was looking for a plane, Lyndol Askew suddenly exclaimed, “You should buy my Cub!” They made the deal right there on the spot. Still friends after all these years, Lyndol has even flown the plane after he sold it.

Know Where It’s Been

N88090 came off the line in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, in 1946, and was originally sold to a flight school in Memphis, Tennessee. Rose did quite a bit of research over the years, nail­ing down who was flying it and what types of maintenance/upgrades were done.

One of the fun facts he discovered was that significant damage happened to the plane between August and November 1946. The airframe log simply says, “Right wing, both struts and prop replaced.” This plane had a metal spar wing and a wooden spar wing. When it was originally manufactured by Piper, it was supplied with two wooden spar wings. In August of 1946, Piper stopped producing the wooden spar wings, so the factory shipped out a brand new, metal spar wing as the replacement. Rose kept the two wings as they were when he restored N88090 in 2011.

To read more history of N88090, visit:

Read the story about the dedication at:
Rose’s J-3 Cub is hangared in Slaton, Texas (F49). He made all the neon signs and art in the hangar, with the help of a retired neon artist in Wolfforth, Texas.

A Full-On Unexpected Restoration

In 2011 Rose loaned the plane to a friend, with the under­standing that the friend would insure it. His friend and the J-3 ended up on its back in a landing incident. It was a non-owner’s policy, so the insurance company paid Rose $30,000 and he was able to keep the wrecked plane. Costs for restora­tions were averaging about $50,000, with a 1-year waiting list to get started. So he did what any financially savvy aircraft owner does, stuck it in a hangar and immediately sent the $30,000 to Texas Tech University for his son’s tuition. At that point he knew he would be restoring it himself.

In the beginning, Rose was on a mission to collect as much information about the J-3 Cub as he could find. He’d be the first to say that he spent a lot of time gathering information. His first stop was obtaining a full-set of Cub Clues, which are just print­ed instructions of the Cub. Once he had the info, then he moved on to teaching himself new processes such as covering, painting, and more. In the midst of learning, Rose came to the conclusion that the Cub is a “genius level of simplicity!”

Join to purchase the entire set of Cub Clues and see other blueprints of their available models.

Rose shared, “The second most challenging thing is staying on task in order to complete [the restoration]. I learned to ac­cept that it was going to take years to complete. It’s very easy to get side-tracked and just stop. It happened to me a couple times. I built a home, my dad passed away, my mom needed help, I had a business to run, kids in high school and college and on and on. It took me a total of 7 years. But, whenever I really got on it, most of the work was done in a two-year span with a ton of help from the Fat Tire Cowboys (FTC). That was the catalyst for FTC headquarters to become a hangout. People would stop by to see what was going on with the Cub. They all got pressed into learning how to do something on it! I believe they all learned to rib stitch!”

Managing expectations and how long it would take were Rose’s most important lessons learned. He realized that he had to be doing something on it all the time or too long of a break made for a challenging restart. Noting, “You really can’t remem­ber where you were or what you needed to do next. It’s over­whelming to see all the parts! I learned to literally walk in, pick something up and do it.”

Managing Surprises

If you know anything about Cubs, then you know there is an AD regarding the tail cluster rotting. N88090 was fine if you took an ice pick and tried to punch through from the bottom. After they got it uncovered and looking from the top of the tail cluster, it looked a little suspect, but nothing crazy. However, Rose said he was able to shove a large flat blade screwdriver right through to the bottom of the tube. Also, the false spars in the wings were totally rotted out in hard to see places. Rose also knew that mud dobber’s had built nests in the plane from its life in Bolivar, Tennessee. Boy was he surprised when they pulled 20 pounds of mud out of it.

“I was totally paranoid about having an oops moment. So, I endeavored for that to not ever happen,” Rose said, “But it did! I had finished rebuilding the second wing, had it cov­ered and was shrinking the fabric down. I got it all done but was having a serious problem making the fabric lay prop­erly on the leading edge just before the wingtip bow. I just couldn’t figure out what the problem was. So, I went and looked at the other wing, plus the disassembly pictures and realized I left a part out. I left the final piece of the leading edge off. Well, where the heck was that piece?!! I had pur­chased all the parts and had them organized for assembly. I went and looked in the original shipping box and found the piece, nicely wrapped in paper…LOL. I had to cut all the fab­ric off, install the piece and recover it.”

Rose had completed the airframe and N88090 was waiting in his hangar, “looking stunningly gorgeous, waiting for her newly overhauled engine to arrive.” During that time, a terrible hail­storm hit his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, requiring two days of cleanup. Thankfully his hangar was 20 minutes away in a dif­ferent town. When he finally made it there, everything looked normal until he walked in.

“It looked like a bomb had gone off in the hangar,” shared Rose. “Softball sized hail had beat the skylights out of the han­gar. It was flooded and worse it beat holes in the Cub’s right wing. I was devastated. To make things worse, I tried a shortcut on fixing the holes and they turned out looking terrible. It’s still that way to this day. She’s a beautiful plane, but she’s no show stopper. I wanted a beautiful plane that would be flown, not a hangar queen. That’s what I have. Thank God my Skywagon was down the street in a different hangar getting an annual.”

He’d Do It Again

He also gets a lot of comments from Cub lovers on the fact that it has wheel pants. Rose defends the wheel pants, “I’ve just always loved the way they look. Plus the pants that are on it have always been on it.”

“If I had it to do over again, I probably would have gone back with the 100 hp conversion on the engine. I also wished I would have closed the hangar and walked away for a couple weeks after the hail storm. Then, just took my time fixing the holes. I would have to point them out to you, but once you see it, then you know. But, then again, I can also see exactly where on it, I actu­ally learned to paint.”

To see N88090’s restoration story visit:

The Fun of the Flight

Now that he’s owned his Cub for almost 20 years, it is full of memories for him: flying his daughter and her friend when they were about 10 years old, teaching his son to fly her, and the time they spent together flying it.

One other story he shared was when his dad landed long one day and ran out onto an alfalfa field. They had a center pivot ir­rigation system that created deep ruts in the fields. Whenever he crossed a rut, it broke the bracket off that attaches the landing gear X-brace to the fuselage. It laid the right wing on the soft alfalfa and slid to a stop. His dad didn’t want to call for help, so he got his mom to come out to the plane. They lifted the wing up and propped it on his truck. His mom engineered a link of dog chain to bolt the X-brace back in place. It sat a little lopsided, but they got it back to the hangar. That’s when they finally called and told him what happened. Rose showed up with a trailer to take it apart and haul it to the shop to have the bracket welded back to the airframe, but the more he looked at his mom’s en­gineering, the better it started looking. So, he hopped in it and gently took off on the left wheel, flew it to the shop, and gently landed on the left wheel.

Rose is quick to share his love of the Cub, “I love everything about a Cub! The way it looks and flies. It is not a difficult plane to fly, however, it is difficult to fly well. It demands something that is lost within the tricycle trainers… airmanship. If you get the trike close to the ground, close the throttle and plop it on, you’re done. Not so in the Cub. To fly it well, it demands an un­derstanding of things like gyroscopic precession, torque, brak­ing, and aileron induced drag to name a few. It’s one thing to understand the effects of these things, and a whole other thing to develop a skill set to effectively deal with them.”


Passion for Aviation, Love of God, and a Life Well-Lived

Fat Tire Cowboys has been around since 2008 and is full of a group of rowdy Texas pilot/plane owners with bush wheels on their planes. Everyone here has a nickname: LaRosa (Bryan Rose) and SkyRancher (Cary Franks) are just a few. The core group consist­ed of lifetime Texans who have a background in agriculture or ranching, born and raised on the Llano Estacado. Their goal is adventure, fun, and flying to places where they need those Alaskan Bush tires.

LaRosa documents his travels from a cam­era mounted on his plane. Visit their web­site for more videos, articles, and merchan­dise –

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