Heimos’ aircraft is be among the sea of yellow vintage planes landing at the Lompoc Airport for this weekend’s 30th annual West Coast Cub Fly-In.
“This is it. This is the granddaddy (of Cub gatherings),” said Heimos, who is attending for his eighth time in his 1939 aircraft. “This is the 30th one. I couldn’t miss that.
“It’s a sort of family reunion if you come here.”
A Cub owner for 10 years, Heimos said the aircraft is fun, safe and dependable. It’s certainly not fast or fancy and is akin to a Model A car.
While some eager folks arrived Thursday, most will touch down Friday for a weekend of fun, camaraderie and friendly competition. Some participants come from as far as Washington and beyond.
“It is the largest gathering of pure Cubs, I think, in the country,” said Ed Manibles, fly-in president. “It has quite a status symbol to it.”
The flour bombing, a popular event for spectators, will feature pilots, from an altitude of 200 feet, trying to drop a one-pound bag of flour into a 55-gallon barrel on the ground. The event starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. In the first 29 years, no one has made the target.
“We haven’t had to pay that prize yet,” Mandibles said. “It might happen this year.”
Pilots also will compete in a spot-landing contest, trying to touch down closest to a designated line on the runway.
Free parking is limited on site. T-shirts, souvenirs, food and beverages will be available for purchase.
The theme of this year’s event is World War II, and several veterans from that era are expected to attend.
A mass scenic flight is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday, when dozens of Cubs will take off from the airport, weather permitting.
The West Coast Cub Fly-In was started by Monty Findley and Bruce Fall, two Lompoc Piper Cub owners. Findley has since died, but his daughter, Vicki Findley, is expected to travel from Texas for the event.
“We didn’t think it would go this far,” Mandibles said of the fly-in's longevity. “It just kept gaining in popularity.”
This year’s event appears set to have a record number of new participants, he said.
Organizers expect more than 60 Piper Cub airplanes, plus dozens of other “support” aircraft since the light airplane doesn’t have much room for carrying luggage.
Piper J-3 Cubs accounted for one-third of the total airplanes sold in the United States in 1936 and 1937, according to Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation. In all, more than 19,000 Piper Cubs were built as two-seat light monoplanes from 1937 to 1947.
“They’re very nostalgic,” Mandibles said. “There’s a lot of people that learned to fly in Cubs.”
The aircraft could be purchased for $1,500, which included flight lessons — “so that part of it was kind of cool,” Mandibles said.
Because of their accessibility, Piper Cubs have been likened to Ford automobiles.
Ironically, Lompoc Airport no longer has any Piper Cubs based there.
Still, Piper Cub owners return each July, which Mandibles attributes to the community’s hospitality.
“The city of Lompoc welcomes this thing with open arms,” he said.