Culver Cadet LFA

Al Mooney’s wooden wonders keep popping up here at the North Cascades Vintage Aero Museum

Al Hook of Los Angeles, CA has donated his long time treasure with a 56 year ownership of  Culver Cadet LFA,  S/N 315, NC37806. A little history regarding  Al and his Cadet – Al bought the little wooden speedster to commute to work in the LA basin back in 1955, Al’s job was about a 45 minute commute by auto and 15 minute commute by the little Culver,  Al chose the Cadet whenever possible as his flying time  was minimal and the joy he received doing so made his job that much easier.

SDC11815.1

Al flew the Cadet for about another 10 years doing the commute when time finally caught up on the little Cadet’s airframe and 90 HP Franklin, with major work lurking in the form of a recover, woodwork in the airframe and a major overhaul on the Franklin 90,  Al chose to park the Cadet instead of selling her. Fortunately Al had the good sense to hanger the little Culver  in several dry hangers for the next 40 years!.

SDC11824.1

Al’s love for this little machine never waned, and finally in 2004  Al contracted with Culver guru Carl Badgett in Snohomish, WA to do his Magic with the Cadet’s airframe and 90 Franklin. This would be Carl’s last Cadet project, Carl would move onto a 1937 Packard convertible that he has recently completed which has turned out magnificently. Carl spent the better part of three years replacing a lot of wood , overhauling the little 90 Franklin and recovering the airframe, complete with the two tone three stripe paint scheme in Diana Cream and Santa Fe Maroon.

SDC11825.1

The Cadet was completed in late 2007 and test flown out of Harvey field in Snohomish, WA. Following a few corrections and fixes the Cadet was flown to Los Angeles by Al and Paul  Rhule, another Culver guru from Phoenix, Arizona. The flight down went without event in 10.5 hours, again the Cadet found a hanger in the LA basin where she again would sit due to Al’s unfortunate health issues until his decision to donate the Cadet to the collection here in Concrete. Because the airplane had not flown in almost seven years the decision was made to truck the Cadet back to Concrete, Drew and a helper drove down and took two days to disassemble the little speedster and load her into a 16′ Penske rental truck.

SDC11838.1

Once back in Concrete, another decision had to be made whether to reassemble the airplane or do some cosmetic work to bring the airplane up to Museum standards . What was found was the Colored Butyrate dope peeling off in sections  from the primed fuselage fabric, within 3 hours helping hands  had all of the dope finish  removed from the fuselage.At the same time we chose to recover the Rudder, Elevator and horizontal Stab, this would only leave the wings which looked to be in fine condition. To date the fuselage has been block sanded and primed and is ready for a coat of Santa Fe Maroon Ranthane and then the trim color three stripes in the Diana Cream. The Tail surfaces will be finished in the Randolph dope finish up through color, we chose to go the Ranthane route on the fuselage as Carl had used an automotive gray primer prior to the finish dope colors which began to peel,  hence the use of the Ranthane would have a good base with regard to the auto primer.

SDC12114.1

The 90 Franklin has been removed from the airframe and sits on a engine stand waiting to be rejoined to it’s longtime companion, the wooden airframe. With only 10.5 hours since an extensive major   the Franklin looks to be in great shape.One item that was included with the airplane when donated was a brand new Aeromatic prop set up for the little Cadet with the paperwork all signed off, this should make for a great little performer when up and flying.

SDC12113.1

A little history on the Cadet,

Another product of Al Mooney’s  fertile mind and one of his more popular machines to come out of the late 1930’s early 40’s. Approx 375-380 were manufactured. Production started in Port Columbus, Ohio and when Walter Beech became involved,  production was relocated to Wichita, Kansas. Production continued until the military saw the potential for the wooden airframe use as a drone. The Cadet was slightly modified with a tricycle gear and radio control equipment and many were built for one purpose and that was to be shot out of the sky!

First production machines carried the A-75-8 or -9 Continental and with the light airframe the Cadet performed  admirably, cruising at 120-125 mph on 4.5-5 gallons hour. Later airframes were pulled around with the smooth running Franklin 80 and 90hp engines. Although there was  a slight bump in horsepower, the Franklin powered machines were heavier due to their full electrical systems. Performance wasn’t any better but the little airplane was more useful and practical with a starter, generator, optional lights and radio options.

Today I would guess there are probably less than fifty Cadets flying, possibly less maybe more with another  20 or so being restored or stored in barns. Here in Concrete we have kind of a niche thing with Al Mooney`s designs, presently we have in the collection two Mooney Mites (a C & L model), two Cadets (a LFA and a LCA),  a Dart with Lambert power,  three Culver V’s, one restored and flying and two projects, a Clip wing Dart project with Warner 165 power coming in June and two other mites and an LFA Cadet in a neighboring hangar.

As you can see here in Concrete we are on the constant lookout for termites!!  None to date .

Watch for museum updates on our ongoing Mooney collection and other interesting aircraft.

3 replies
  1. craig hewitt
    craig hewitt says:

    I’m glad to here that Al Hooks Culver is in good hands. Will it fly while in the Museum? I had negotiated with als son but we never ageed on a price.I’m glad its not wasting away after all of Carls work. Can you send me info on your museum and its aircraft? Thankss Craig Hewitt

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *