A J-3 Cub assembled at San Benito, Texas, and bound for a customer
in Mexico, about 1946
Assembling Cubs at San Benito
San Benito is a small city on the very edge
of America, a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico and the same from the
Rio Grande and the Mexican border. In 1946, it must have seemed
heaven-sent to William Piper, assembling J-3 Cubs by the hundred
at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. And so it came about that San Benito's
little airfield became a major assembly point for Cubs heading south
of the border.
Go here for Paul Freeman's website about Texas's abandoned
airfields, and for the story he has put together about San Benito's
year or two as a major hub in the postwar avaiation boom.
San Benito began as an L-shaped field
of two dirt runways, the longer about half a mile in length. It
was dedicated in 1930, and during World War II was used for searching
Gulf waters for German submarines, first by the Civil Air Patrol and
then by US Navy blimps. It was taken over by the city in 1944, with
the Cruze brothers as managers. Postwar, they became a Piper
dealership, and the Cubs flowed to San Benito in numbers that
today are hard to believe: 107 J-3s in 1946, stacked six to a
railroad boxcar. (How many manufacturers of Light Sport Aircraft today
can dream of delivery 107 aircraft in a year worldwide?)
Fly-in at San Benito in 1946
I'd dearly love to have more information
about the Cruze brothers and the Cubs they assembled for delivery to
Latin America--not just Mexico, it seems, but elsewhere in Central
and perhaps even South America. In the meantime, a tip of the
virtual hat to George Hobbs, who brought the enterprise to
my attention; to Paul Freeman, who runs the Texas website; and
to the late Steve Cruze, who supplied the photographs and much
of the information on San Benito.
The airport of course soldiered on,
though it didn't quite make it into the 20th century. By the 1980s
it had a single 3200-foot paved runway, but it was eventually
closed, and in 2002 Steve Cruze stopped by to photograph the
remains, including a windsock still on the abandoned hangar.
Dan Ford's books
Wear it with pride!
Piper Cub tee shirt -
90% cotton/10% polyester, rich heather gray, features a gorgeous image screen-printed
for stunning color and durability.
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email. Blue skies! --