Wilbur's Waco Restoration
My inspiration to restore the Anna came from my Dad, Joe Wilbur. Born to a prominent and successful farmer and businessman of Arizona, Dad came from the sort who pioneered the southwest. Where Greatness was measured in a man by what he'd accomplished rather than what he might say or who he might be. Like his father before him, Dad always considered that anything was possible if you applied yourself and didn't allow the difficulties or challenges encountered to dissuade you from persevering. There was always a way to do what needed to be done and just because you may not have figured out what that was, didn't mean you wouldn't, unless you quit trying. While I am not sure exactly when or how Dad caught the flying bug, I do know he never got over it. We do remember stories of Piper J-3 Cubs and a Globe Swift in Arizona after the war, an airport that is now a residential neighborhood south of town and a Flight School full of GI Bill students. Dad was the kind of dreamer that doesn't come around that often. He realized his dreams the old fashioned way. Hard work and determination bound tightly with more patience than we've seen in any other man.
- If an old school bus were converted into a camper with room for storage, he could move his belongings to Alaska and have a home for his family on a homestead out by Campbell Station, (now Arctic Boulevard) in Anchorage, AK while he built a small house for them to live in
- If an old converted school bus got some modification, like a big door in the side, it could be a mobile shop to start his own business out of when he wasn't on the clock at the Airline
- If an old travel trailer had the same big door to fit an engine of a Piper Super Cub or wing tip, he could un-hook his pick-up to go get parts without having to move the plane from his mobile shop
- If a J-3 Cub had a balanced elevator it would have better control at low airspeed like a Piper Super Cub. So Joe submitted the necessary documents to the FAA and received a Supplemental Type Certificate for the alteration so that Piper J-3 Cub, PA-11 Cub and PA-18-90 Cub owners could enjoy the improved performance.
- If a set of Piper Super Cub gear were bolted up to the lower fuselage tubing made from 4130 Chrome Alloy Steel one size larger than a cub?s standard fuselage tubing, he could clamp up a set of temporary gear to ferry the Cub back to town to repair
- If a Super Cub had another set of fuel tanks, one on each wing outboard of the standard tanks, then the Polar Bear guides and outfitters could fly twice as long without having to land on the ice-pack and refuel at half as many fuel caches on the ice-pack, always a risky affair. Again, un-daunted by the enormity of the task at hand, another STC is approved by the FAA.
- If a Super Cub had a third seat, a Hunting Guide and Outfitter could ferry two at a time from the base camp to the hunting ground and have more daylight for hunting and guiding and less time flying. Joe also received STC approval from the FAA for a third seat modification.
- If a Maule M4-145, designed as an economical family cross country airplane was equipped with a two position propeller and larger wheels and tires, it could also be a fair Soft and/or Short Field Performance (STOL) aircraft. So, Dad arrives at Merrill Field with a brand new bird with a two position propeller, big tires and the first Maule Dealership in Alaska.
- If he used the Maule to land between the buildings at Whittier and fly the pass to Portage then have Al Mowry (one of his pilots) fly the Stinson or Pacer between Merrill and Portage he could move twice as many stevedores (also known as longshoremen) to town and back for their days off. The summer of 1964 saw Dad fly over 900 missions after the earthquake. For a time, Whittier was the only open port Alaska had.
- If, the flight testing requirements of an STC for Floats on the Maule was done in the winter in Anchorage, AK, I recall there is some of that there, it could be done on a lake covered with snow just as nicely as one that was wet and rainy...and come spring a new Float plane enters the market.
- If a guy wanted to land on a snow covered lake in the winter one day and a plowed and sanded runway the next, a set of quick-change Skis would sure save a lot of time and effort. Hence, the Wilbur Tire Cushion Ski STC Approval
- If...the list would take hours to only share a part of what Dad accomplished in his aviation career.
Dad was a great father, a great mentor, a great friend, a great man who gave more than his share, and for all that, I can't recall him getting angry, accept at me when I pulled some hair brained stunt or worse. You could always count on a smile and a warm reception with Dad. The strength of his heart shone brightly in his eyes and he spread it liberally on all he came in contact with. His "keep trying until you get it right" way of going about doing things, spilled over on most of those he came in contact with. Dad didn't talk much about "getting it done." He was all about doing it and moving on to the next thing to be done. Dad is one of the last of Alaskan Pioneer Aviators to close out his last flight plan. He completed Commercial Flight training in 1959 the summer of Alaska Statehood. He went on to earn a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor Rating and Multi-Engine Instrument Rating and then he came down with that dreaded "swing-wing bug." He flew several models of helicopters, Brantley's, Bells, Fairchild Hiller and even a Hughes 500. There was fish counting and Gold Mine grocery runs, surveyors to drop on mountain tops and communication repeater site generators to refuel. There were reindeer to herd and satellite dishes to be re-aligned, downed aircraft to retrieve from sandbars and beaches, to name only a few of his expeditions.
And then there were sons and daughters to raise, Steve, Anna, Rich, Ken, Meg, Paul and Bruce, seven in all. We all were immersed in and a part of Dad's dream day in and day out. His girls were pumping gas and scrubbing bellies of the airplanes right alongside the boys. And it seemed that if you were big enough it didn't matter how old you were. Dad would set you to doing what needed doing, answer your questions with "now you try it" and leave you to it. Dad's confidence in the abilities of his kids and a trust that we would get it right fostered in us the same independent pioneer spirit his father had given to him. So with the spirit instilled in us by my dad I decided to finish my brother Bruce's final project, The restoration of the Anna. Bruce had recently completed a restoration of a World War II Stinson L5 Bird dog. Bruce was never able to complete the Anna project as he was killed in a plane crash while working as a mechanic for Wilbur's Flight Operations in 1988.