As a native Hamiltonian, I was surprised to learn that Hamilton, Ontario once had an aircraft manufacturing plant and a flying school affiliated with Piper Aircraft Corporation.
My first airplane flight was in a Piper PA-11 float plane. While researching this aircraft, I was able to contact the pilot’s widow. She informed me that her husband and his brother went to Hamilton in 1947 to learn to fly and buy a J-3C Cub.
I tried to research information on the Cub Aircraft operation and found that precious little existed and what I did find was both sporadic and inaccurate. I decided to embark on a research project that would “write the wrong”.
In this article, I will provide a brief history of Hamilton’s Cub Aircraft that is based on my research to date. The information is gathered from newspaper articles published in the Hamilton Spectator, aviation publications, first person recollections and from a 1969 Ontario Royal Commission. My continuing research will include a comprehensive document on all 150 Cub Aircraft, that were manufactured from October 1945 until its demise in February 1949.
On August 21, 1937, ARCAN Corporation Limited, with funding from Atlantic Acceptance of Hamilton, incorporated as Cub Aircraft Corporation Limited. Initially Cub Aircraft operated a small flying school at its factory and at the Hamilton Municipal Airport, located on the eastern boundary of Hamilton.
Cub Aircraft Corp. Ltd. started to assemble various aircraft, with a handful of employees, under license from the Piper Aircraft Corporation from Lock Haven, PA. With parts shipped from the USA, Cub Aircraft assembled the following aircraft:
Cub Aircraft’s assembly factory was located on Adams Street and the fabric and paint shop was located on Cathcart Street, both within 6 km of the Hamilton Municipal Airport. Earlier, on May 11, 1936, a 25 year lease with the City of Hamilton for $100 per year established access to the runways.
In July 1940, Cub Aircraft moved its assembly plant and training school into a newly built and modern factory located at the Hamilton Municipal Airport. During World War 2, Cub Aircraft did various aircraft assembly and repair as well as military pilot training and employed 250 workers. Russell L. Gibson, President Cub Aircraft predicted in 1944 plans to build 300 airstrips across Canada after the war’s end. Wishful thinking.
Before October 1945, Cub Aircraft was an assembly plant for Piper aircraft, made entirely from parts imported from the U.S.A. Commencing in October 1945, the first truly Canadian Cub Aircraft was manufactured using 90% Canadian materials and components. Piper Aircraft specified that all tooling, drawings and modifications would originate from Lock Haven, so that parts on all Cubs, no matter where built, would be interchangeable. Cub Aircraft would attempt to source all parts within Canada unless it was not economically or practically feasible. Cub Aircraft continued to assemble US supplied Piper Aircraft and added newer models like the PA-12.