Second-generation aviator Bob Jones and his daughter, third-generation aviator Emily Herron, are in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in the family’s 1946 Piper J–3 Cub. This Cub has been in the Jones family since Herron’s grandfather, Kenzie Jones, purchased the airplane in 1949 for just over $700. He owned the Cub named “45 Hotel” for 64 years, until he died in 2013. After his death, the little yellow airplane was passed down as a family heirloom to his son and grandchildren.
The Cub has been meticulously maintained and cared for by the Jones family. In the 1960s, it was equipped with an 85-horsepower engine to accommodate flying out of short grass strips. “It wasn’t very common to upgrade from a 65 to an 85 back then,” said Jones. In addition to engine improvements, 45 Hotel has also been equipped with Super Cub bungee fairings and a dry cell battery to power lights and a starter. The Joneses have also re-covered the airplane a handful of times since 1949.
To honor 45 Hotel’s almost lifelong stay with the Jones family, the father-daughter duo came up with a plan to preserve the Cub’s and their family’s aviation history. Their goal is to visit all the airports at which the Cub has been based since Herron’s grandfather bought the airplane in 1949. “The point of our trip is to document the story of our family’s history with our Cub…I hate that my grandfather passed away, and we never wrote down or recorded his stories about flying the Cub, and I don’t want to have that regret with my dad,” said Herron.
Jones and Herron will be making stops in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama before returning to their home airport in Kentucky. “Some of the airports that the Cub was based at when my dad owned the airplane are no longer there. The airport might be gone, but we are still going to fly over and circle the field or whatever it might be and get some pictures,” said Jones.
“Our little Cub is seemingly insignificant when compared to the world we live in today, but when I think about all of the people who have had a few moments of joy on their first airplane ride in the back of 45 Hotel, that’s how she is changing the world,” said Herron. “One flight, one smile, one ounce of joy at a time.”