The Bücker Jungster I
With my criteria set, I started my journey searching for a suitable mount. Luckily the homebuilt market presented several viable options, mostly in the small biplane class; most of these were aerobatic and relatively inexpensive.
Months of trade-a-plane analysis and phone calls lead me to an airplane in Florida. It was a Bücker Jungster I – a single seat, aerobatic biplane designed to be a poor man’s full scale Bücker Jungmeister. The Jungmeister was a famous German design from WWII, that really excelled in terms of handling qualities and capabilities. The Jungster I was an 8/10 scale replica. It was all wood, covered in fabric, and very strong with +10.6/-6 Gs load limits. It was designed by aeronautical engineer Rim Kaminskas in the late 1950s. With the first prototype flying in 1962. She has a sister airplane called the Jungster II that is a high-wing monoplane – also aerobatic.
The airplane I found was built in 1970 in North Carolina and it changed hands to the current Owner and moved to Punta Gorda, FL. It was powered by a Lycoming O-290-G, which was converted from a ground power unit. It had a big wooden Flōttorp prop, that I loved. The wings had been lengthend 12″ on each tip, presumably to slow it down for better runway manners and it was painted in a German livery, complete with swastikas.
After talking several times with the seller, it was time to put up or shut up. I went to see my banker, Barbara Perkins, her and her husband Bob owned a Glassair. She worked out the loan and I had $6500 in my hand. Now to find a way to get it home? My friend, Captain Doug Boggs, came to my rescue. As an airline Captain he volunteered his services to look it over and ferry it home.
So Doug used his jumpseat priveleges to go to Punta Gordo and brought her home safe and sound. Doug had not flown anything that small or a taildragger in years, but it was not a problem – he’s a great stick! Doug went on to retire from the airlines and now flies as a Citation X Captain for my employer.
Once home we found a couple of things that needed attention; we replaced the gussets on the top longerons above the landing gear and some other minor stuff. With that done it was time to check myself out – remember it is a single-seater, no dual.
I had done a couple self-checkouts, but this was radically different from anything I had flown before and generally short-coupled taildraggers with narrow landing gear are to be feared.
Running out of excuses, I saddled up and took off. The thing literally leaped off the runway. It handled great and felt very smooth and responsive. Getting it on the ground was a different story. I aimed for the grass up on the north end of the field and just let it settle in hanging on for dear life. The airplane bobbled along and stayed nice and straight. I taxied in with knees wobbling. Made it!
Over the next few weeks I made friends with the Bücker, carefully teaching myself aerobatics (not recommended) and learning to land it in those Oklahoma winds.
All was well until I came in one day I landed and hopped out of the airplane only to have Jim point out something was wrong with the top right wing, there were ripples in the fabric- not good…
Out comes the pocket knife to expose a group of broken ribs. I never pulled more than 4 Gs, but those old ribs where just too brittle, plus the extra 12″ on the wing tips didn’t help things either.
So starts the rebuild of my new biplane, which lasted from August ’92 to January ’94 – too long. I had only flown the airplane 2 months when this occurred. I learned wood-working by rebuilding all 4 wing panels and fabric recovering. It was a great learning experience and gave me a chance to go through everything. I removed the extra wing area that had been added on and used slightly heavier solid plywood ribs in all 4 wings. I cleaned up all the metal brackets and replaced them where needed. The fuselage was in good shape so it was only recovered with Stits fabric. Jim had some fabric dope he got at an auction that was intended for a J-3 Cub, thus my German biplane became more of a yellow bumblebee. Dave Vinson, who painted our Ercoupe, laid on the final paint scheme.
First flight of my “new” airplane went flawless and I was having a ball. I flew acro in it every chance I got and commuted to my part-time flying job in Ardmore in it on occasion.
On one of those times I flew it to Ardmore, the boss sent me up to a grass strip near Pauls Valley to get some scat hose. I pooched the landing and dropped it in on the right main gear bending it. I flew it home, sick at the thought of bending my airplane. My boss, Jim Kern, helped me fix it and I had it back in the air in no time.
As work got busier I flew the Bücker less. I moved up North to my current job and left it behind with no place to hangar it or money to fly it. Brewer had let me barter or he donated everything I needed for it at home – up in Columbus I had no support.
I ended up selling it about a year after moving to a fellow out West. My parents never really liked that airplane, and it was true that I was pretty reckless with it at times – I was in my early 20s.
Thanks to Jim Brewer, for teaching me how to work-on and fly the Bücker. Also, Doug Boggs for delivering her safely, and to my parents for all the support. I could not have enjoyed this experience without their help.
I learned a lot about flying and construction and maybe life from that airplane. I still miss it sometimes, but I’m sure it is out there providing more great adventures to a kindred spirit.
Let us know what you think of this story. Comment below.
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