Vintage Piper Cub J3 will soar from the ceiling of the new flight center

Posted: January 12, 2018


Vintage Piper J3 Cub
Vintage Piper J3 Cub

The Ohio State University Airport is proud to announce that a vintage 1940 Piper J3 Cub will permanently be displayed in the lobby of the Austin E. Knowlton Executive Terminal and Aviation Learning Center, which is currently under construction and expected to open in January 2019.  The Piper Cub has a long and storied history, having been based in the central Ohio area from its early days of service.

The Cub’s donor, retired TWA pilot Donald Peters, stated, “I would like the community to remember the important role Columbus played in the history of aviation, and the connection between our city and early pioneers of aviation.”

Piper Cub's storied history begins in Columbus, Ohio

Image in black and white of Norton Field in central Ohio
Norton Field

The donated Piper Cub was purchased in 1940 by a flying service to be used as a training aircraft at Norton Field in Columbus, Ohio during World War II by two programs run by the United States government: The Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) and the War Training Service (WTS). Many future Army and Navy pilots were given their initial flight training in these programs before their enrollment in military pilot classes.

Norton Field, which no longer exists, was Columbus’s first real airport and was located on E. Broad Street in Whitehall. World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker was a guest at the airfield's gala christening. Norton Field was created by the Army Air Service in 1923 and named for Fred W. Norton, an outstanding Ohio State Class of 1917 athlete and graduate. Norton died in 1918 after an intense aerial battle for which he was decorated, and was the first Ohio State graduate to die in World War I.

From service to restoration

Image of Harley Snook and family in front of Piper Cub
Harley Snook and family members with the Piper Cub

After WWII was over, the late Harley D. Snook, a CPT flight instructor from Norton Field, purchased the Cub from the flying service. He operated the aircraft at his Snook Field in Reynoldsburg on Taylor Road for about a decade. Years later, Snook and Peters, who was Snook's flight student in the 1940s, worked together on the restoration of the aircraft from 1992-1995.

“Snook did the work and I provided the funds,” Peters said.

The Cub is a J-3 F-65, powered by a 65 HP Franklin engine. It has no electrical system, so it must be hand propped to start and was used for daytime operations only.

Coincidental connections

First squadron
Ohio State School of Aeronautics first graduating class in 1917

There are many connections between the Norton Field, Ohio State Aviation and the early days of flight in central Ohio.

The university’s aviation history began in 1917 when the U.S. War Department established a School of Military Aeronautics at Ohio State. It is possible that Fred Norton was one of the original cadets.

Like Norton Field, the Ohio State Airport’s Don Scott Field, built in 1942 in support of the university’s flight education program, was also named after an Ohio State graduate who was a war hero. Namesake Don Scott was a WWII pilot who died in training accident in 1943 in England. Scott and Norton were also both standout athletes in football, baseball, track and basketball while at Ohio State.

Future impact

“We are thrilled to be able to display this aircraft in our new flight center as a symbol of both Ohio State’s rich history in aviation, and of the exciting role that Ohio State has in the future of aviation,” said Airport Director Doug Hammon in 2018.

For more about the history of aviation at Ohio State, visit