bzarcher: (Feather)
Getting ready for bed. Had an idea triggered by brushing my teeth. (Don't ask.)

Back in the late 20s, a barnstormer named Len Povey helped train a (very thin) Cuban Air Force for awhile, then went back to the airshows in the early 30s. As part of a display, he went to perform an Immelman loop, but screwed it up.

However, the screwup got a TON of crowd interest, mostly because quite a few of them thought he was going to crash. So, of course, he did it three or four times before landing, and got his mistake down into what can only be called a perfected form.

When he landed and took autographs, pictures, and the occasional passenger for a ride around the fairgrounds, he was asked just what that maneuver was.

He paused for a second, smiled, and said, "That, Sir, was a Cuban Eight." The mistake now had a name, and a pretty catchy one, at that.

Within a few years, the Cuban Eight became a pretty standard barnstormer trick, and even became part of some air combat maneuvers in the second world war and after. You can go to an air show today and see it performed without fail. Few people remember Len Povey, unless you're an aeronautical history buff or a pilot with the right reference books. But everyone who has ever seen planes doing acrobatics, on TV or at an airshow, probably knows what a Cuban Eight is.

Sometimes, all you need to take a mistake and turn it into an incredible success is a catchy name.

This was going to snowball into some form of essay. I lost most of it. But the bit of history was fun, wasn't it?

Side trip: I first heard the Cuban Eight story at the Dayton Air Show. I think I was something like eight or nine. It was a few years before Desert Storm. Nobody knew what a Stealth Fighter was, beyond drawings and paintings you'd see from "concept art" and things like the old F-19 game. The bigest military hoopla at the airshow that I can remember were F-14s, with the Top Gun music as they pulled maneuvers, the Thunderbirds in F-16s, and the immensely cavernous C-5 galaxy that we were able to walk through, and it seemed to stretch forever.

The biggest civilian hoopla were Air Racers, and quite a few modern-day barnstormers, including a guy in a BRIGHT YELLOW Bearcat that performed some incredible stunts while his announcer/mouthpiece was just as thrilling with descriptions and anecodtes as he flew. That's where I heard the Cuban Eight story for the first time, though Povey's name wasn't mentioned. I looked it up later in one of Granpa's air history books next time I visited him. But he told that story with a drawl and a wink, and drew you right into it.

And I can still hear his voice telling the tale today, even as I wrote this.

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bzarcher

July 2009

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