What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — Oklahoma Carbon Cub EX-3

By Dave Embry, EAA 1205789

This piece originally ran in the May 2024 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

Ghost Rider is my eighth and final Carbon Cub build. It’s an EX-3 with a full IFR instrument panel and all the options. It is painted using regular PPG spray paint techniques and airbrushed artwork.

I came up with the original paint scheme idea from a license plate I had seen of five cowboys in black silhouette over an orange background — the OSU “Posse.” Thinking of “cowboys” and “flying, it came to me how cool the idea of using the story of the famous song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” would be on an airplane. And so the long process began of formulating the idea, perfecting the design, and then very technically applying it onto the fabric airplane itself.

Carbon Cub cockpit

I began with the idea of using colored pencils on a paper outline of the airplane. Then I went to my favorite designers at Evoke Aircraft Design (formerly Plane Schemer) and gave them what I had. Jonathan McCormick assigned the project to Tyler Crowe, and away we went. The “storm” would come from an idea based on an internet picture of a lightning strike on the upper tail with it going on down into the most aft cowboys’ hands in the form of a rope. The riders are coming out of the storm clouds, and as you move forward on the airplane, the storm clouds dissipate with only a couple of distressed bolts of lightning going forward. I enlarged their computer depiction and placed it on an easel for reference when doing the actual painting.

It was tough enough just to design it on the screen; how do you transfer this over to a fabric airplane? In came the great people at PPG who brought in two of their top technical reps to help figure it out and offer me some guidance. Big thanks to Blake Blackburn at Single Source Inc. (PPG dealer in Tulsa) for putting the people together. Brian Wegner at PPG knew exactly how to do it.

The lightning and the storm clouds would have to be airbrushed in, but it would be extremely difficult to airbrush the entire airplane. So, I applied the background color of the reddish/orange in a single-stage paint (it has the color and the gloss all in one paint, so no clear coats are required). Then I had to sand the entire surface with light sandpaper so the airbrushed artwork would stick to it since it would be done in a base-coat-type paint over the single-stage coat. And finally I applied two clear coats over the entire fuselage to lock it in and protect the artwork.

Painting the Carbon Cub

I painted everything myself in my paint booth except for the airbrush work. For that I found a guy really well known around Tulsa for his exceptional work, Greg Tuter at Lil’ Toot Auto Art Works. After several days (and nights) of doing the airbrush work, it all came together. The process of his preparing and painting of just the lightning was amazing. I think it took seven layers total beginning with a sketch of the lightning with chalk on the tail area followed up with light white shading and some blue and then more white to define the strike. The prep work took two days. Greg worked all afternoon and all night a couple of times doing the lightning and the storm clouds.

The cowboys themselves, the grassy plains the cowboys are riding on, and the front lightning stripes, as well as the name on the cowl, are from masks made from vinyl. They were applied and then painted into and removed.

Carbon Cub tail with lightning bolts

Much thanks to Marc Poole for helping me get the picture of the airplane and the stormy photo together. Marc designed my first build, Orange Crush, and is probably the best aviation artist in the country. He actually created and painted the original Orange Crush Girl that we photographed and used to make the nose art on that earlier airplane. He is currently the president of the American Society of Aviation Artists. He and I are now tossing around ideas for the P-51 replica (SW-51) project that will be my next build next spring.

This was a very fun project and certainly one of my favorites. It’s for sure a “one-off” paint scheme.

Attention — Aircraft Builders and Restorers

We would love to share your story with your fellow EAA members in the pages of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, even if it’s a project that’s been completed for a while. Readers consistently rate the “What Our Members are Building/Restoring” section of the magazine as one of their favorites, so don’t miss the chance to show off your handiwork and inspire your peers to start or complete projects of their own. Learn more ->

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