Besides oil, Lee Budde believes Alaska only has three highly marketable items: "seafood, scenery and Super Cubs."While fishing and tourism industries have seen their share of economic nosedives in recent years, money and jobs generated solely by the Piper Super Cub airplane in Alaska continue to rise.Countless Alaskans earn their livings by rebuilding, repairing, flying or building parts for the venerable Super Cub, an airplane synonymous with Alaska aviation."You can’t swing a dead cat in Alaska without hitting someone who repairs Super Cubs," said Budde, who along with his wife Jennifer, own Big Lake-based Airframes Inc., a company that repairs, rebuilds and makes new fuselages and various parts for the airplane.Some 7,750 of the no-frills, steel-framed, fabric-skinned, single-engine airplanes were made from 1949 to 1995, when production ceased after the Piper Aircraft Corp. went out of business.By several estimates, Alaska is home to at least a quarter of all Super Cubs produced. The airplane’s simplicity and short take-off and landing capabilities make it a favorite for Bush pilots, who often refer to the practical little plane as the "Alaska jeep."No landing strip is not a problem for the Super Cub, which can easily land on gravel bars and mountainsides.Hunting guide Kirk Ellis of Nabesna says without the Super Cub, he’d be out of work."I’ve tried them all and it’s the only airplane that can do the job," Ellis said.The highly sought after airplane has such a cult following in Alaska that Budde said he knows pilots who prioritize the airplane over other essentials of life. "People will live underneath a blue tarp just so they can own a Super Cub," Budde said, "and some of them do." Budde, along with his wife and 10 employees, produce complete replacement fuselages for the Super Cub, including a new Federal Aviation Administration-approved frame that is 4 inches wider than the original.That extra room is welcomed by more portly pilots, Budde said."It’s the difference between being cramped and comfortable," said Budde who said his shoulders touch both bulkheads in a standard Super Cub.Fuselages range in price from about $11,000 to $14,000 for the wider model.In his four years of business, Budde has produced about 115 frames, which he says are a vast improvement over factory-made models."Ours is a stronger, more sensible design of the structure," Budde said.This year, he expects production to reach 70 fuselages. The increased production is in part thanks to an order of about 30 frames from Cub Crafters Inc., a Yakima, Wash.-based company producing a Super Cub clone known as the Top Cub.Budde said shipping the 17-foot long, 104-pound fuselages to the Lower 48 is cheap because nearly all containers headed south are empty anyway."We’re doing OK out here in the middle of nowhere because of our quality," Budde said. "Ten families, besides our own, are making a living off of this."A superior Super CubNathan Richmond, along with his father Jim, started building the Top Cubs three years ago, and have sold about 50 airplanes to date.Nathan Richmond said the airplanes are far superior to the old Super Cubs due to advances in technology, like better engines and landing gear, and because of the better frames made by Budde, who supplies about half of the fuselages to the company. "Lee (Budde) does a fantastic job building fuselages for us," said Richmond.Six of the hand-built airplanes, which sell for an average of about $150,000, have been sold in Alaska, including two that were delivered in Anchorage in mid-June, Nathan Richmond said.Cub Crafters expects at least 20 percent of its market will be in Alaska, Richmond said.The company also rebuilds old Super Cubs to like-new specifications, which can cost about $80,000.Super Cubs, when introduced by Piper more than 50 years ago, sold for about $3,000.Cub Crafters all-new airplane has sparked objections from the New Piper Aircraft Inc., which emerged after the old Piper company folded, but it no longer produces Super Cubs.Mark Miller, spokesman for New Piper Aircraft officials in Vero Beach, Fla., said his company is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to force Cub Crafters to stop making the Super Cub clones.Miller said New Piper wants Cub Crafters to quit using "Cub" in its name, and to stop making the Top Cub altogether, fearing lawsuits that would link the two companies."It’s like someone building an airplane just like a Boeing 747 and putting ’Top’ Boeing on it," Miller said. "There is a huge safety issue for the public and a liability issue for us that could come to rest on our doorstep."Miller said his company stopped making the Super Cub because it could not get insurance on the airplane."It’s an antique," Miller said. "Don’t get me wrong, we are proud of the Cub and proud of the Cubs we made, just as I’m sure Henry Ford was proud of the Model T."Miller said he believes the FAA will side with his company ultimately, but if not, the issue will go to court.Cub Crafters’ Richmond said so far the FAA has sided with his company and nothing prohibits them from building the new airplane."They wish nobody was building the airplane, but they have no legal grounds," Richmond said.Richmond said the demand for Super Cubs might not ever go away, and his company is banking on it, especially in Alaska."Super Cubs, like Harley-Davidsons, have a cult-like following and they are dearly loved," Richmond said. "Everyone who owns a Super Cub dreams of flying it to Alaska. And all of our customers always want all of the ’Alaska mods.’"’Guru and grandmaster’ of Super Cub modificationsWhen it comes to modifying a Super Cub, F. Atlee Dodge is legendary.Dodge has been working on Super Cubs for most of his 80 years and is considered the "guru" and "grandmaster" of Super Cub modifications. He’s most often referred to as "Mr. Cub" in the Super Cub circles."It’s a good airplane, it really is and I’ve been around them for a long time," said Dodge, owner of F. Atlee Dodge Aircraft Services Inc. in Anchorage.He’s designed or redesigned everything from landing gear to lumber racks for the Super Cub. Some of his most popular items are engine cowlings, exhaust systems, heaters, folding seats, expanded fuel tanks, float fittings, skis and ski rigging parts and an enclosed baggage compartment."I’ve made enough of the stuff for them to gain the reputation," Dodge said.Although he specializes in Super Cubs, Dodge has made parts for nearly anything that flies.Dodge’s products are mostly shipped to Canada and Alaska where the greatest concentrations of Super Cubs are. Shipments go out daily to the Lower 48 and around the world. In any given week, Dodge’s company ships Super Cub parts to far away places like Borneo and South Africa."We ship stuff everywhere," Dodge said.Dodge employees 13 people at his South Anchorage business located off O’Malley Road, where he has been since 1957.Business making parts is so brisk with Super Cubs and other airplanes that Dodge said he is looking to expand elsewhere in Anchorage soon. His designs have been copied by many over the years, but nearly any Super Cub aficionado will tell you F. Atlee Dodge products are superior.Dodge has rarely advertised over the years and has grown his Anchorage business by word-of-mouth. "We’ve never been out of work," he said.Dan Hollingsworth, of Dan’s Aircraft Repair Inc., offers many of Dodge’s parts on his Super Cub rebuilds. The company, based at Merrill Field in Anchorage, claims to be the largest Super Cub rebuilder in the state.Hollingsworth said his 15-year-old company employs 10 people.Hollingsworth said a complete rebuild, depending on the work needed, can cost upwards of $95,000 and take between three and four months, involving hundreds of hours of labor. In the end, he says, the plane is better than it was the day it came from the Piper factory.Hollingsworth also will fetch or repair on-site crashed airplanes from anywhere in the state, as he has done on several occasions.The lure of the Super CubLura and Vern Kingsford of Scenic Mountain Air use Super Cubs on floats for flight instruction in the Bush."The Super Cub is the epitome of the Bush plane in Alaska," said Lura Kingsford, who along with her husband offer float-rating instruction at their Moose Pass headquarters.Not only are they offering float certifications, the couple is doing their part for tourism using the Super Cub.The company has about 80 pilots annually take the course, two-thirds of whom come from the Lower 48.The instruction is popular with everyone from new pilots to airline pilots, Lura Kingsford said. At least one astronaut, Cady Coleman, has taken the three-day course, which touts itself as the "boot camp" of float ratings. Vern Kingsford has been flying in Alaska for about 30 years, chalking up some 14,000 hours of flight time, including more than 4,000 hours on floats.Pilots can earn float ratings nearly anywhere Outside, Lura Kingsford said. But flying in Bush Alaska, in the tiny airplane associated with the state, is a strong marketing tool."People can get float ratings flying over a trailer park in Florida, but what we do is the epitome of Bush flying," Lura Kingsford said. "We fulfill people’s dreams."