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NE-1 / L-4 Grasshopper

The little Piper Cub is an aviation legend. This bright yellow little model demonstrated that some airplanes can be just slow and nice to look at. As the 1930's drew to a close, the general aviation manufacturers offered the private owner and fixed-base operator a variety of high-priced, luxurious aircraft, as well as a number of inexpensive, more austere models. Among the latter, the Piper J-3 Cub is without question the outstanding example.

The prototype of the Cub, first flown in 1931 during the early days of the Great Depression, fostered the development of a number of light, low-powered, and, above all, inexpensive aircraft. The aircraft was initially produced by the Taylor Aircraft Company, which was subsequently acquired by William T. Piper and became the Piper Aircraft Corporation. The original Cub was refined and improved through the years and appeared in the definitive model J-3 form in 1937. The aircraft is a conventional, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane equipped with a fixed landing gear. The Cub carried two people seated one behind the other in a small enclosed cabin, one side of which could be opened to provide cooling in warm weather. The aircraft was equipped with brakes and had a steerable tail wheel; but most J-3's had no electrical system, hence, no starter, and, of course, no radio.

Power was supplied by a variety of engines ranging from 40 horsepower to 65 horsepower, with the 65-horsepower version being the most numerous. All the engines were four-cylinder air-cooled types with the cylinders arranged so that two cylinders were oriented at 180 to the other two. This cylinder arrangement, known as a flat engine, is used almost exclusively today on modern general aviation aircraft equipped with reciprocating engines. The cylinders of the engines on the J-3 Cub protruded into the airstream to provide the necessary cooling.

An adjustable stabilizer was provided for trimming the aircraft in flight. The Cub had no landing flaps, nor were any needed; the low wing loading of 6.8 pounds per square foot together with the thick, high-lift airfoil section in the wing gave a stalling speed of just over 40 miles per hour. The large air wheels on the landing gear allowed the aircraft to be safely operated from soft muddy fields. The internal structure of the aircraft was conventional and consisted of a welded steel-tube fuselage, together with wings that incorporated metal spars and ribs (at least in the later models). The entire aircraft was covered with fabric. Most aircraft left the factory painted a distinctive yellow, which became almost a trademark for the Cub.

The first cost of the Cub was modest, the operating expenses were low, and maintenance was minimal. A glance at the specifications shows that the performance was not spectacular, but the aircraft was completely viceless with respect to its flying and handling qualities. All these factors made the Cub an ideal primary trainer.

Thousands of pilots received their first dual instruction and made their first solo flight in the Cub during the explosive expansion of the U.S. Army and Navy Air Forces during World War II In addition to training, the Cub was extensively used for liaison, observation, and other military duties during the war. About 20 000 of the J-3-type Cubs were produced.

Today, the aircraft is used for crop spraying, glider towing, fish spotting, and various other utility tasks. Many thousands of Super Cubs have also been built. Surely, the Cub and its descendants have had one of the longest production runs of any aircraft in history.

L-4A Grasshopper

A derivative of the famous Piper Cub, the L-4A Grasshopper served with distinction in both World War II and Korea. About 5,375 were built for the Army in various models from 1941 on; they were powered by a variety of engines ranging from 65-horsepower Franklins to 100-horsepower Lycomings.

The L-4 was a light observation and liaison aircraft adapted for military use from the Piper J-3 "Cub," a popular private airplane developed in the late 1930s. The primary difference between the civil and military versions is the enlarged window area in the rear cabin to allow better observation. Produced in various models, the L-4 was used by both the U.S. Army and Navy, whose designation for the aircraft was NE-1.

During World War II, the Grasshopper served admirably in its primary role of airborne artillery spotting. Flying over the battlefield, the L-4's observer would spot enemy artillery and troop positions, radio the information to Allied ground forces who could then direct artillery or air strikes on the enemy. L-4s were so effective at silencing enemy artillery that they became a favorite with Allied ground forces. The Grasshopper served in all theaters of World War II and in both Korea and Vietnam.

L-21 Grasshopper

The L-21 was a Korean war light Liaison aircraft for the Army and later became used by the USAF. It is a single engine, high-wing, 2-seater. The PA-18 was used by the Air Force in civil markings for contract training at civilian schools. The PA-18 was typically used for agricultural purposes in the civilian sector.

The Piper PA-18 Super Cub is one of Piper's most successful and long lived aircraft programs, with production spanning over four decades. Although it did not enter service with the US military, many were taken up by the air forces of other countries. The PA18 Super Cub was the ultimate development of Piper's original aircraft, the J3 Cub. The four seat development of the Cub, the PA14 Cub Cruiser, was the basis for the Super Cub, but the later differed in having seating for two in tandem. The Piper PA-18A-150 Super Cub first came on the market in late 1949. It continued in production with Piper until 1981, when the company disposed of all rights in this airplane to WTA Inc. of Lubbock, Texas. When production of the airplane ended a total of 2,650 Super Cubs had been built. The PA-18-150 Super Cub was powered by a 150-hp Avco Lycoming 0-320 flat-four piston engine, giving the airplane a maximum speed of 130 mph, service ceiling of 19,000 feet, and a range with maximum payload of 460 miles.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:33:56 ZULU