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Plane spotlight: Piper Cub

Plane spotlight: Piper Cub


Piper J-3 Cub was developed around 1937 and 1947 by the American company Piper Aircraft. It is a low-speed aircraft with a short-field performance, which is mainly due to its simple and lightweight design. Its popularity was mainly due to its affordability and simplicity. Although it serves as a passenger plane, Piper J-3 Cub was initially built to train pilots in aviation schools.

The plane’s unique performance contributed to its use in the military. This was mainly due to its exceptional features such as surveillance, ground control, and liaison. These features were a key necessity during the Second World War. The plane’s other unique feature includes a rectangular wing powered by a piston engine and a yellow paint, which also contributed to its naming as the Cub Yellow.

The Design and the development of Piper J-3 Cub

Development of Piper J-3 Cub was aimed at showcasing creativity in the world of aviation. To power up the new aircraft, they used air-cooled engines such as the Lycoming 0-145 and Franklin 4AC. Several years after its development, there was an outbreak of hostility in Europe Union, which resulted in the formation of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP).

The hostility was, however, due to the fear of the United States joining the World War II. As a result, nearly 80% of military pilots had their first aircraft experience using the Piper J-3 Cub. It was during this time that the aircraft company registered the highest sales.

Operational history

Piper J-3 Cub’s popularity started after the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took publicity pictures to campaign for CPTP. Her criterion of campaign relied on using the media’s newspapers to publish photos thereby influencing the people to join her program. Piper J-3 Cub was the main aircraft used in the distribution of supplies, reconnaissance, medical evacuation of the soldiers, as well as artillery sporting duties.


Piper J-3 Cub attracted a personal love from both pilots and non-pilots. In fact, thousands of these aircraft are still in use now. After the war, Piper J-3 Cub was registered in the majority of the countries across the world, led by Argentina, Denmark, and Canada. It was later replaced in the late 1940s by the Piper PA-11 and the Piper PA-18 Super Cub.

The modern production

Today, as compared to the 1930s, the Cub Crafters are responsible for the manufacture and the modernization of the new up-engine versions of Piper J-3 Cub. These versions exhibits updated features such as short time take offs and landing capabilities. Despite the new model having a closed-cowl version, its modeling is similar to the PA-11- a later version of Piper J-3.

What’s more, the new versions feature an exposed cylinder on its engine’s head. Notably, the exposed cylinder previously had an eyebrow-like air scoop that could directly let air in to cool the engine. In a case where a single pilot flew the J-3, he/she sat at the rear seats in order to balance the weight of the fuel tank and that of the plane.

Piper J-3 Cub ratings

1. Operating Cost

The Piper J-3 Cub is among the most popular aircraft in the world with a pocket-friendly cost of purchase. For instance, it would only cost you around $25000 to $45,000 to purchase the plane, which makes it one of the most economical aircraft you can ever purchase. For those who would love to rent the aircraft, you can get it from the Penn Yan Flying Club at $49 per hour.

2. Maintenance

Using an old-fashioned aircraft is often very economical especially if it contains a few things that might break or require servicing. In fact, the Piper J-3 Cub includes primary instruments that lack an electrical system, avionics or even starters. In case of a malfunction, acquiring Piper J-3’s spare parts is also very easy.

3. Training

Up-to-date, some schools still use the Piper J-3 Cub to train new pilots before they graduate to modern aircraft. In case you are a pilot seeking to sharpen your rudder and stick skills then the Piper J-3 Cub should be your first aircraft to fly. Apart from the plane being an easy-to-fly aircraft, it also acts as a good trainer mainly because it relies more on using your feet as compared to its modern counterpart’s use of buttons. Typically, a pilot learns to fly safely without electric buttons and radio systems controlling his flight.

4. Traveling

If you are planning to travel around the world, then Piper J-3 might not be your ideal aircraft. The aircraft features a 12-gallon header tank that generates speeds of up to 75 mph. In addition, the aircraft can only accommodate a weight of 540 pounds, and therefore, if you are planning to take someone with you, consider their weight. Basically, Piper J-3 is not as fast as you would think, and therefore, might not be your ideal aircraft for long distance travels.

Essential facts about the Piper J-3 Cub

  1. The Piper J-3 Cub has a maximum speed of 87mph, maximum weight of 1220 pounds and the furthest it can reach is 220 miles.
  2. Piper J-3 is the most assembled aircraft in the world with over 19,888 models in the United States alone.
  3. J-3 uses a radial engine.
  4. In 1937, the price of the Piper J-3 Cub was $1,300.
  5. The Piper Aircraft Company initiated the Flirt Fire Fundraiser to support the British Royal Air Force (RAF).
  6. The Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) registered a total of 435,165 graduates with the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt being its main sponsor.
  7. The J-3 and the L-4 are physically identical.


Indeed, it’s worth noting that majority of the aircrafts today are as a result of the Piper J-3 Cub. Being among the first aircraft in the aviation sector, it has managed to comfortably set the pace to its later models. For this reason, the aircraft is definitely a success not only due to its excellent ratings in the operation cost, insurability, training, and maintenance but also its achievements.