Story of the J-3 Piper Cub

The story of the J-3 began in the late 192Os with C. Gilbert and Gordon Taylor, partners in the very small Taylor Brothers Aircraft Company of Rochester, New York. Onetime barnstormers, the brothers had designed and were attempting to market a two-seat monoplane called the Chummy, when Gordon Taylor was killed in a crash.

Gilbert Taylor, who believed there would be a growing market for light planes, moved in 1929 to Bradford, Pennsylvania, where community leaders were anxious to promote new local industries. The Bradford Board of Commerce provided $5O,OOO to capitalize the new Taylor company, which built five Chummys before the Great Depression put a halt to construction.

One of the stockholders was an oilman named William T. Piper. Being interested in aviation and believing that the Chummy was too expensive and inefficient, Piper offered to sponsor the development of a small plane to sell for half the Chummy's $3,985. The resulting aircraft designated the E-2, was completed in late 193O and fitted with a two-cylinder Brownbach "Tiger Kitten" engine.

Testing had revealed the Tiger Kitten, which was rated at 2O hp, had too little power for the E-2. At full throttle, the small plane was able only to indulge in "grass cutting," rising a few feet into the air before settling back to earth. The Tiger Kitten engine had suggested the name Cub for the airplane, however, denoting the E-2 as the earliest true ancestor of the J-3.

With no suitable power plant, the Taylor company was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1931. Piper bought up the assets keeping C. G. Taylor on as chief engineer. Later that year, Continental Motors Corporation came out with the 37-hp A-4O and the Taylor E-2 Cub was placed on the market. Twenty-two were sold that year, with sales growing tenfold by 1935.

The following year, the plane was completely redesigned. Redesignated the Taylor J-2, it featured a greatly improved Continental engine. Also in 1936, C. G. Taylor left to establish the Taylorcraft Aviation Company in Alliance, Ohio.

When the plant at Bradford burned down in 1937, Piper moved his manufacturing equipment and more than two hundred employees to an abandoned silk mill in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. The company resumed production under the name Piper Aircraft Corporation and completed 687 aircraft before the end of the year

ln 1938 Piper introduced the improved J-3 Cub. Powered by 40-hp Continental, Lycoming or Franklin engines, the J-3 sold for $1,3OO. Engine horsepower was soon raised to fifty and reached sixty-five by 194O. Piper also standardized a color scheme; just as Henry Fords Model T's were all black so Wiliiam Piper's Cubs were all bright yellow with black trim.

Immediately before the entry of the United States into World War II. Sales of the Cub were spurred by the organization of the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) Program. ln 194O, 3,016 Cubs were built and at the wartime peak a new J-3 emerged from the factory every twenty minutes. Seventy-five percent of all pilots in the CPT Program were trained on Cubs, many going on to more advanced training in the military.

Cubs were also flown during the war as observation, liaison, and ambulance planes. Known variously as the L-4, O-59 and NE-1, these planes rendered valuable service and were nicknamed "Grasshoppers."

The L-4A liaison aircraft, originally designated the O-59, was the military version of the famous Piper J3 "Cub." The Army ordered the first O-59s in 1941 for tests in conjunction with its growing interest in the use of light aircraft for liaison and observation duties in direct support of ground forces. Between 1941 and 1945, the Army procured almost 6,000 Piper Aircraft.

During WW II, "Grasshoppers" performed a wide variety of functions throughout the world such as for artillery fire direction, pilot training, glider pilot instruction, courier service and front-line liaison.

By 1947, when production ended, 14,125 Piper Cubs had been built. The J-3 is now finding an ever-increasing popularity among antique airplane buffs, and brand new Cubs are being constructed by homebuilders. Both an excellent trainer and a delightful sport plane, which lends itself to lazy summer afternoons, the Cub might best be summed up by the words "simple," "economical." and above all "slow." The high demand for J3 Cubs is because of three basic facts:
they are very nostalgic, they are lots of fun, they are cute as a bug.
(But this has caused a high market demand which has driven the cost
for a nice J3 out of sight for the average person).