History of the

Piper L-4 Grasshopper

Leading up to World War II, Piper Aircraft successfully demonstrated how their popular J-3 Cub could be adapted into a military role.  After trying the small aircraft in military maneuvers and drills, several roles were identified for the light aircraft including observation, artillery spotting and transportation. Originally designated O-59ís and classified as a Liaison aircraft, their designation was changed to L-4A for Army use.  Various models were subsequently produced and had designations L-4B through L-4G.  The Navy also purchased the small Cub and designated them AE-NE1/NE2ís and mainly used them as trainers.

These light aircraft saw combat as observation, general light transportation, and courier aircraft.  Various branches of the military purchased over 5,500 of the Piper aircraft and they went on to serve admirably in all theaters of World War II.  The aircraft generally became known as Grasshoppers due to their ability to land and takeoff off under any condition, from any terrain with very little runway.

Piper Aircraft Corporation manufactured the L-4 in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. The L-4 was powered by a 65 hp Continental engine and had a wingspan of 35 feet and length of 22 feet.  The plane carried a crew of two people and had a cruise speed of 85 miles per hour. The military numbered the aircraft with the year of manufacture and then an aircraft number, such as 43-30031. Most of the aircraft were produced with a nondescript olive-drab scheme and included a greenhouse of windows which enabled the crew to have great visibility. Many of those produced were packaged for transport overseas and, once there, crews would quickly assemble the Grasshoppers and place them into service.

The Grasshopper played an important role in the military victories of World War II and demonstrated how effective even the smallest aircraft could be under fire. Today, over 60 years later, a number of L-4ís are still flying and they each serve as a reminder to all of the great effort undertaken by our brave armed forces in World War II.

Specifications (Piper L-4A Grasshopper)

Type: Two Seat Light Liaison, Observation/Reconnaissance

Accommodation/Crew: Pilot and an Observer in an enclosed cabin seating two in tandem with dual controls.

Design: C. Gilbert Taylor of The Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation of America (formerly Taylorcraft Aviation Company). At that time William T. Piper was the company's Secretary and Treasurer. In 1935 the company ran into financial difficulties and William T. Piper bought the manufacturing and marketing rights for the Taylor Cub. In 1937 he formed the Piper Aircraft Corporation to continue to produce the aircraft.

Manufacturer: The Piper Aircraft Corporation at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.

Powerplant: One 65 hp Continental (A-65) O-170-3 4-cylinder horizontally opposed air-cooled piston engine.

Performance: Maximum speed 87 mph; cruising speed 75 mph; service ceiling 11,500 ft; initial rate of climb 450 ft per minute; stalling speed 39 mph.

Fuel: 12 US gallons in the fuselage behind a fireproof bulkhead.

Range: 260 miles.

Weight: Empty 695 lbs with a normal take-off weight of 1,220 lbs. Wing loading 6.7 lbs/sq ft; power loading 18.7 lbs/hp.

Dimensions: Span 35 ft 2 1/2 in; length 22 ft 4 1/2 in; height 6 ft 8 in; wing area 178.5 sq ft.

Armament: None.

Variants: Piper J-3 Cub, J-3C-50 Cub, J-3C-65 Cub, J-3F-50, J-3F-65, J-3L-50, J-3L-65, J-3P-50, YO-59/O-59 (L-4), O-59A (L-4A), L-4B, L-4C (J-3C-65 Cub Trainer), L-4D (J-3F-65 Cub Trainer), L-4E (J-4E Cub Coupe), L-4F (J-5A Cruiser), L-4G (J-5B Cruiser), L-4H, L-4J, TG-8, XLNP-1, NE-1, NE-2, HE-1/AE-1 (J-5C Cruiser).

Equipment/Avionics: Standard communication equipment in all except the L-4A (which had none) and the L-4B (which had reduced radio equipment).

Wings/Fuselage/Tail Unit: High wing braced monoplane with the wings attached direct to the built-in centre-section on top of the fuselage abd braced to the lower longerons by steel-tube Vee struts. Wing structure consists of spruce spars and aluminium-alloy type ribs, with the whole structure being covered with fabric. Frise-type ailerons operated by cables. The fuselage was a rectangular structure of welded steel tubes with fabric covering. The Tail Unit was a normal monoplane type with welded steel-tube framework covered with fabric.

Landing Gear: Divided non-retractable type, consisting of two side Vees and two half-axles hinged to cabane below the fuselage. Rubber cord springing at top anchorages of axles. Wheel landing gear may be replaced by twin Edo all-metal floats.

History: First delivery (J-3C-65/YO-59/O-59) early 1941.

Operators: United States (USAAF, USN, USAAC). Many countries used the aircraft post-war with Piper building military and civil types until 1981.


Piper L-4A N49750