Fpl 51 - Piper PA-18 Super Cub (1958-1974)
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Everybody has some time heard the name ”Piper Cub”. But it is perhaps not commonly known that this is the name of eleven separately certified models of aircraft. To be exactly correct, the name of the first ones were ”Taylor Cub”. The models, including the ”Super Cub” were powered by engines in the range from 37 to 150 hp. The tiny sport plane was developed into a hard-working jack-of-all-trades. 

The brothers Clarence Gilbert (”CG”) and Gordon A. Taylor went into the aircraft manufacturing business in the 1920s. When they moved from New York to Pennsylvania, William T. Piper, a veteran of the Spanish-American war, became a joint owner.  

Piper stated that the company needed a cheap, bare-minimum trainer design. It would be two-seater and have a low power engine. C.G.Taylor agreed and started the design work. In fact, this was one of the few things that these disparate persons ever agreed on during their seven years of co-operation. But aircraft did not sell well in this early Depression year of 1930. After a bankruptcy, Piper took the financial control of the firm, now with the name Taylor Aircraft Company. The name ”Piper Aircraft Corporation” was introduced in 1937 when the enterprise had moved to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania after a fire in the old factory.  

The design work resulted in a small tandem-seat aircraft with a wood-frame wing with built-up metal ribs. The fuselage and the tail were designed of welded steel tubes. The parasol wing was so close to the fuselage so the persons in the open cockpit could not get into it by climbing over the side. To solve this problem, a long single hinged hatch, was installed on the right side of the fuselage to span both seats. It was opened downwards. This became the standard design of all the tandem-seat Cub models to follow.  

The first Cub in serial production was the E-2. It was powered by an engine of 37 hp. But of the eleven of the Cub models that were certified by the authorities - the J-3 variant - became built in 1937-1942 - the most famous one. The company now carried the name Piper Aircraft Corporation. The J-3 was a simple kind of aircraft. Among other things it lacked an electrical system and wheel brakes. But in the WWII, the days of glory for the Cub began. Between 5.000-6.000 aircraft were built for the military - most of the J-3 variant (US military designation L-4). It was flown in action for the first time in 1943 during the Allied landings in North Africa. Its main duties were liaison, artillery spotting and reconnaissance.  

After the war a large number of aircraft were sold on the surplus market. The legendary aviator Albin Ahrenberg became during the war years leader of the organization that took care of foreign aircraft which had made emergency landings or of other reasons remained in Swedish territory. When the war ended, Ahernberg took up his civil career again and, among other things, used his good relations with the USAAF to get import license for about 90 Piper Cub aircraft from American depots in Germany. These aeroplanes were overhauled in Sweden and sold to private owners. After some years, Göthe Johansson took over the sales of Piper aircraft in Scandinavia. As a result to Johansson’s assiduous work, Scandinavia was the only place in the World that Piper sold better than its closest competitor Cessna. 

The Swedish military aviation tested the L-4 for artillery observation, but found it insufficient in the Swedish conditions. The engine was not powerful enough and in winter time the snow whirled into the draughty windows.  

The variant PA-18-150 - USAAF designation L-21 - was a more advanced design that suited the Swedish demands better. This ”Super Cub” was powered by a much more powerful engine - the Lycoming 0-320-A2B of 150 hp and had a more spacious cabin. The STOL performance was improved upon as the aircraft now was fitted with flaps.  

In Sweden, the Army now planned that a suitable number of private owned Super Cubs would be mobilized in a war situation. But the fleet of Super Cubs in Sweden was not large enough. In 1957, the Army decided to order twelve Super Cubs - an order which later was enlarged. The first batch of six PA-18-150 was designated Fpl 51A in Sweden and was delivered in 1958. The individuals got the military numbers 51257-51262 but carried also civil registrations. When not used by the Army, the aircraft were to be used as agriculture sprayers by AB Jordbruksflyg, fitted with removable spray booms and chemical tanks. During the first years the aircraft were painted red and white.   

The second batch of six PA-18-150, now modified for military use, arrived in Sweden in 1959 and got the designation Fpl 51B. One of the advantages was the improved all around view. Individual numbers were 51251-51256. In 1963 a third batch of  six Fpl 51B was delivered (51245-51250). These aircraft would replace and also complete the remaining Fpl 51A which now were sold to civil flying clubs. A last batch of eleven Fpl 51B (51234-51244) were delivered in 1964.  

The Super Cub was regarded as very dependable and suitable under rough conditions. Some spares and tools were always carried in the aircraft. The engine was easily and quickly to replaced. Minor reparations of the fabric covering could be made by the own mechanics. In wintertime, skis could be fitted. Floats could be fitted, but were never used in Sweden.

Totally six Fpl 51A and twenty-three Fpl 51B were flown by the Swedish defence forces.   

Photo at top: Fpl 51B # 51256, now hanging under the ceiling at Flygvapenmuseum. C/n 18-6803, manufactured in 1959. After its active service in the Army, it was civil registered as SE-GCI and used as a sailplane tug at Ålleberg.   

Length: 6,8 m. Span: 10,7 m. MTOW: 795 kg. Max. speed: 240 km/h.


For the Model Builder

Revell has produced this plastic model kit of Piper PA-18 Super Cub in scale 1:32. Swedish decals are not included. Catalouge number is 04208. Click on the thumbnail for larger image.

Plastic model kit from Revell of Piper Super Cub (Swedish Fpl 51) in scale 1/32

The well-know British webshop Amazon.co.uk sells this model from Revell. T
he price is very favourable. Click on the thumbnail to get to Amazon's page for this model.


Fpl 51B # 51239


Military Aviation in Sweden - main page

© Lars Henriksson

Updated 2010-07-14

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