The Piper L-4
was a military version of the famous Piper Cub of the
was designated in the “L” category, which was for Liaison
Taylorcraft, Aeronca and Piper were light plane manufacturers
that built military versions of their civilian counterparts
during World War II and were designated from L-1’s through
initial evaluations, the first L-4’s were produced in
1941. Different models were built and by the end of World War II,
over 5000 were produced.
This particular aircraft is a “J” model and, along
with the “H” model, were the most numerous produced.
They differed mainly from other models in that
they had a manual controllable pitch propeller.
Used mainly for support, the L-4 was
used for scouting, mail delivery and moving personnel
behind the lines.
With the pilot flying from the front, the observer
could sit in the rear facing forwards or backwards.
With a table for maps, writing and radios, he could
look rearward, out the extended windows and call in his
1943 some L-4’s were used with a “Brodie” cable and harness
where the aircraft could land after catching a
cable slung between several poles, its wheels never touching
the ground! One
enterprising Grasshopper pilot even attached several bazookas
to the wing struts for use in ground support.
was purchased in Los Angeles, California in the mid 1980’s.
While this “J” model currently does not have its
original controllable-type propeller installed, one has
been acquired that will be overhauled for later installation.
With the original hand-crank located on the instrument
panel, the pilot could manually rotate it to change the
angle (pitch) of the propeller blades in flight.
By changing the pitch, maximum performance can
be achieved whether climbing or cruising.
The aircraft was in the Weeks Air Museum
during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and damage was confined
mainly to the wings.
It was sent to Ken Kellet in Virginia Beach, Virginia
in 1993 for rebuild.
As Fantasy of Flight became a reality, Ken came
to work for us and finished the aircraft in 1995.
When my sister
Leslie mentioned to me that she wanted to learn to fly,
I told her that she had
to learn in a Piper Cub.
I had been collecting World War II aircraft for
a while, modified my statement and found this military
L-4 for sale in California, which she purchased. My sister was in college at the time and we scheduled for her
to fly back in her new airplane over her weeklong
fall break. I
flew the airplane from L.A. to Phoenix where my sister
and my girlfriend at the time, Linda Meyers, got in for
the rest of the trip home.
On their first leg to Tucson, following Interstate
10, Leslie noticed that the cars were passing underneath
them rather quickly.
Due to unusual headwinds, they had to land halfway
and refuel. They
calculated their groundspeed at only 32 mph!
Making it to an airport just east of Tucson, they
sat on the ground several days due to the strong winds.
Their problem was that they could not stay in the
air long enough to make it to the next airport!
Fortunately, someone told them of a private dirt-strip
about halfway to the next airport and on Thanksgiving
Day they headed further east down Interstate 10 and found
it next to a small town.
They saw a house near the airstrip and proceeded
to find out if anyone was home.
The couple that lived there were relaxing after
having just finished their Thanksgiving meal.
I can only imagine what they thought when two blondes
knocked on their door and asked to borrow a gas can!
They had one and after several trips walking over
to the local gas station, they filled up and took off
the time they got to Texas, my sister was out of vacation
and had to get back for school.
She got out near Ft. Worth and headed home by airline,
leaving Linda to fly the rest of the trip alone.
By the time the L-4 made it to Miami, the total
trip to get it home from L.A. was over an 11-day period
and had logged 43 hours of flying time!
My sister soon became more interested
in cars. I
learned that cars did not have the appeal for me that
airplanes did so I traded her a Jaguar XKE that I had
for the L-4. I
guess she decided that she would much rather have a fast
car, than a slow airplane!
Current Value: $35,000