Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Civilian Aviation

The Generic Light Plane

The name Piper Cub brings to mind a little yellow airplane, with a cute bear cub image on its tail, landing on a grass field. Born during the Great Depression, the Cub was a simple, inexpensive light plane with gentle flying features that captured—even helped create—the private pilot market. Thousands of pilots since 1931 have learned to fly in Cubs.

Two men were responsible for the Cub's success: C. G. Taylor designed it, and William Piper provided financial backing and marketing genius. By 1941 a third of all general aviation aircraft were Taylor or Piper Cubs. More than 27,000 had been sold when production ended in 1947. Thus, Cub became a generic term for light airplanes, and it remains one of the most famous airplane designs. From the Cub came the line of Piper personal and business aircraft that continues today.

Who Were Taylor and Piper?
C. G. Taylor designed airplanes and, with his brother, began selling them. He took Piper's idea for an inexpensive, easy-to-fly airplane and made it a reality. Piper used his marketing savvy to make the Cub one of the best known, most popular airplanes ever built.

C.G. Taylor

C.G. Taylor designed the Taylor Cub, the forerunner of the legendary Piper Cubs, in 1930. The easy-to-fly and affordable Cub captured--even helped create--the private pilot market in the 1930s.

C.G. Taylor
In 1926 Taylor formed a Curtiss Jenny barnstorming venture with his brother Gordon and another partner. By 1928 the Taylor brothers had designed the two-seat Arrowing A-2 Chummy, a small monoplane with a radial engine. Gordon was killed in an A-2 at an exhibition in Detroit, but C. G. Taylor continued his work.

Looking for larger quarters, Taylor gained the support of investors in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and moved Taylor Brothers Aircraft Company there in 1928. Startup costs and slow sales of the expensive $4,000 Chummy as the Great Depression began forced Taylor to liquidate the company.

William T. Piper

William Piper provided the financial backing and marketing genius for the legendary Piper Cub.

William Piper
An engineer and oil man of modest success with an eye for opportunity, William Piper and a partner paid $400 to become original investors in Taylor's company. When it failed, Piper bought it, became its treasurer, and kept Taylor as president and chief engineer.

Piper knew current private aircraft could only be afforded by the rich, were really working airplanes, or were so underpowered they barely flew at all. He was determined to build an aircraft that was inexpensive to fly and maintain and was stable enough so people could easily learn to fly it.

The Piper J-2 Cub
The Cub was simple, slow, safe, and affordable—perfect for a beginner pilot. Thousands of people over more than 30 years learned to fly in them. Early J-2s came in several colors, but yellow became standard. The planes became so popular that people started calling all light airplanes "Cubs."

The tandem two-place J-2 is the transition model of stable and economical Cub light aircraft that made flying easy to learn and afford. The J-2 cost $1,470 or could be rented for $10 an hour. A total of 1,207 Taylor and Piper J-2 Cubs were built from 1935 to 1938. William Piper and the Piper Aircraft Corporation board of directors anointed the Museum's Cub, completed on November 2, 1937, as the first official Piper J-2 and flew it as the company plane until April 1939.

Piper J-2

This Cub had a succession of owners. It was restored by Hal Goff of Aero Enterprises of Pittsburgh in 1976, then flown to Lock Haven where former Piper Cub engineer Walter Jamoneau piloted it. Lefferts Mabie Jr. of Pensacola, Florida, acquired it from yet another owner in 1981 and donated it to the Museum in 1984.

Look Inside Piper J-2


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QuickTime VR panorama created from actual cockpit photography.

Wingspan: 10.7 m (35 ft 3 in)
Length: 6.8 m (22 ft 5 in)
Height: 2 m (6 ft 8 in)
Weight, empty: 255 kg (563 lb)
Weight, gross: 439 kg (970 lb)
Top speed: 136 km/h (85 mph)
Engine: Continental A-40-4, 40 hp
Manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp., Lock Haven, Pa. 1937

More about the Piper J-2
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