the first production Super Cub had been human,
it probably would have suffered from a severe identity
crisis. It ended up with the model designation
PA-18, but could have been a PA-19 . . . and should
have been a PA-20. According to Roger Peperell's exhaustive reference work, Piper Aircraft,
the convoluted tale unfolded as follows.
in 1948, Piper assigned the model designation
PA-18 to an improved version of the PA-17 Vagabond,
which was to be introduced to the marketplace
in 1949. A Continental C-90 powered prototype
was built and tested, but Piper decided to cancel
the program early in 1949.
the same time the company was developing the
PA-19, which was a version of the PA-11 cub Special
for the U.S. Army. Only three were built and
one of them, N5011H (Ser. No. 19-1), would serve
as the certification test bed for the installation
of the Continental (1-90-12F; Lycoming 0-235-
C1 and O-290-D. The PA-11 airframe was unchanged,
except for a revised center section and the use
of the more rounded rudder that was first used
on the J-4 Cub Coupe. The PA-11, which was an
updated J-3, had retained the more angular Cub
rudder. (An interesting side note: When Dick
Wagner developed his Cuby,
Wagabond and 2+2 kits, all were
fitted with J-3 rudders. Reason: Dick had purchased all
the J-3 inventory left at Piper's old
Ponca City, OK plant, which included a barn full
of J-3 elevators, stabilizers, gear legs and
rudders. Golda and I were there in Lyons. WI
to see them shoals after Dick returned home with
the first semi load of goodies)
- Military orders for the PA-19 that
Piper Aircraft hoped for did not immediately
materialize, so the company decided to ''civilianize''
the design and market it as the Super Cub. Rather
than advancing to the next model designation,
which would have been PA-20, Piper chose to go
backward and assign the unused PA-18 designation
to the Super Cub. Actually, by this time the
PA-20 designation had already been assigned to
the four-place Pacer, so the only other alternative
would have been to jump ahead to PA-21! All this
model designation confustion came
about because these different airplanes were
under development at the same time.
Finally, however, things were sorted out and the Super
Cubs went into production - replacing the PA-11 on the production line in November
of 1949. The very first Super Cub was N5410H, Ser. No. 18-1 . It is still
on the FAA'S books today and was recently restored to flying condition.
Super Cubs were certified and produced by Piper Aircraft
with five different engines (plus several dash number variants of those engines).
- PA-18-95 (ATC #1A2),
powered with a Continental C-90 engine. Like
the PA-11 from which it was derived, it had no
flaps, had a straight elevator (no counterbalancing
horns) and one 18 gallon fuel tank in the left
wing. Another 18 gallon tank for the right wing
was optional. The initial price in 1949 was $5,850.
Surprisingly, even though more powerful models
were being manufactured, the PA-18-95 continued in production until
- PA-18-105, powered
with a Lycoming 0-235-C1. It had a larger horizontal
tail, with balanced elevators and flaps (from
the PA-20 parts bin). The PA-18-105s were only
built from January to October of 1950 when that
model was replaced by the PA18-125.
- PA-18-125, powered
by a Lycoming O-290-D. Oil cooler scoop on top
of the cowling.
- PA-18-135, Lycoming
O-290-D2. Production began in May of 1952. Oil
cooler scoop moved to the bottom of the cowling.
Two wing tanks standard with this model.
- PA-18-150/160, Lycoming
0-320. Production began in October of 1954 and
continued until November 22, 1982 when the Super
Cub was terminated. Production was resumed
at Vero Beach, FL in 1988, however - as a $45.000
completed airplane or a $21,000 kit (minus engine
and prop). Production continued until December
of 1994 when the last Piper built Super Cub,
N41594, rolled off the production line.
the way a variety of sub models were produced,
including PA-18s seaplanes and PA-18A ag planes.
A total of 1,493 were built for the Air Force and
Army as L-18s and L-21s, and many of those were
sent to foreign countries under the Mutual Defense
Aid Pact. The military models were ordered and
built in blocks of serial numbered right along
with the civilian production.
In total, Piper Aircraft built 10,326
Super Cubs between 1949 and 1994. Just 44 were
built at Vero Beach - all the rest at Lock Haven.
The biggest year for Super Cub production was 1953,
when 1043 were built.
Like the J-3s and PA-11s before them, most Super Cubs
were initially used as working airplanes. They
served as trainers, dusters and sprayers, banner
towers, pipeline and bowerlike patrollers, border
patrollers, military liaison aircraft, bush planes
and in any other way pilots could use and abuse
them. Few aircraft have ever been subjected to
more aftermarket modifications than the Super Cub
- in fact in their efforts to squeeze out more
performance, Alaskan bush pilots have sometimes
rendered them virtually unidentifiable as PA-18s.
The Super Cub, however, did not die when Piper Aircraft
ceased production in 1994. A host of small companies
simply tooled up and began building their own versions
of the airplane - in kit form to avoid the cost
of certification. There are even turboprop versions
All the various models of Super cubs are highly prized
today - as evidenced by the prices being asked
for them in Trade-A-Plane ads. In a recent issue, for example, a
rebuilt, highly modified 1963 model was listed
for $159,000! Many continue to be working airplanes,
but, increasingly, they are being restored as showplanes by enthusiasts like
Ron and Nancy Normark.
Want to read more about the Piper high wings? Check
out Budd Davisson's Piper High Wings
Good books related to Cubs and building: