Some Famous Piper Color Schemes

By:      Norm Goyer

Every air show has a collection of like new, yellow Piper J-3 Cubs.

Every air show has a collection of like new, yellow Piper J-3 Cubs.

I grew up in the rock maple forests of Western New England where every fall Mother Nature puts artists to shame with her vibrate living colors. When viewed from above they almost seem to be changing before your eyes. Artists have tried to duplicate nature’s infinite palette with little success. But some aircraft designers have also used color to great advantage;  but none coming close to Mama Nature.

The post-war Piper J-4 Cub Coupe had several light cream based paint schemes.
The post-war Piper J-4 Cub Coupe had several light cream based paint schemes.

Let’s talk about the obvious first, the J-3 Cub, whose specially blended yellow with a slight bit of orange has its own name, Cub Yellow. As Henry Ford once said, “I’ll sell you a Model “T” Ford in any color you want as long as it is black”. So would Bill Piper, Cubs were yellow with a black lightning stripe and small drawing of a bear cub on the tail, that was your only choice. But, it became the most well known paint scheme in the history of aviation. His three-place Cub Cruiser was painted Orange; it too had its own color, “Cruiser Orange.” Early Cub Coupes were painted blue. After World War II Piper still painted their Cubs yellow. Aeronca upset the airplane cart by closely copying the Cub’s yellow paint scheme. They used a slightly more chrome yellow and adding a distinctive orange belly to give the pot-bellied airknocker a more modern look to go along with its “real door”, front-seat piloting and full engine cowling. “Holy Batman, Mr. Piper, what are you going to to about that?” Piper’s answer was the Piper Cub Special; the airplane had a lighter color yellow with medium blue trim. The engine was fully-cowled and you could fly from the front seat. Unfortunately, sales fell flat, those who wanted a Cub, wanted a yellow cub with its Continental hanging out in the breeze. Not to be outdone by the Aeronca Champ, Piper left their classic Cub alone and concentrated on their three-place Cruiser. They dumped the 75 hp engine, put an 100 hp in, used a full cowling and painted the Super Cruiser a pleasing cream with red trim. Now they had a winner. They even redesigned the fuselage a bit and added another seat and sold it as the four-passenger Family Cruiser. Piper then using their head for a change, decided that the classic Cub needed a more powerful member of the Cub family. The Super Cruiser name went over very well so why not the Super Cub, voila, another classic Cub was born. Again they went with a while paint scheme with red trim. The new Super Duper Cub was available with various engines up to 160 hp with the 150-Lycoming powered being the most popular. They removed the fuel tank from the cowling area, added tanks to the wing, added flaps, put in toe brakes and balanced the aircraft for front seat piloting. In addition to a great working aircraft for towing gliders, towing banners, pipe line patrols and fish spotting duties they also found out that they had built a dynamite seaplane. I have flown Cubs including a 40 hp Taylor Cub, a 50-hp Piper Cub on floats and a 150 hp Super Cub on Edo floats; I have loved them all.

The three-place Piper J-5 Cruiser came from Lock Haven painted in "Cruiser Orange."

The three-place Piper J-5 Cruiser came from Lock Haven painted in "Cruiser Orange."

Piper stopped producing Super Cubs in the 1980s but other firms have helped themselves to the design. You can buy an ultralight Cub, a homebuilt Cub, and LSA Cub and restored original Cubs. It seems that the American buying public will stick with a product they know and respect. Cubs have been part of our aviation history since the early 1930s and they show no sign of going away any time soon. The most popular model airplane of any category from rubber band models to huge 50% scale behemoths has always been the Piper Cub. They are unique in many ways. They are highly respected for being outstanding aircraft, they fly better than many modern aircraft. “It flies like a Cub.” is a tremendous compliment. Yes I am a Cub junkie. Why?

The post war Piper PA-11 Special had a multi-color paint scheme of light yellow and blue.

The post war Piper PA-11 Special had a multi-color paint scheme of light yellow and blue.

I soloed in a Piper Cub at 6.6 hours, I obtained my seaplane rating in a 50-hp Cub, I searched for lost aircraft in a CAP L-4 Cub, I counted desert burros and horses from a Cub and I taught my kids to love a Cub. I have flown them from land, sea and snow. I have landed them in pastures, on dirt roads, Interstates for fuel, fairgrounds for display and strictly for open door summer flying fun. Oh yes, I also have two 81″ RC Cubs, an 81″ RC Super Cub and a 106 inch 1/4 size Super Cub. I also have floats for all of my RC Cubs, as they make a superb RC seaplane. Mr. Taylor, thanks for designed such a great fun airplane and Mr. Piper, thanks for building them. You dun good. NG

The PA-12 150-hp Super Cub was mostly white with red trim. They made outstanding seaplanes.

The PA-12 150-hp Super Cub was mostly white with red trim. They made outstanding seaplanes.

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