Piper NLP
Piper NE Grasshopper
by Jack McKillop
The LNP and NE series aircraft were militarized versions of one of the most famous light aircraft, the Piper J3C-65 Cub. Over 5,500 of these aircraft were ordered and built for the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), U.S. Navy (USN) and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) during World War II.

The Piper Model J3's ancestry can be traced to the 1931 Model E-2 manufactured by the Taylor Brothers Aircraft Company of Bradford, Pennsylvania. The E-2 was powered by a 20 hp (14.9 kW) two-cylinder engine resulting in a seriously underpowered aircraft that could barely get into the air. There were no sales and the company went into bankruptcy. One of the company's investors, William T. Piper, bought the assets, retained Gilbert Taylor as the chief engineer but did not change the name of the company. Under the new management, work began on a redesigned E-2 powered by the new Continental 37 hp (27.6 kW) A-40 engine. Sales of the re-engined E-2 Cub picked up and by 1935, over 200 were being sold per year. In 1936, the E-2 was again redesigned resulting in the Model J-2 Cub but Gilbert Taylor became upset because his design was being changed and left the company to found the Taylorcraft Aviation Company in Alliance, Ohio.

In 1937, a fire completely destroyed the plant in Bedford and Piper moved production to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania under the name Piper Aircraft Corporation. After this move, the J-2 was further modified by changing the wingtips and tail surfaces, fairing the landing gear shocks, installing a 40 hp (29.8 kW) Continental A-40-4 engine, and adding brakes, a tailwheel, larger seats and a standard instrument panel. This new aircraft, designated the J-3 Cub, was introduced in 1938. Further improvement were made by installing a 50 hp (37.3 kW) engine in 1938 and a 65 hp (48.5 kW) engine in 1939. All of the engines used in the J3 were air-cooled with four-horizontally opposed cylinders driving a two-bladed wooden propeller.

The Piper J3 was a single engine high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear seating two in tandem; normally, dual controls were provided. The entire aircraft was constructed of spruce, aluminum-alloy and welded steel-tube framework all covered with fabric. As was common with many light aircraft of the day, the engine cylinder heads were exposed to the air for cooling purposes.

Each J3 Cub was identified by a six character code which indicated the specific engine installed. The first two characters of the code were J3; the third character was the letter C, F or L indicating the engine manufacturer, i.e., Continental, Franklin or Lycoming respectively; the fourth character was a dash (-); the fifth and sixth characters were the numerics 40, 50 or 65 indicating the engine horsepower. Therefore, the J3C-65 was a Model J3 powered by a 65 hp (48.5 kW) Continental engine.

In June 1939, the U.S. Government established the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CTTP), redesignated the Wartime Training Service (WTS) after the U.S. entered World War II, to provide qualified 18- to 27-years-olds with sufficient training to obtain a private pilot license at government expense. A total of 435,135 men and women obtained their license through this program until its termination in 1944; about 75 percent of the training was with the J3 Cub.


The ability of light aircraft to support ground operations was evaluated by the U.S. Army beginning in 1939. The three major manufacturers of light aircraft in the U.S., Aeronca, Piper and Taylorcraft, donated aircraft during the 1939 and 1941 maneuvers and in September 1941, the USAAF placed an order for four J3C-65s for evaluation. These aircraft, designated YO-59s, were tested to see if they could be used  for liaison between bases, artillery spotting, gun-laying and front-line liaison. In November 1941, an additional 40 production O-59s were ordered. All of these aircraft were essentially civilian J3C-65s and all were redesignated L-4-PIs in 1942. The USN's NEs were equivalent to the L-4-PI.

The first true military aircraft was the O-59A ordered by the USAAF in February 1942. Redesignated L-4A-PI in 1942, this version featured a cockpit enclosure extended further aft offering better all-round visibility; the USN did not purchase any of these aircraft. The only other aircraft operated by the USMC was the L-4H-PI with improved equipment and a fixed-pitch propeller.


On 20 May 1941, German paratroopers and glider troops invaded Crete and the USAAF and USMC were ordered to investigate the use of paratroopers and gliders for airborne assault. In 1942, the USAAF asked Aeronca, Piper and Taylorcraft to develop a small training glider based on their light aircraft. Piper responded by removing the engine and landing gear from an L-4A and replacing it was an extended nose accommodating an instructor pilot and two students, all with full controls. Other modifications included the addition of a simple cross-bar landing gear, hydraulically actuated brakes, a steerable tail wheel and increased fin area; 253 of these gliders, designated TG-8-PI, were ordered by the USAAF in August 1942. Three of the TG-8s were transferred to the USN for evaluation.


XLNP-1: Three Piper TG-8-PIs transferred from the USAAF for evaluation by the USMC glider program.

NE-1: 230 aircraft similar to the USAAF L-4-PI powered by one 65 hp Continental O-170-3 air-cooled engine with four-horizontally opposed cylinders.

NE-2: Identical to NE-1 but with equipment changes; 30 aircraft ordered but ten were canceled before delivery.


The NE-1 made its first flight on 16 March 1942 and the last of the 250 NEs was delivered on 9 August 1945. The first base to receive the NE-1 was Naval Air Reserve Base (NRAB) Anacostia, District of Columbia where it was used for flight training. During the war, the USN used the NEs at smaller bases for two main purposes, (1) as a base utility (hack) aircraft and (2) at elimination training bases to test prospective aviators.

The USMC, which used both the XLNP and NE in their glider training program, received its first NE-1 in 1942. The goal of the Marines' glider program was initially small, 75 gliders and 150 pilots, enough to transport two battalions. By June 1942, the program's goals had grown to transporting 10,800 men in 1,371 gliders flown by 3,436 pilots.
Marine Glider Group Seventy One (MLG-71) had been organized at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Parris Island, South Carolina in April 1942 to oversee the glider program. In May 1942, Marine Glider Squadron Seven Hundred Eleven (MLS-711) was also organized under MLG-71  to implement the glider program. In November 1942, both units moved to MCAS Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas. At its peak, these units had 21 gliders, 36 officers and 246 enlisted men. Finally, someone realized that the use of gliders on small Pacific Islands covered with jungle was impractical and the program was terminated in May 1943 and MLG-71 and MLS-711 were decommissioned. The gliders were left at MCAS Eagle Mountain Lake for disposal.

In November 1942, MLG-71's Headquarters Squadron Seventy One (HEDRON-71) was operating seven gliders and two NE-1s plus nine other aircraft. In August 1943, three months after the glider program was canceled, the USMC had 42 NE-1s operated as station utility aircraft by the Base Air Detachment (BAD) at MCASs Cherry Point (15) and Edenton (11), North Carolina; El Centro (3), El Toro (4) and Mojave (1), California; Quantico, Virginia (5); Parris Island, South Carolina (2); and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (1).

Another Marine unit that used the Piper Cub was the 1st Marine Division during the invasion of Cape Gloucester (5.45S 148.43E) on New Britain Island in the Bismarck Archipelago on 15 December 1943. In the summer of 1943, the Marines had presented a plan to the Army requesting that liaison aircraft be provided for artillery spotting and the USAAF's Fifth Air Force provided twelve L-4H-PIs, nine of which were flyable. The aircraft were landed from Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) on D-Day, assembled and operated over the jungles of New Britain until the Marines pulled out. These aircraft were "loaned" to the Marines and were not assigned Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers (BuNos).

Both the USN and USMC disposed of the NEs by December 1947.


Wing Span: 35 feet 3 inches (10.74 meters)
Length: 22 feet (6.71 meters)
Height: 6 feet 8 inches (1.9 meters)
Wing Area: 179 square feet (16.6 square meters)
Empty Weight: 730 pounds (331 kg)
Gross Weight: 1,220 pounds (554 kg)
Maximum Speed: 85 mph (137 km/h)
Cruise Speed: 70 mph (113 km/h)
Stall Speed: 38 mph (61 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 9,300 feet (2,835 meters)
Initial Climb Rate: 300-400 feet (91-121 meters) per minute
Range: 190 miles (306 km)
Armament: None