Restored L-4 Donated To Piper Aviation Museum

The museum is pleased to report  the acquisition of a restored 1944 L-4 built at the Lock Haven Piper Factory.  The plane was donated by Frank Fine of Wall, New Jersey.  The intention of his donation is for the plane to represent the L-4’s that were produced in Lock Haven and therefore become part of the historical artifacts of the Piper Aviation Museum.

Frank purchased what he thought was a J-3 Cub in Lakewood, New Jersey in 1968.  In 1970 the plane was severely damaged in a windstorm right after its annual inspection.  The insurance company wanted to total the plane, but Frank refused to do that and vowed he would fly it again one day.   After the mishap, Frank discovered the plane was actually an L-4 when he removed some of the fabric.  He  put the plane in storage where it remained for years until members of his Monmouth N.J. Area Flying Club talked him into restoring it.  During the restoration, Frank noted that turning on the lights in his shop attracted airplane aficionados like moths.  After much work and TLC, the plane came together in 2008 and Frank fulfilled his promise by flying the restored plane on May 24 2008. (Pictures below from EAA Magazine Nov 2008 shows plane during restoration and testing.)

Some research by Frank, determined his plane was built in 1944 as a L-4,  but was kept at Piper for use by the Piper Flying Club.  It was sold after the war as a J-3.  An article about the Piper Flying Club that appeared in a 1947 issue of “Pilot Magazine” shows the plane on floats in the Susquehanna River at Lock Haven.  The plane was also featured in the November 2008 edition of  “Sports Aviation of the Experimental Aircraft Association” (Photo Below).

Since  Frank served in the Marine Corp 3rd Division from 1952 to 1956  he decided to restore the aircraft to resemble the Navy L-4’s (NE-1-2’s).  His inspiration were Navy NE pictures taken on Pavuvu in the Russell Islands in the book “Flying Leathernicks in World War II. Because of his Marine service, Frank  added a 3rd Corp  emblem on the vertical fin during the restoration (Photo Below from museum hangar).

Frank contacted the museum in summer of 2012 about his plan to donate the plane.  After many phone calls and correspondence, the details of the donation and plan for delivering the plane were finalized.  During the Sentimental Journey Fly-In of June 2013, two pilots in N.J., enthuiasticly volunteered to fly the L-4 from its hangar in Monmouth Executive Airport to Lock Haven. One of those pilots, Bob Hartmaier was involved in the rebuild and reflected that his only regret was that this was the last time he would fly the plane. Frank, his wife and daughter drove to Lock Haven on the same day to make the presentation during the Fly-In.

Piper produced the military version of the J-3 beginning in 1941 with the designation 0-59.  In 1942 this was changed to L-4 with the Navy version as NE-1 and NE-2.  The military version was mechanically identical to the Civilian J-3 Cub except for military paint and the use of a Plexiglas greenhouse skylight and rear windows for improved visibility.  5,413 L-4’s were built for U.S. Forces including 250 for the U.S. Navy.   The ubiquitous Cubs saw extensive service as front line airplanes during World War II, where they were widely used on all battlefronts for observation,  liaison, aerial photography, reconnaissance and medical evacuation.  Known universally as “Grasshoppers," the Cubs were easy to fly, extremely maneuverable, and could take off and land almost anywhere. They were even launched from a platform placed on an LST (Landing ShipTank), a craft used to place men and materials on beaches.  American soldiers called Cubs "flying Jeeps," while to the Germans they were "hellraisers," because bombing raids often followed their reconnaissance flights.