Dreams do come true!
As a Cub nut I took the long nine and half hours trip to the birth place of the Piper Cub, Lock Haven, PA. I picked the weekend of the third annual RC Cub fly-in. Had a great time with them and enjoyed the trip and the Piper Museum. For some time I had been looking for an L-4 as my next scale project. I guess you could refer to the L-4 as an early Spy Plane as they would relay war info back to the ground. Piper made several different versions of the L-4 which started as a modified J3 Cub, and then was modified with a large greenhouse looking cabin area. Different models where equipped with different types of radios and, some did not have radios.
While at the Piper Museum, I picked up a DVD called The Cub that roared. The video was shot one year at the Cub homecoming called Sentimental Journey. In the middle of the video was this L-4 that looked like it had just rolled out of the plant. The owner talked about all the items they collected to build it back to the war time days. This was what I was looking for. After several months of trying to track down the owner of the plane I made contact with Dick Hall in April of 06 to ask about modeling his plane. With the Plane being 6 hours away I knew this would not be an easy project for collecting my documentation. The owner took some photos to help me get started. Some have asked why I picked this plane when I had two L-4’s in my backdoor. I like all the old details that the owners had put into restoring this plane and I wanted to copy those details in the model. So now the doorway was open to start getting the documentation info I needed. I have read several articles on scale contest and everyone says to find you subject first then your 3 views before you build. I collected several 3 views of the different versions of the L-4. In the middle of all the web surfing I came across some Piper drawings for the full scale. Being an AutoCAD drafter I started drawing the plans for the L-4. I could not tell you the number of hours I have put into the plans for them to be of true scale outline.
With most of the plane in the bones, I made my first visit to see the L-4 in January of 07 and took photos of everything I could think of. After all digital photos are cheap, but shortly found items I had missed. After meeting with the owner, his wife and son I felt like I had known them all my life. Now it was back home to make the model look like the full scale. I have been asked how many hours do I have in it, I lost count in the first year. Personally I would hate to know the number of hours. It has been in the works on and off for 3 years. Some of the details on the plane I would try a couple different ways to see what would work best.
With only a few small interior details left to finish I decide to take it to my first contest. I entered the Designer scale event at Toledo in 2009. In Designer scale the Judges can get as close to the plane as they want to judge workmanship. I knew I was in for a challenge with the L-4. I knew it would be a tough contest, and was hopping to place in the event but did not expect to win Designer scale. Next trip was to 2009 Rough River Mint Julep scale meet in my home state of KY. This event included a flying side of the contest. With only a half dozen flights my friends encouraged me to go. Fighting the wind and rain I was happy to take 2nd place in Designer scale. Next on my list of events is Top Gun 2010. I look forward to the computation from some of the best scale builders. Also the NATS are a possibility for me this year.
The owners first time viewing the plane was at Toledo. He and his family were very impressed by the details and outcome of the project. Then in the fall of 09 I paid a surprise visit to the airport where the full scale is held for a weekend event. The pulled the full scale out and I place the model under the wing. I will continue to fly the L-4 at events and enjoy it as I do not build hanger queens.
A saying the floats around the scale world is you don’t finish a project; you just stop working on it. Well with this one I may break the rule. I have a few more items to add to the inside and it will be finished. Would I do it again? Yes I would not think twice about it. Would I do things different, yes a few I would. This was my first scratch build from my own plans. It has been a challenge but also it has been rewarding too. Sometimes you can draw something on paper and it will not work. Now add the scale factor into this and it makes some items imposable.
Some interesting facts about the plane.
The plane is covered in Super Coverit fabric. Rib stitching is from small sections of fishing line glued to the plane. Scale pinking tape’s from Gary at pink-it.net and most of the graphics were from getstencils.com. Plane is painted in Exterior latex house paint matched to federal paint chips. I’m using the old inflatable Dubro cub wheels with a set of Robart main landing gear. Proctor turnbuckles, are used on the ailerons, and ruder with a pull pull setup. Custom tail wheel to match the original one, along with custom hinges on the ailerons. Although not functional, I did scale the jack screw in the tail. On the full scale this is what is used to trim the plane in flight. The inside is detailed out with all the details that are in the full scale plane. When a control surface is moved the controls in the cockpit move with it. For power I have an Evolution G26 engine installed with a Scale Contentianl cylinders installed to cover it up. Over 300 screws hold all the windows and framing work together for the greenhouse section.
For controls I’m using Spektrum DX7 and AR7000 RX. All Servos are analog Hitec. I’m running a standard servo on the throttle, a HS81 for the kill switch. A set of HS 77BB power the ailerons by a pull pull setup. I only used this servo as it would fit thought a scale inspection panel. I run the pull pull setup from a pulley I made on top of the servo. I have a HS635HB for the elevator and rudder. All linkages and horns on the surfaces are scaled from the full scale. I’m running duel switch / battier setup using 5 cell 1400 mah packs.
On the 1/4 scale model it’s hard to build strength into the cabin area and keep it scale looking, so some areas you have to scale the size up a little. One of the big questions on the L-4 is how did I build strength into the cabin. The two front uprights and two in the back have 1/8 music wire running in them to fasten the wing to the fus.
History of the Full Scale.
On 5/29/42 Piper L-4A SN 42-36812 was delivered to the US ARMY. Although never seeing the war fields, it was used in the US for training. The plane was delivered to Goodland KS to a US Army contract flying school. The school was operated by Bill Ong who was an Air Race pilot in the 30’s. The plane spent most of it’s time in NM. It returned to Lock Haven 10/10/44 for refurbishing. On 4/26/45 it was transferred for disposal from the ARMY. At this time Mr. Charles Hoff purchased the plane. In late 60’s the plane was sold and a lot of the parts were used for a homebuilt. Dick Hall bought the remains of the L-4 in the mid 70’s for $175. The total logged time was 1320:15 hrs. Dick spent the next 10 years collecting parts to rebuild the L-4. Dick and his son Dan started the restoration in 1983 and completed it in 1986, and flew it to the Lock Haven fly-in that year. The plane has been at the Fly-in all but 2 years since 1986. Dick being the second owner to register the plane with the FAA . The total flight time as of 4-2-08 is 1721:05 hrs. This plane has been restored back to the war time. Looking at the plane, it looks as if it has just rolled off the line in Lock Haven.
Special thanks to Dick Dutch and Dan Hall for allowing me to model their full scale L-4. Modeling a full scale over 6 hours away was not easy task, but Dick was a tremendous help with photo and info that I missed on the visit to the hanger.
Special thanks to Gary at Pink-it for his help in all the pinked tape and special pinked parts.
Thanks to all my family, friends, and club members in their support of this build.