J3 Cub & PA-18 Super Cub by A-Pilot
By Nils Lips
The Cub is probably one of the, if not the most popular aircraft for general aviation pilots. With decades of history to its name, this little single engine taildragger has brought trainee and experienced pilots to the skies above.
Its classic simple design, light weight and ruggedness make this little two-seater the most sought after and modified/rebuilt aircraft in the world. A testament to its heritage is that many modern light aircraft designs are based on this classic.
Over the years, many variants of the Cub have passed through the production lines. One of the most recognised of these is the J3 Cub, built between 1937 and 1947.
Another highly popular variant of the Cub is its younger and more powerful brother, the PA-18 Super Cub which is based on the PA-11 Cub Special and entered production in 1949.
The X-Plane models being focused on here (Cub and Super Cub) have been created by power duo, Jennifer Kimball and Alex Stephens, otherwise know as A-Pilot. Both of their aircraft feature superb attention to detail and great flight model accuracy (due to Alex and Jennifer having logged hours in the real aircraft).
This puts them in a fantastic position to recreate these aircraft for us simmers to enjoy. Oh and did I mention that they've created these two legends for free? How's that for community spirit!
If you've ever had the pleasure of flying Alex and Jennifer's earlier work, such as the Glasair I and Lockheed AL-60, then you'll have a good of idea of what to expect from these two models. Both are well balanced and frame rate friendly.
The J3 Cub can be initially a very challenging aircraft to fly. This is due to the fact that the pilot is placed in the rear seat of the aircraft. Because of this, the sense of perspective and the position of CG are somewhat different to what your regular weekend-warrior nose-dragger pilot is familiar to. This makes for a slight learning curve at first, but one that is well rewarded. I actually really enjoyed the challenge and found it to be a golden opportunity for me to brush up on my piloting skills! Once you've gotten the hang of the 'seating arrangements' you'll find that the J3 Cub is both fun and challenging in equal amounts. Getting landings just right is perfectly doable (this aircraft was initially designed as a trainer) and when done correctly, is highly satisfying.
Flying the J3 is all about the seat-of-the-pants experience. In other words, don't look for any complicated or helpful flying aids in the cockpit! What instruments you do get, would make a VW Beetle look advanced, but hey, this is all part of the J3's charm! In reality, the best instruments you have when flying this aircraft, are your eyes, guts and the outside world.
Another important point to remember about the J3, is that she is nowhere near as powerful as the Super Cub. If you're planning on going anywhere long distance, she's probably the wrong Cub to take. However her lack of speed is one of her endearing qualities as she makes for a great viewing platform and is a joy to fly. One feature I especially enjoyed was the floating fuel gauge on top of the nose, just behind the engine cowling. The fuller the tank is, the higher the height of the stick. As your fuel decreases, so does the height of the stick!