Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser

Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser (c/n 12-558, D-EDEK), static display at open doors day in Aeroklub Jaroměř, Jaroměř, June 2023.

On 29th October 1945, the new Piper aeroplane, designated PA-12 Super Cruiser, performed its maiden flight. It was another addition to family of light aircraft being developed since the early 1930, initially by the Taylor brothers and then William T. Piper.

Taylor Cub, the forefather of the well-known development line, performed its maiden flight in September of 1930. It was later transformed into Taylor / Piper J-2 Cub, two-seat light aeroplane that entered the market in 1936. Then, in 1938, the most-known aircraft of the family – Piper J-3 Cub – made its first flight and soon became a huge commercial success.

With no exaggeration, the J-3 was a milestone of general aviation. With more than 20,000 examples produced until 1947 the aeroplane is often compared to Ford model T – playing the same role in making aviation more affordable and popular, as the Ford T did in the history of automobile industry.

Shortly after introduction of the basic, two-seat variant of the J-3, its more powerful and larger version was developed. The aeroplane was designated J-5 Cub Cruiser and could carry three people on board. At least theoretically, as the rear seat was small and uncomfortable, quickly bringing the aircraft a nickname of ´two-and-a-half seater´.

Therefore, at the end of 1945, the Piper company designed even larger aeroplane, the PA-12 Super Cruiser. The first prototype was converted from a J-5C aircraft and had the same seat configuration with pilot in the front and two passengers sitting side-by-side in the rear.

Similarly to other aeroplanes of the family, the PA-12 was a high-wing, single-engine monoplane with conventional tricycle landing gear. It was powered either by Lycoming O-235-C or O-235-C1 engines, generating 108 and 115 hp, respectively.

The Super Cruiser was designed as the versatile utility aircraft for personal use and was well perceived by the market. Although the aeroplane was manufactured for only two years – between February of 1946 and March of 1948 – there were almost 3,800 examples of the PA-12 built.

An interesting fact is that, in 1947, two PA-12 successfully circumnavigated the world without any significant technical issues. Both aeroplanes, named ´City of Washington´ and ´City of the Angels´, are now part of museum exhibitions in Smithsonian and Piper aviation museums in the USA.

Following the commercial success of the PA-12, Piper decided to continue the development even further and designed four-seat version of the aeroplane. The Super Cruiser cabin was widened by five inches that allowed to add another seat in the front of the aircraft. The new aeroplane was designed PA-14 Family Cruiser and made its first flight in March of 1947.

Apart from adding flaps to reduce its stalling speed and, certainly, the fourth seat, construction of the PA-14 was no different from the PA-12, including the O-235-C1 powerplant.

Regrettably, the PA-14 was introduced into the market at the time the Piper company suffered serious financial difficulties. As a result, only 238 aeroplanes of that type were manufactured before its production was finally ceased in 1949.

The Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser featured within our Photo of the Week series was manufactured in 1946. During the years, the aeroplane changed its owners several times, flying in countries like Belgium, Switzerland or Sweden. Since 2020, the aeroplane is registered in Germany and currently carries a livery that honours the abovementioned PA-12 ´City of Washington´.

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