L-4 Grasshopper file photo [4219]

L-4 Grasshopper

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerPiper Aircraft, Inc.
Primary RoleReconnaissance Aircraft
Maiden Flight1 January 1938


ww2dbaseThe J-3 Cub aircraft were born from Piper Aircraft engineer Walter Jamouneau's changes to the existing J-2 design. Even before J-3 Cub aircraft went into production, war had already broken out in Asia, while armed conflict in Europe seemed imminent; thus, on 27 Dec 1938, President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt announced a Civilian Pilot Training Program ("CPTP") that would train civilians piloting skills in preparation of war, and J-3 Cub aircraft became the primary trainer aircraft of the program. Between 1938 and 1944, over 75 percent of 435,165 pilots who graduated from the program were trained in J-3 Cub aircraft. As the United States entered the war, civilian J-3 Cub aircraft patrolled both coasts of the United States, spotting for enemy submarines. Very soon, the United States military placed their order for J-3 Cub aircraft.

ww2dbaseThe military variant, with enlarged Plexiglas windows, was designated L-4 Grasshopper by the US Army and O-59/NE-1 Grasshopper by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Grasshopper aircraft were used extensively for reconnaissance, transport of supplies, and evacuation of wounded. In the reconnaissance role, US Army cavalry officers such as Captain A. T. Netterblad used Grasshopper aircraft to detect enemy movements and to drop messages to his troops; there were talks to supply Grasshopper aircraft to all reconnaissance units of each division, but it never came to fruition. Some army Grasshopper aircraft were equipped with infantry rocket launchers to support ground troops, and they fulfilled their ground support missions effectively.

ww2dbaseProduction of J-3 Cub and L-4/O-59/NE-1 Grasshopper aircraft continued until 1947; a total of 19,073 were built during the design's production life, most being the L-4 variant. At the height of demand, one aircraft was built every 20 minutes. A few remained in service with the US Army through the Korean War, though most were scrapped or sold to the civilian market as surplus.


ww2dbaseSources: Steeds of Steel, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jun 2008


MachineryOne Continental A-65-8 air-cooled flat four engine rated at 65hp
Span10.74 m
Length6.83 m
Height2.03 m
Wing Area16.58 m²
Weight, Empty345 kg
Weight, Maximum550 kg
Speed, Maximum140 km/h
Speed, Cruising121 km/h
Rate of Climb2.30 m/s
Service Ceiling3,500 m
Range, Normal354 km


L-4 Grasshopper aircraft at rest, mid-1940 to May 1942United States Army Piper O-59A Grasshoppers of the 8th Observation Squadron taking off from the US Navy carrier USS Ranger to spot for the artillery during Operation Torch in North Africa, 9 Nov 1942. Photo 1 of 2.United States Army Piper O-59A Grasshoppers of the 8th Observation Squadron taking off from the US Navy carrier USS Ranger to spot for the artillery during Operation Torch in North Africa, 9 Nov 1942. Photo 2 of 2.General Dwight Eisenhower pausing for the camera before taking off in a Piper L-4 Grasshopper scout plane in Italy, circa Aug 1943
See all 13 photographs of L-4 Grasshopper Reconnaissance Aircraft

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Jim Craven says:
30 Jan 2011 01:38:31 PM

Looking for some plans for the grasshopper light observation plane. I plan on building a model in the 1:87 and 1:160 scales if I find plans.
Any help out there?

2. Nick says:
7 Jun 2011 10:42:49 AM

Any idea as to the takeoff distance of the L-4 Grasshopper.
3. Dale says:
19 Apr 2014 06:43:43 PM

Anyone have an idea where full scale plans could be found for the L-4? A recreation would be a wonderful plane for a military enthusiast.
4. James E Barber says:
18 Oct 2018 01:41:22 PM

Your description of the use of the L-4 Grasshopper is very true, however the real value to the U.S. Army during WWII, especially in Europe, was the capability of the L-4 pilot to accurately direct artillery fire. I know this because my father was one of those brave L-4 pilots.
5. Frank Irwin says:
15 Dec 2020 11:51:08 AM

Are there full scale plans that can be bought for an L4?

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L-4 Grasshopper Reconnaissance Aircraft Photo Gallery
L-4 Grasshopper aircraft at rest, mid-1940 to May 1942
See all 13 photographs of L-4 Grasshopper Reconnaissance Aircraft

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