Piper PA-18: Overview and Specifications

First introduced in 1949, the Piper PA-18 is a high-wing, two-seater monoplane powered by a Lycoming 150 hp engine. As an improved version of PA-11, it looks like a classic Cub with some minor paint modifications minus the iconic bear logo imprinted on its tail. 

Around 8,500 Piper PA-18 were manufactured, with most of them used in military training, private flying, bush flying, and transportation of supplies and people. 

In the fifties, the US government used this red and cream monoplane in its uranium exploration program. This small aircraft was the right fit for the job because of its impressive safety record, low- and slow-flying capability, and cheap price tag. 


Technical Specifications

  • Exterior height: 6 feet and 8 inches 
  • Length: 22 feet and 7 inches 
  • Wingspan: 35 feet and 2 inches 
  • Occupancy: 2 seats (a small additional passenger seat in the luggage area can be added into the interior)
  • Operating Weights: 
  • Fuel capacity: 36 gallons
  • Empty weight: 930 lbs. 
  • Max landing weight: 1,750 lbs. 
  • Max takeoff weight: 1,750 lbs.  


Common Roles 

Aside from being a popular military trainer and utility aircraft, the Piper PA-18–just like most of the Super Cubs–is also commonly used in banner towing, glider towing, and bush flying. 

As of this writing, this two-seat aircraft remains a popular choice in bush flying. As a result, wildlife photographers, environmental professionals, and weather monitoring staff who generally deal with rough terrain are its frequent passengers. 

Due to the popularity of this monoplane as a bush flying aircraft, it is difficult or almost impossible to find it in its original form. 


Original Design and Development 

This single-engine monoplane is the improved version of the Piper PA-11, the Taylor E-2 Cub, and the J-30, models that were introduced in the 1930s. Meanwhile, Piper Aircraft built around 10,000 of this small aircraft variant when they ceased production around 40 years after its introduction. 

(Note: After more than 80 years of manufacturing 160-certified aircraft, Piper Aircraft closed its doors in 2009. However, out of the 144,000 planes that they produced, around 90,000 are still flying at the time of this writing.)

At a quick glance, the Piper PA-18 looks like a quintessential Cub, but because it was fitted with a more powerful Lycoming 150 engine, it provides a noticeably different flying experience.

(Note: Some Super Cubs were even fitted with 160 hp and 180 Lycoming engines, making it easier to convert them as a ski plane or floatplane.)

In the past, the high-lift wing, powerful engine, and slow-low flying ability of the Piper PA-1 made it a perfect agricultural aircraft used for crop dusting and aerial topdressing. 

Also, the earliest Super Cubs were equipped with dual fuel tanks, flaps, and a 0-235 108 hp Lycoming engine, although the company also released variants without flaps and an optional second wing tank. 

On average, the “empty” Cubs weigh between 800-1,000 lbs., although in terms of gross weight they are around 1,500 lbs. 


Flying Ability and Landing and Take Off Distance  

At gross weight, the first Cubs can take off in around 400 feet and land in about 300 feet–an impressive feat thanks to their flaps. With this flying ability, they are ideal for transportation in less-than-ideal terrain. 

Initially, there were plans to equip them with a four-wheel tandem main landing gear that would allow them to land and take off from an extra tough terrain; however, the company decided to stick to the conventional landing gear. 

As the company introduced new variants over the years, Cubs with more powerful engines were able to shorten both their landing and take-off distance by around 200 feet.  

Most Cubs that are still flying today, including the Piper PA-1, have an allowable gross weight of 1,750 lbs., and would only need a mere 200 feet distance to take off. 


Common Modifications

Its common modifications include fuel pods, small third passenger seat, external luggage pods, extended baggage compartments, lumber racks (which are ideal for transporting construction materials), reinforced talk wheel springs, bush wheels, main landing gear for improved ground clearance, and lightweight generators. 

Meanwhile, the header hanks can be removed, the tailfin shape can be changed to increase its surface area, and a constant-speed propeller can be added.