Piper J-3 Cub

PiperThe Cub is an airplane much beloved by those who fly it. Introduced in 1938, the J3 made learning to fly accessible to many more people. One estimate states that 75% of American aviators in World War II learned to fly in the Cub. Still popular after more than 60 years, nostalgia and the fact that the airplane is fun to fly have driven J3 prices beyond what could have been imagined in 1938. The next time you attend an air show, look for a row of small yellow airplanes and note the look of pride on the owner’s faces; you’ll know you’ve found the Cubs.

The Piper J3 Cub is basic flying: simple airframe, simple panel, and simple engine. A P–51 Mustang it is not, but that doesn’t mean you can be complacent when flying the Cub. Like all taildraggers it offers challenges to your skills during takeoff and landing, and it is not the tamest airplane in a stall.


U.S. Metric
Maximum Speed 85 mph 73 knots 137 km per hour
Engine Continental 65 horsepower air-cooled
Service Ceiling 11,500 feet 3,505 meters
Maximum Range 190 miles 306 km
Fuel Capacity 12 gallons U.S. 45.4 liters
Empty Weight 680 pounds 308 kilograms
Gross Weight 1,220 pounds 553 kilograms
Length 22 feet 6.7 meters
Wingspan 35 feet 10.6 meters
Height 6.7 feet 2 meters
Seating 2
Useful Load 540 pounds 245 kilograms

Flight Notes

Many factors affect flight planning and aircraft operation, including aircraft weight, weather, and runway surface. The recommended flight parameters listed below are intended to give approximations for flights at maximum takeoff or landing weight on a day with International Standard Atmosphere (ISA) conditions.

Important: These instructions are intended for use with Flight Simulator only and are no substitute for using the actual aircraft manual for real-world flight.

Note: As with all of the Flight Simulator aircraft, the V-speeds and checklists are located on the Kneeboard. To access the Kneeboard while flying, press SHIFT+F10, or on the Aircraft menu, click Kneeboard.

Note: All speeds given in Flight Notes are indicated airspeeds. If you’re using these speeds as reference, be sure that you select “Display Indicated Airspeed” in the Realism Settings dialog box. Speeds listed in the specifications table are shown as true airspeeds.

By default, this aircraft has full fuel and payload. Depending on atmospheric conditions, altitude, and other factors, you will not get the same performance at gross weight that you would with a lighter load.

Required runway length

Takeoff: 1,000 feet (305 meters)

Landing: 1,500 feet (457 meters)

The length required for both takeoff and landing is a result of a number of factors such as aircraft weight, altitude, headwind, use of flaps, and ambient temperature. The figures here are conservative and assume:

Weight: 1,220 pounds (553.3 kilograms)

Altitude: sea level

Wind: no headwind

Temperature: 15ºC

Runway: hard surface

Lower weights and temperatures will result in better performance, as will having a headwind component. Higher altitudes and temperatures will degrade performance.

Engine startup

The engine is running by default when you begin a flight. If you shut the engine down, it is possible to initiate an auto-startup sequence by pressing CTRL+E on your keyboard. If you want to do the startup procedures manually, follow the checklist procedures on the kneeboard.

The throttle on the Cub controls engine power, from idle to takeoff power. The normal operating range is from 450 to 2,300 rpm. The Piper J3 Cub has a fixed pitch propeller.


The normal power setting for taxiing is 1,000 rpm (press F2 on the keyboard, or drag the power levers). Forward visibility is limited so you need to make S-turns as you taxi. Use the rudder pedals to move the nose side-to-side as you move forward in order to see what is ahead of you.


The Piper J3 Cub does not have wing flaps.


Run through the Before Takeoff checklist. With the aircraft aligned with the runway centerline, smoothly advance the throttle lever to full power. Directional control is maintained by use of the rudder pedals (twist the joystick, use rudder pedals, or press 0 (left) or ENTER (right) on the numeric keypad).

  • At approximately 20 mph (17.4 knots) indicated airspeed, the tail will come up.
  • At approximately 35 mph (30.4 knots), smoothly pull the stick back (use the joystick or yoke or press 2 on the numeric keypad) to raise the nose. The airplane will become airborne at approximately 39 mph (34 knots).


The best climb speed for the Cub is 55 mph (48 knots).


Cruise altitude would normally be determined by winds, weather, and other factors. You might want to use these factors in your flight planning if you have created weather systems along your route. Optimum altitude is the altitude that gives the best fuel economy for a given configuration and gross weight. A complete discussion about choosing altitudes is beyond the scope of this section.

Let’s say you’ve filed a flight plan for 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). Approaching your cruising altitude, begin leveling off at about 50 feet (15 meters) below your target altitude.

A typical power setting in the Cub for the parameters chosen above is 2,150 rpm. Do not fly at full throttle (2,300 rpm) for more than three minutes. Cruise speed is generally between 75 and 80 mph (65 and 69 knots).

Remember that true airspeed is actually higher than indicated airspeed in thin, cold air. Experiment with power settings to find the setting that maintains the cruise speed and fuel consumption you want at the altitude that you choose.


A good descent profile includes knowing where to start down from cruise altitude and planning ahead for the approach. Normal descent is done with cruise power. A good rule for determining when to start your descent is the 3-to-1 rule (three miles distance per thousand feet in altitude). Take your altitude in feet, drop the last three zeros, and multiply by 3.

For example, to descend from a cruise altitude of 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) to sea level:

5,000 minus the last three zeros is 5.


This means you should begin your descent 15 nautical miles from your destination, maintaining a speed of 120 mph (104 knots) or less (it won’t indicate this high until you descend into denser air) and a descent rate of approximately 500 feet per minute.


Approaches in the Cub are basic. Enter downwind at 75 mph (use the joystick throttle or press F2). As you turn onto final, reduce your speed to 55 to 60 mph (48 to 52 knots).


Landing a taildragger requires a different technique than does landing a tricycle-gear airplane. The Cub can be landed using either a wheel landing or a three-point landing technique. Some pilots feel the three-point landing is easier if the wind conditions are favorable, and with high winds, strong gusts, or a crosswind, a wheel landing is often easier. For a more thorough discussion of three-point vs. wheel landing, see Flying a Taildragger. A key issue, however, is to keep the airplane aligned with the runway, in other words, to land straight. The center of gravity is behind the main wheels of a taildragger. If you’re not straight when the wheels touch down the airplane’s tail will try to swing around. Directional control is essential when maneuvering a taildragger on the ground so be prepared to work the rudders to stay straight.

To perform a three-point landing in the Cub, make a normal flare just above the runway. Ideally the airplane will be in an attitude at which all three wheels will touch down at the same time. Hold this attitude until the airplane settles onto the runway. Once the wheels are on the ground, pull the stick back and hold it there.

When doing a wheel landing in the Cub raise the nose slightly to flare and slow the descent rate. You want to touch down as lightly on the main gear as possible. Once the Cub mains are down, bring the power back to idle and apply a little nose-down or forward pressure on the elevator (push the joystick forward or press ARROW UP). Don’t pull the stick back to lower the tail or you’ll find yourself in the air again. Don’t be too quick to use the brakes either,
or the airplane will pitch over onto its nose. Let the airplane slow and the tail will begin to drop. Then hold some back pressure on the controls (hold the joystick aft or press DOWN ARROW).

Apply the brakes (press the PERIOD key) to slow to taxi speed, exit the runway, and taxi to parking. Don’t be discouraged if you bounce the Cub when learning to land it. It takes a lot of practice to land it smoothly.

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