Aeroplane: Piper L-4A Grasshopper
Since the mid 1920's, the United States air force utilized combat biplanes as liaison aircraft. However, the High Command demanded a more modern machine, bigger and with better performance, intended just for this role. At the beginning of 1940s it became clear that the adaptation of a light, civil two seater would be more profitable.
In 1941, the American War Department issued a competition for the light liaison aircraft. After initial qualification and tests, the PIPER J-3 was chosen out of 12 competitive aeroplanes. It was a developed construction of the sport TAYLORCRAFT E-2 Cub, already very popular and produced at the PIPER Aircraft Co (the J-2 and the J-3 Cub).
The militarised J-3 Cub reached serial production without changes as the O-59 (O for observation) and after enlarging the cockpit glass became the O-59A. In 1942, according to the classification, its designation was changed to the L-4. (L for liaison). Since then, the aircraft appeared as the PIPER L-4 Grasshopper in consecutive versions from the L-4A to L-4J. The most widely used was the L-4 H. In total, 5500 L-4 aircraft in observation and liaison versions were built.
The L-4 Grasshopper was a single-engine two-seat high-wing liaison aircraft of mixed construction materials. Its war career begun in 1942, as a participant in the "Operation Torch" during the Allied landings in North Africa. In the army, the Piper L-4s co-operated with artillery and played useful roles as ambulances, liaison, observation and executive aircraft. Although delivered unarmed, at the front they were sometimes fitted with infantry machine guns and M-6 bazooka launchers.
By the end of the 1940's Poland had bought 141 Pipers, registering 127 of them. They were in service with regional aero clubs, flying as training aircraft, ambulances, agricultural and executive aircraft. In the late 1950s, the majority of the L-4s nicknamed "Kubuś" were withdrawn under the pretext of standardization of flying equipment and replaced with ideologically more appropriate Soviet designs.
The displayed L-4 (s/n 43-29233) served in 1943-1945 with the US Ninth Air Force in Africa and Italy. It was bought by Poland as surplus and registered as SP-AFP. It was used first as an executive aircraft at the Experimental Aviation Works in Łódź and later at aero clubs. In 1976 it was donated to the museum by its last user - the Workers Aero Club in Świdnik. After restoration in 1998 the aircraft was brought back to its initial colour and markings from 1943.