Piper L-14 Army Cruiser - History

In 1943 the Piper Aircraft Company undertook to design and build for the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) an aircraft ambulance.

After studying the specification it was decided to base the design on an existing model, the Piper J-5C, the first prototype was built using an existing Piper J-5CO (O for Observation), this first aircraft being given the serial number (SN) 5-1387 and the registration: NX41552.

The most noticeable change being the reconstructed upper fuselage, a large dorsal addition to cater for stretchers. Otherwise the aircraft was unchanged, including the engine which remained as in the Piper J-5C, the Lycoming 0-235 producing 100 hp.

First flight was on the 16th June 1943 and after satisfactory flight trials from October of that year and into 1944 major modifications were made including larger windscreen and glazed areas, long landing gear shock absorbers, increased fin height and size, and a first for Piper, full span slots on the wing leading edges, generous flaps were also incorporated, another first. This aircraft was now designated the Piper J-5D.

In 1944 a second prototype was converted from another J-5C, registration NX33529, now designated as a Piper L-4X, in line with the military series of ‘L’, with the SN 5-3001, the first flight being on the 9th September 1944. All the changes were incorporated into this aircraft along with a larger engine, Lycoming 0-290-A giving increased power.

The Approved Type Certificate for the new Model: Piper L-14 was issued 31st July 1945 to the Piper Aircraft Company, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.

The definitive and complete Piper L-14 incorporating all the changes including large glazed area, turtle deck, slots and flaps, and undercarriage shock absorbers was SN 5-3002, registered NX-33534 which flew on the 29th February 1945.

The production of five examples was completed for service evaluation, these aircraft were designated YL-14 with the serial numbers from 5-3001 to 5-3005.

The two original prototypes were modified to the same standard as the production examples, YL-14, and the service trails commenced in May 1945, the newly built Piper YL-14 were delivered in June of the same year, these last with the recessed slots, flaps and glazed, removable turtle deck which permitted a stretcher to be loaded, similar to the Naval models designated HE-1/AE-1.

The USAAF issued an order to build 850 examples of the Piper L-14 Army Cruiser.

Howard Piper was the engineer for this project, Dave Long the chief of design and Tom Piper the chief flight test pilot with Clyde Smith Senior, the pilot involved with the test flying and evaluation during the whole production run. It was found necessary to increase the wingspan by three feet outboard of the leading edge slots to improve flight handling.

The construction and dimensions for the L-14, now named ‘ARMY CRUISER’ was very similar to the Cub Cruiser or Super Cruiser, except for the larger engine and the changed interior to accommodate the stretcher. Alloy steel tube fuselage, aluminium alloy spars with aluminium ribs, fabric covered, wing struts, bracing wires for the tail surfaces, all standard for the pre-War Piper models.

The one big difference of this model was that this was the first model to incorporate flaps, up to 40% being available which when used with some power from the engine resulted in an airspeed of less than 20 Knots, these combined with the slots gave full control which was demonstrated on the first flight.

At the express wish of the USAAF, the capability to operate safely from rough and unprepared fields large balloon tyres were tested, (size 600 X 6) and a robust skid made by rca Scott.

The electrical system was the normal military specification: 28 Volts along with a voltage regulator using an engine driven generator, and a powerful starter motor.

In the cockpit the panel instruments were provided with lighting for night flying, a landing light was positioned on the left wing powered by a 24 volt battery.

A full flying panel was installed, including, left to right: clock, air speed indicator, turn and slip, vertical speed indicator, compass, altimeter, engine rpm gauge, oil temperature and pressure, ammeter.

The engine fitted was a Lycoming 0-290-1 (0-290-C) producing 130 hp at 2,600 rpm and a wooden Sensenich propeller, 76JB44, allowing for a maximum speed of 115 mph (190 km). Maximum take off weight of 1,800 lbs (820 kg).

This definitive model of the Piper L-14 Army Cruiser never went into production as in August 1945, right at the end of the Second World War, the USAAF ceased to have an interest in this model or a need for it.

The five initial aircraft, YL-14, and the other nine L-14 comprised the total production run for this rare aircraft, in all only fourteen were completed.

At the end of the War the USAAF authorised the Piper Aircraft Company to sell these aircraft into the civilian market.

Details of the 14 aircraft produced.

Information from The Cub Club of the USA.

Piper YL-14

5-3001 last reported in the Philippines: 22 July 1945
5-3002 last reported in Japan: 3 May 1948
5-3003 sold to the Philippines as P1-C159, never officially registered.
5-3004 sold within the USA as NC-66526, never officially registered.
5-3005 sold within the USA NC-69225, reregistered as N14YL, still airworthy.

Piper L-14 Army Cruiser

5-3006 sold within the USA NC-41399, reregistered as CU-P19. No records since . 1946.
5-3007 sold within the USA NC-41594, exported to Cuba, CU-P18, CU-N18 then to Spain as EC-AAP . Now airworthy, May 2003.
5-3008 sold within the USA NC-41598, exported to Venezuela, no records since 1946.
5-3009 sold within the USA NX-41352, sold to Mexico XB-COP, no records since 1946.
5-3010 sold within the USA NC-41593, to Mexico as XB-CAQ, no records since 1946.
5-3011 sold within the USA NC-41595, to Uruguay as CX-AFX destroyed in a fire.
5-3012 sold within the USA NC-41596, to Argentina LV-NCM not officially registered.
5-3013 no details available.
5-3014 sold within the USA, NC-41597, to Argentina LV-NCY not officially registered.
© Robin D W NortonMay 2003. <www.a2oxford.info> Original text in Spanish by D.Jose Luis Olias, translated by RDWNorton.