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Aircraft Review : Piper J3 Cub by SimSolutions


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Aircraft Review : Piper J3 Cub by SimSolutions


The Piper J-3 Cub is an American light aircraft that was built between 1938 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft. The aircraft has a simple, lightweight design which gives it good low-speed handling properties and short-field performance. The Cub is Piper Aircraft's most-produced model, of which nearly 20,000 Cubs were built in the United States. Its simplicity, affordability and popularity invokes comparisons to the Ford Model T automobile.


The aircraft is a high-wing, strut-braced monoplane with a large-area rectangular wing. It is most often powered by an air-cooled, flat-4 piston engine driving a fixed-pitch propeller. Its fuselage is a welded steel frame covered in fabric. It seats two people in tandem.


The Cub was designed as a trainer. And it had great popularity in this role and as a general aviation aircraft. Due to its performance, it was well suited for a variety of military uses such as reconnaissance, liaison and ground control. It was produced in large numbers during World War II as the L-4 Grasshopper. Many of these Cubs are still flying today, and the remaining Cubs are highly prized as bush aircraft.


The J-3 Cub is the second release from SimSolutions after their first aircraft in the Diamond DA40NG late last year 2021 for the X-Plane Simulator.


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On the whole the J-3 Cub is well modeled, but does also it feel modeled? To be fair the original "Cub Yellow" or "Lock Haven Yellow" paint hides a lot of the intricate areas of even the real aircraft, the problem is in X-Plane we now have had the more ultra realistic realism, that in high-depth look then anything else can look dated, in the smaller detail however it does show the "Cub" is well done.


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The wings have that fabric stretched over a frame feel, but the tail structure does not, of which the real aircraft does have, it is highly noticeable here in making the tail assembly feel a bit slab sided, as in any Cub image the pipe frame is very easily noticeable through the fabric...   the wing chord however is perfect. This is a "Strut-based" high-wing aircraft, a step removed from a Bi-Plane, and that aspect is well done. Glass is very (if paper) thin and not at all realistic, dirt or wear, or a slight discolouring would make it stand out more against the elements.


One of the big features is that you can remove the engine cowling to see in detail the engine. The Cubs came with an air-cooled flat 4 piston engine, which were either a Continental A-40, A-40-2, or A-40-3 engine of 37 hp (28 kW), or A-40-4 engine of 40 hp (30 kW), but it is not noted here of which of the A-40 engine version is installed...


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The engine detail is not bad, if quite good, but I still feel I'm not getting that full realism effect. However the wood detail on the propeller and central hub is excellent. In an odd thing when flying in the cub is to don't reach out and use a forward hotspot... as as if you do the cowling will fly off in mid-flight?


The Cub is a "Tail-Dragger" aircraft as most were in the 1930's...  so you have the sturdy main wheels forward, and here they come with slipstreaming wheel covers (fairings), or you can remove them... personally I like the detail of the open wheels, which is very good.


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The entrance into the Piper is via a two upper and lower hatch arrangement, just click to open (and close).


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It is very boxy internally, with high sides...  so it feels like your flying in an old metal bath.


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The structural piping frame is very evident, but you do feel the openness as well, certainly not in the Tiger Moth feel, but the visibility surrounding you is very good.


The weird thing is you fly the Cub from the rear seat (again like the Tiger Moth), this is because the fuel tank is located forwards (capacity 12 GAL), and pilot is required to sit to the rear for balance. There is a modeled pilot, but in a suit and tie, so it looks a little odd, if very 30"s.


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There are very (very) few knobs and switches, in fact the Cub doesn't even have an electrical system, just an on/off switch for the two magnetos, so that means there is no lighting either.  There are only four instruments and a compass central. Left to right is the RPM, Speed MPH, Altitude feet and far right the Oil temperature and Pressure. A note on the altitude gauge in that there is no Baro adjustment, which can also be dangerous. All instruments are "Stewart Warner" branded and has the "Cub" logo centre. Overall these instruments have been really well reproduced by SimSolutions and look nicely authentic. Lower right is a fuel (push) Primer.


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Two modern items added by SimSolutions, is the AviTab (left) and a COMM radio (right). The AviTab can't be hidden, which is slightly annoying, but well placed. I can't see how you would operate either from the rear seat, but there you go?


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On the left side is the Fuel Switch (cock), and the trim winder which basically just adjusts the stick angle. There are of course two throttles for front and rear seating.


Overhead right is the said Magneto switch, and lower right side is the Carburettor Heat switch.


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You are surrounded by control cables, both for the ailerons and rear stabiliser, cum rudder, and all the control cable works very realistically.


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An odd option available is a Rifle, as on the right wing there is a hotspot to position a rifle in the spars?


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There are three separate (.acf) folders for the three different variants of the Cub J-3; The Standard Aircraft, a Float option and a Bush (Tundra) tyre option.


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The J-3 Cub Float variant is very good, certainly not up to the Thranda ultra quality in detail, but they are still well done. There is a lever left side in the middle of the cockpit to raise and lower the wheels, but I can't see where you raise and lower the rudders, nor is it not mentioned in the manual?


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Bush Tyres

Also called "Tundra" tyres, these are huge surface area tyres for use in semi-wetland tundra areas, like in Northern Canada.


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To have a separate (.acf) variant just for the these larger optional bush tyres feels a bit overdone (certainly at 560Mb per variant), as most developers can easily add them into the options list on to the standard aircraft.



There is a two tab menu option on the X-Plane banner...  This allows you to "Toggle Covers" a nice Tonneau cover, and the second option positions some very nice "Ground Clutter", that puts an tepee tent and various bottles and a tool tray around the aircraft.


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Flying the 3-J Cub

As there is no starter on the J-3, so to start you just turn on (or push) the fuel cock on, then turn on the magnetos. A few pushes of the Primer (right low) does help when from cold, but if warm or a restart then it is not required. The Mixture setting still does work if you have it set on a external lever, and halfway between lean and rich is perfect.


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Recommended to start the Continental A-40 is to turn the propeller by touching the outer blade, but that action only removes the engine cowling (again)?....    I found touching the centre prop shaft makes the propeller turn to start, but it has to be done via an angle, again the loose cowling will get in the way...


I will go on record that I am not really the biggest fan of taildraggers? I even bought a set of rudder pedals with toe-brakes over Christmas to try to break through my pain barrier, they sort of work here. Oddly the J-3 Cub does have a built tail-wheel cable system, but it is not very effectively done here? So you sort of (with the toe-brakes) hop the aircraft into line, but in chunks...


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...    and even then you steer offline?  I got better.


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"Righty ho..." I pushed the throttle(s) gingerly forward and slowly. It feels seriously weird sitting so far back, it is like the pilot has bailed out and left you to fly the aircraft alone. You do have a strange perspective though, and you soon adjust to it. But seeing anything of the runway is simply impossible?


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So you sit as central as possible and try to get the best perspective of the aircraft on the runway....    You throttle slowly at first, the trick is too track straight as long as possible (even slowly) until you build up enough speed to get your rudder control working, which it does and quite quickly because the rudder control is quite effective, even at low speeds...


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...  once with your rudder control the tail will also soon lift up behind you, giving you even more control focus, and allowing you to then push for more power from the throttle(s).


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You lift around 55 MPH, but gently...


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....  the J-3 is very sweet to fly, nicely balanced and instantly responsive to any command inputs. It will climb quite quickly as well if you let it, recommended is 540 FPM, but the Cub could easily do far more.


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The view outside is quite spectacular, wide vistas, because your not cramped up forward by the instrument panel.


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Then I totally realised the limitations of the Cub. There is low cloud, and it quickly envelopes me, and sending me into a "whiteout" or in this case a greyout. I can't see Bl**dy anything? worse there is no Artifical Horizon instrument, so no up or down....  I could be heading directly into the ground for all I know, there is also no V/S, Vertical Speed meter either, it's Bl**dy scary.


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I see up to my left (10 o'clock) some patchy blue sky, so I gun all the aircooled 40 hp (30 kW) power I have and climbed swiftly upwards towards the life saving light...


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...   once into the blue patch of sky the cloud beneath me fades as well and I can see again the safety lay of the land...  but now I had another problem, I was completely lost!


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Everything looked the same, being just a British Countryside, nice mind you, but all the same the British Countryside?


Your probably saying "use the AviTab!", true but in the moment of panic I forgot about that...  with a look around and then there was Elstree (EGTR), to my left forward.


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So I got down to 700 ft and stayed visual from to the field from here on in....  Trim is very, very good. You can set the J-3 up to a very nice, to even a "hands off" with the stick to fly the Cub, and it will fly along by itself very nicely.


The J-3 Cub's maximum speed is 76 kn (87 mph, 140 km/h), with a cruise speed of 65 kn (75 mph, 121 km/h). The range of that 12 Gallons of fuel is 191 nmi (220 mi, 354 km), with a service ceiling of 11,500 ft (3,500 m)


No lighting at all I'm afraid...  not even navigation lights...   is that dangerous?


Sounds are actually very good, and I am going to guess that they are from a real Cub aircraft, but don't hold me to that, but they are custom sounds from SimSolutions...   So you purr along with that Air-cooled open engine sound, with the wind rushing around you in a very non-aerodynamic frame, but it all feels very authentic.


That 178.5 sq ft (16.58 m2) of wing area is very lifting, as this aircraft is a STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) machine, but there are no flaps (either) to slow you down...


Throttle(s) control is very nice and the engine is so responsive to any inputs, so that also gives you a very nice height control. Time to head back to Elstree...  It is to my right as I have been keeping an eye on the airport, but arriving from the north (Rwy 26) there is a lot of tree cover to the approach over the Haberdasher's Aske's School.


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I'm now very comfortable with the Cub, it is that sort of aircraft in being a very controllable "Stick and Rudder" machine, "Old Fashioned", no not in that sense, but it is a real basic and feel machine. I line up Twenty Six.


Although a STOL aircraft you have no flaps to wear off the speed, so you have to find the balance at a slow, speed while holding your height, it is easy to find, again the nice throttle response helps here.


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I'm feeling a bit high for the approach, but the trees are tall and high as well, I don't feel I could do it better. It doesn't matter really... as  landing a huge heavy aircraft or even a lightweight classic monoplane like this, it is still you, the controls and a runway to land on...  the essence of flight.


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So you are dancing on the rudder pedals, controlling the drift and aiming for the centre line...  I'm trying to find that point where you are using the wind to almost hover and hoping to control the drop down slowly onto the runway....   your at 55 MPH, and letting the Cub to settle slowly downwards. The side winds picks up the closer you get to the runway, it looks like you are losing it, but I am fully in control, even really enjoying this.


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50 MPH is the freeze point on slowly descending and not dropping out of the sky, slowly but surely contact is coming.


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That was actually the easy part...  now I have to stop the aircraft before it runs out of tarmac, problem is I can't touch my brakes if I don't want to go head over-heels...  Thankfully Elstree has a huge run-over area, maybe this runway over running is common here?


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Gradually the tail drops and so does the speed. I recommend to use grass strips with the J-3, with it's better friction to stop the aircraft quicker, as the Cub tends to roll easily on the harder surfaces...  Now you lose the forward view again, but I'm more used to the situation now, and I even like the rear seating position.


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I flip the tail around to start the long taxi back to Elstree's hard parking area.... I know it will be a long slow crawl back.


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There are only five liveries for the J-3 Cub and four of them are in the "Cub Yellow". So overall it is a boring if lazy set of liveries, considering the developers had 20,000 aircraft to choose from? The odd one out is a Central African Republic CF registered Cub?


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This is the iconic Piper J-3 Cub, a basic high-wing, strut-braced monoplane, with an air-cooled, flat-4 piston engine driving a fixed-pitch propeller. Its fuselage and wings are both a welded steel frame covered in fabric. It seats two people in tandem. 20,000 aircraft were produced between 1938 and 1947, and many are still flying today.


SimSolutions have already released the Diamond DA40NG late last year 2021, and this J-3 Cub is their second release for the X-Plane Simulator.


The Piper Cub is as about an basic aircraft as you can get, with only five instruments and not much else, and not even an electrical system. But it delivers were it counts in the excellent "seat of your pants" flying abilities...  it is aviation at it's purest form.


Modeling and detail is very good....  but it feels like just another aircraft to the developers and it comes with not much passion to deliver a really iconic representation of the J-3 Cub, and in the details it shows they have the ability to deliver a really substantial simulation. Compared to say "Flying Iron", you do expect far more in contex. However this Cub is priced at only US$17.65, so I suppose it is all relative.


For that you also get three variants, in the Standard (small wheel), Floats and Bush (Tundra) tyred versions, and a few nice little features like static elements (a tepee tent), wheel covers and removable cowling with detailed Continental A-40 engine, and all the exposed control cables are animated realistically. Only five liveries provided and four the same yellow colour was boring.


So it is all well done from SimSolutions, but for me I would rather pay a little more and get a bit more closer to the more classic frame and fabric feel and look, that is not to say you wouldn't enjoy the aircraft here, it is unique, and quite unique to fly. just don't fly it into any low cloud.



X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg


The Piper J3 Cub by SimSolutions is now available from the X-Plane.OrgStore!... Here:


Piper J3 Cub SimSolutions

Price is US$17.65



X-Plane 11

Windows, Mac and Linux
4 GB+ VRAM minimum
Download Size: 1.2 GB
Current version: 1.0 (February 27th 2022)

Installation and documents:  download for the Cherokee 180 C is 1.19GB and the three aircraft folders is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder.

  • SimSolutions-J3-Tundra (611.6Mb)
  • SimSolutions-J3-Float (575.5Mb)
  • SimSolutions-J3 (585.4Mb)


Full Installation is 1.65Gb


Documents supplied are:

  • J3 Cub Info Doc.pdf


Basic "ReadMe" (10 pages) of the history of the aircraft and features.


Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton

5th March 2022

Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews


Review System Specifications: 

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo M2 2TB SSD - Sound : Yamaha Speakers YST-M200SP

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.55

Plugins: Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99

Scenery or Aircraft

- EGTR - London Elstree by Pilot+Plus (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$19.95


Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Right Reserved.

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Masquerading as payware.  Love the rifle on the jury strut - brings back memories of the great Alaskan pilot Don Sheldon.  When not servicing climber clients up on Denali he hunted wolf (legal then) with his Supercub.  He had a 12 ga auto mounted one each jury strut, wired to fire from switches on the stick.  At that time the bounty made it worth the effort.

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  • 1 year later...

The Piper J3 Cub by SimSolutions is a stellar flight simulation experience that truly captures the essence of flying a classic aircraft. The attention to detail in the modeling and the realistic flight dynamics make it a standout choice for aviation enthusiasts. The nostalgic charm of the J3 Cub is beautifully recreated, from its iconic design to the serene landscapes you can explore. SimSolutions has crafted a virtual aviation gem that offers both seasoned pilots and newcomers an immersive and enjoyable journey through the skies. Highly recommended for those seeking an authentic and enjoyable flight simulation experience.

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