J-3 Cub Floatplane — Picture Perfect Piper — with Video

J-3 Cub Floatplane — Picture Perfect Piper — with Video

When it comes to scale, it’s all in the details that counts. You don’t have to have a big complicated multi-engine warbird to do well in scale competition. But rather, a properly detailed version of a simple airplane will often do extremely well when it comes time to earn static scoring points. Such was the case with Mike Plot’s beautifully executed J-3 floatplane he entered at the recent WRAM show at the Meadowlands Expo Center in NJ.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

Mike’s Cub was so well done that is placed 3rd in the hotly contested Civilian Class in the Static scale competition. A note here, the guy who won the category was a Top Gun Scale Invitation veteran! So third place is nothing to sneeze at!

Over all, Mike did everything right with his Scratch built airplane. Instead of finding documentation to match his model, he got his documentation and 3-view drawings first and then built the model to match. The scale outline of the Cub is spot on and every detail is done just right. You don’t easily see any RC hardware, rather the rigging and control cables are scale in appearance.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

For the Cowling, Mike used a Saito 150 4-stroke engine so it was easier to hide and his treatment of the engine cowling and the dummy Continental engine is also very fine and accurate. Check out the cotter pin attachment points in the photo above. And another scale detail that makes a Cub a Cub is the red screw on gas cap in front of the windshield with its float gauge wire. Mike did it right!

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

Built to 25% scale (1/4-scale), it has a 108 inch span and the ailerons and linkages are also scale in design. The model is fabric covered and is finished with Cub Yellow Klass Coat 2-part epoxy paint. There’s even the scale control cables on top of the wing for the ailerons complete with the scale fairing that’s so much a part of the Cub’s character.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

Of course he also did the pinked taping and the rib stitching as well. Not an “in your face” treatment but just subtle enough to look like the real thing.

When it comes to the Cub’s tail, it has to be done right including the rigging wires and the intersection of the horizontal stabilizers and the fuselage. The tubes have to fit into place and the inspection covers have to duplicated as well.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

The Main Office

So yes, the outside needs to be done right, and with many competitions, it is only the outside that counts. But when you go the extra mile, and do the interior details as well, and do them correctly, the judges take notice. Mike made the cabin door and upper window function and that cabin opening just cries for you to look inside.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

The Cub is again a very simple aircraft, but you have to duplicate the airplanes details, just like Mike did here above. The seats and control columns, the throttles, Carb heat and elevator trim lever are all must haves for an accurate cabin interior.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

Fuel tank, instrument panel and a sectional map in the seatback pocket, all show that Mike did his homework.

J-3 Cub Floatplane - WRAM Show coverage  - Piper Cub

Notice anything else? Mike went to the trouble of duplicating the metal wing root fairing strips complete with the rubber boots around the windshield and the top window. And of course there are those nicely detailed floats. You can’t see any servos or pushrods here, Mike duplicated the control cables that lead from the rudder down the belly of the Cub, around the pulleys and back to the retractable water rudders. I was also impressed that on the left jury strut, he duplicated the pitot tube complete with the air operated tube opening cover. A very nice touch indeed.

When you figure that Mike produced this beautiful example of scale accuracy in only eight months, you gott’a wonder what he does with his spare time. I would say it involved lots of workbench time!

Congratulations to Mike for his amazing efforts and 3rd place win at the WRAM show. I’ll bet that his Cub will fly just as great as it looks! Job well done!!!


Updated: July 16, 2015 — 4:06 PM


  1. This airplane, although a beautiful model, if it was full scale would not pass an annual inspection . . . no fuel filler neck rubber grommet between the fuel filler neck and the boot cowl to keep fuel from spilling into the cabin. Needs a 90 degree bend in the top of the fuel level float wire to keep it from falling down into the fuel tank. Also, could not tell if it is equipped with lap and shoulder belts for the pilot and passenger seats. Looks way nicer than any J-3 I have ever flown. Great work!

  2. Where do you find the propellers with the simulated metal strips? I have searched the web and can not seem to find the right phrase to put me on a source to either buy or a method for making them. I have both a Cub and Aeronca Champ needing this. Neither are any kind of scale mastery, but that is a nice touch to any of these classic airplanes.

    1. Ryan I used wood 18x 6 prop remove the finish used aluminum tape for the simulated brass then pressed rivets with small “dia piece tubing painted the tape bronze then scraped the paint off that simulated the rivets to show the aluminum tape underneath. Model Airplane News had an article on how make scale props I just modified it slightly. Mike

      1. Hi Mike, Wow – very well done. I was wondering if you have a lead to scale interior parts for the J3 Cub.
        Tim W

  3. I am also curious what props he is using, or if they are custom.

    I use WWI painted Xoars, either saber or lance, and they look awesome but Mikes look even better!

    1. Thanks Bradley mine was a 18×6 Xoars prop

  4. Falcon Civilian 2-blade

    1. No Bradley it was an 18×6 standard wood prop with the finish removed so it could made into a scale prop.

  5. I love the great job on your J-3, I am working on a 1/3 scale pietenpol aircamper it as a
    11’4″ wingspan, I am building it like pete’s pietenpol full scale.

  6. I’m proud to be Mike friend ,and this is not he’s first rodeo ,he’s a great builder ,the detail of his planes it’s outstanding ,they fly great too ,and best of all ,he is a person that will share the building techniques and secrets with you,,just for that he deserves first place…good job Mike !!!

    1. Thank you Amilcar

  7. Let those naysayers say what they want Mike . I have 4 Piper J3 Cubs , and none of them are as nice as what I see in these pictures. NICE JOB

    1. Thanks for the kind words

  8. That is just beautiful . amazing detail to scale in the cockpit. Thanks for covering this type and level of modeling. It inspires the rest of us to do more when putting the final touches on our planes. Note to builder: Fantastic Job.. I also like the matt finish .

    1. Thanks for the kind words

  9. SIMPLE THE BEST!!!!!…..
    Congratulations Mike.

  10. I am interested in the amphibious floats, supplier, plans, or your design?

    1. My floats were built from a Sig plan they also sell a full kit in 1/4 and 1/3 scale

    2. Clay I made a mistake not Sig but “Balsa USA ” plan they also they make the 1/4 and 1/3 kit

    3. The floats are from Balsa USA plans

  11. Beautiful ….. Is there any where to view closer detailed pictures of this plane. I am very interested in the floats water rudder set up. The pulleys for the cables going to the water rudders, are they hand made? or is there a place to buy such a thing.

    1. Ken the water rudder is on the Balsa USA plan, They also sell the rudder I think? as far as the pulleys there from model boat supplier Harbor Models the installation for the cables and pullys were pictures I found searching the web of J3 Cubs on floats. Thanks for the kind words.

  12. I’ll bet Mike got 3rd place instead of first place because of that spinner. Totally un-scale.

  13. nice job i like detailed work in cockpit nice coating very neat and clean few more options are missing in the cockpit but still looking great 8/10 points from me

  14. Mike, I saw your same J3 with a C-65 on Lake Champlain in Vermont last summer. Same NC 1586N registration.
    It has just been fully restored, with wing tanks now. I can send you pictures if you want. It was on CAP 2000 floats (I think).
    I am an ex J3 pilot myself, flew a season on floats.

  15. By the way Mike, the real J3 NC 1586N I saw last summer, has the exact same polished metal spinner, as your model, but with with a metal prop.
    So Bill Bradley is wrong. Too bad I can’t post pictures of the real F/S J3 on floats. It’s a beauty.

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