Restoration of the CAF French Wing Piper Cub, help bring "The Little Blue Cloud" back into the sky

Published on 29 April 2022 by Stéphane Duchemin,



The Commemorative Air Force, CAF, is the largest flying museum in the world with 180 aircraft, most of which date from World War II. The CAF was founded in Harlingen, Texas in 1957, then moved to Midland before its Headquarters moved to its new National Air Force Base at Dallas Executive Airport in 2016. Today, the Commemorative Air Force has 12,000 members worldwide.

The goal of the CAF is to acquire, restore and maintain aircraft from the World War II to Vietnam War period in flying condition, and to engage younger generations to honor the pilots and crew members who fought.

Its objectives are: Educate, Inspire and Honor.

Since 1996, the French Wing is the French unit of the Commemorative Air Force. The statutes have been filed in France and the FW is in the form of an Association loi 1901. It maintains a Piper J3 in flying condition and is based in its hangar at Le Plessis Belleville where its volunteers organize an annual fly-in that brings together old planes, old vehicles and guests in period costumes.The French Wing conducts historical research and produces a documentary entitled "History and Duty to Remember" which publishes interviews with veterans that are primarily intended for a young audience and can be viewed on its YouTube channel and website.

Our project

The association acquired the Piper J3 F-GHLQ in 2003. The restoration of the aircraft was done in 1993.

The aircraft was named "Spirit of Lewis" in honor of Lewis Bateman, an English member of the French Wing who died in 2000. Lewis had been an unwavering supporter at the start of the association. A former mechanic on the Fairey Firefly during the Korean War, he had become a brilliant aeronautical engineer at the origin of the Airbus family.

Shortly after his acquisition, a contest for the most beautiful design was launched and Roy Grinnell, ace painter and member of the FW, won with an NE-1 version of the Cub. It is this version which was retained and in these colors that the plane will be painted.



The aircraft will represent NE-1 serial 26359 (NE-1 being the designation of the Piper J3 Cub for the US Navy, which served in the USA and in the Pacific theater

Here is his history reconstructed from its "History card" for the FW by an amateur historian, John Scott:

Piper NE-1 BuAer 26359 Moffett Field 1942
  • 05/29/1942 : Delivered to US Navy at Lockhaven, Pennsylvania
  • 06/13/1942 : Arrival at RAB (Reserve Air Base) d'Oakland, California (East of San Francisco across the bay),
  • 11/11/1942 : Transferred to NAS (Naval Air Station) de Moffett Field, Sunnyvale California (south end of San Francisco Bay)
  • 08/25/1942 : Assigned to ZP-32 Squadron, NAS Sunnyvale
Piper NE-1 BuAer 26359 Moffett Field 1943 - ZP-32
  • 08/1943, transferred to BlimpHedron 3, airship maintenance unit, Sunnyvale
  • 11/1943 : Transferred to Pool (unassigned) Naval Air Station, Alameda, California (East of San Francisco across the bay north of Oakland),
  • 02/1944 : transferred to Pool NAS, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii
  • 03/1945 : in transit to Guam
  • 04 through 06/1945 : NAB (Naval Advance Base), Orote, Guam
  • 07/1945 : Awaiting assignment CASU (F) 12 (Combat Aircraft Service Unit - Forward), Guam
  • 08/1945 : Pool CASU (F) 12, Guam
  • 09/1945 :in transit to Japan (probably)
  • 10/1945 : Okinawa (Kadena ?)
  • 02/1946 through 03/15/1946 : NAB Yonabaru, Okinawa
  • 03/15/1946 through 06/21/1946 : NAB Awase, Okinawa
  • 06/1946 : FASRON 13, (Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron), Orote, Guam
  • 10/31/1946 : Stricken from inventory (presumably Orote, Guam)

Roy Grinnell's painting features NE-1 serial #26359, in the paint scheme he wore between December 1942 and June 1943 while assigned to the ZP-32 Squadron at Moffett field in San Francisco Bay.

The ZP-32 operated airships from this base for maritime patrol, ship escort and anti-submarine warfare missions.

Herb Parsons, President of the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum (MFHS), received a gift from the family of a sailor who served in the ZP-32, a photo album containing a few photos of the NE1 captioned, "The little Blue Cloud".

The choice of this paint scheme twenty years after the contest won by Roy is a double tribute, to Roy now deceased of course and to the fighters.

At the end of 2021, the year of the 25th anniversary of the French Wing, the plane was transported by our members to Libourne at Aero Services Restoration for its restoration.

The plane will be dismantled, dismantled, inspected, the parts that need to be changed will be changed, the fuselage will be sandblasted, painted, then re-stained and painted.

The estimate amounts to a little more than 30000€ that the French Wing has saved over the years and is therefore this much more than the cost of the plane.



What are our goals for this fundraising campaign?


We are looking for the following instruments:
- Waltham tachometer P/N 496163
- U.S. Gauge P/N 496159 oil pressure gauge
- U.S. Gauge P/N 496160 oil temperature gauge
- 40 to 140 mph P/N 496139 airspeed gauge
- Airpath Type 60 P/N 450625 magnetic bubble compass
- Cabin heater lever
The purchase and overhaul of these systems at Lock Haven is costly.
We have estimated the cost of this additional work at 20.000€. (USD 21000)


(2) - NE1 profile 99mm X 210 mm (Gaëtan Marie)
(3) - Ghost Squadron Keyring
(4) - French Wing Patch
(5)  “Ghost Squadron” Patch
(6) - Cartoon NE1 T-shirt by Jean Barbaud (Tailles du S au XXL à préciser)
(6) - Cub sailor by François Hébrard (tailles du S au XXL)
(7) - Remove before flight Keyrings
(9) - NE1 print by Roy Grinnell (410mm X 320mm)
(10) - NE1 by Jean Barbaud
(8) et (11) - Cub skin (example of presentation, non contractual photo)

Thank you for your help in getting The Little Blue Cloud back in the air !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.