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Introduced in 1950, the all-metal fixed wing with tandem seating and angled side windows improved downward visibility.

In 1949 the US Army and US Air Force jointly issued a specification for an all-metal aircraft to replace their existing inventory of Piper L-4 and Stinson L-5 aircraft. The new aircraft had to be capable of landing and taking off on short, unimproved airfields and had to be able to perform a variety of tasks, including observation, rescue, photo-reconnaissance, and artillery fire control. It also had to be adaptable to ski and float operations. Piper, TEMCO, Taylorcraft, and Cessna competed for the contract. Cessna built a new aircraft for the competition, the Model 305. It won the competition and in 1950 received an order for 418 aircraft to be given the designation L-19A (“L” for liaison). In 1962 the aircraft was redesignated as O-1 (“O” for observation). The aircraft received the name “Bird Dog” as a result of a naming contest among Cessna employees. The winning entry was selected by a US Army board. The name was selected because the aircraft’s role was analogous to that of a bird dog used by hunters, i.e., to locate the enemy and remain on target until artillery and/or air power can be used. The L-19A was the first all metal, high wing, single-engine aircraft to be used by the US Army. It had dual controls for the pilot and observer. The sides of the aircraft were sloped to improve visibility, and the almost 360-degree visibility form the cockpit made it ideal for observation, control, and reconnaissance. During the Korean War, the Bird Dog was affectionately given the name “the jeep with wings”. During the Vietnam War, the US Air Force used Bird Dogs for forward air control. A Bird Dog would locate and identify a target while attack aircraft waited high overhead. The Bird Dog used phosphorous rockets to identify the target to the attack aircraft. After the attack the Bird Dog would remain on scene to report the results. Enemy troops rightly feared the arrival of the Bird Dog.

History of The Aircraft

This aircraft was generously donated to LSFM by Bob and JoAnn Dittert of Missouri City, Texas. It was manufactured in August of 1951 and delivered to the US Army. It saw service in the Korean War. After the war, it was given to the Japan Self-Defense Forces. In the early 1980s it was acquired by the Civil Air Patrol. The Ditterts purchased the aircraft in 1986. At the time it was at a Civil Air Patrol station in Talladega, Alabama. In 1992 the Ditterts had the aircraft painted in the scheme of Raven Forward Air Controllers. The Ravens were a volunteer, covert unit of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) who operated out of Laos during the Vietnam War. The O-1 Bird Dog was one of the aircraft flown by the unit. The Ravens wore only civilian clothes and knew very little about what they volunteered for. Members of the Ravens had previous experience as FACs in South Vietnam and were elite pilots. They suffered one of the highest casualty rates of the war because they flew low and slow, and the North Vietnamese knew that shooting them down prevented attacks by fighter bombers. One member of the unit calculated that 90% of the aircraft had been hit by ground fire, 60% had been downed by the enemy, and 30% of the pilots had been killed in action. The emblem on the side of the museum’s aircraft is the insignia of the Royal Laotian Air Force – a threeheaded elephant standing on a pedestal under an umbrella. The Ditterts had this emblem added to the aircraft to honor the Ravens.

Quick facts

  • Manufacturer: Cessna
  • Country: United States
  • Type: Military – various purposes
  • Engine: Continental 0-470-11, 213 hp
  • Maximum speed: 130 mph
  • Armament: none
  • Ceiling: 18,500 ft
  • Range: 530 miles
  • Crew: 2.00
  • Length: 25 ft 11 9.5 in
  • Wingspan: 36 ft
  • Number built: 3,431

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