Cessna O-1A Bird Dog

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

Cessna O-1A Bird Dog

In the Korean War the Bird Dog, affectionately called "the jeep with wings," was used for a variety of missions including artillery spotting, laying communication wire, evacuating wounded and dropping supplies and flares. Then designated the L-19, it was frequently used as an observation platform for field commanders. In September 1962, the Bird Dog was redesignated as the O-1A-the first all metal, high-wing, single-engine aircraft to see service in U.S. Army aviation. During the War in Southeast Asia, the U.S. Air Force used the O-1A as an airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC) for jet fighters, marking targets with phosphorus rockets.

The Museum's O-1A served primarily as a training platform accumulating more than 10,000 flying hours during its career. The aircraft was restored by the U.S. Army, Field Maintenance Division at Davidson Army Air Field, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, as Mobile Miss, an O-1A that was assigned to the 74th Aviation Company (Aerial Surveillance) near Saigon in 1972.

Transferred from the U.S. Army

Wingspan: 10.9 m (36 ft)

Length: 7.6 m (25 ft)

Height: 2.28 m (7 ft 6 in)

Weight, empty: 636 kg (1,400 lb)

Weight, gross: 1103 kg (2430 lb)

Top speed: 208 km/h (130 mph)

Engines: Continental 0-470-11, 213 hp

Crew: 2; Pilot and Observer

Manufacturer: Cessna airplane Co., Inc., Wichita, KS, 1951


Collection Item Long Description:

During the late 1940s the U.S. Army began to look for a replacement of its Piper L-4 and Stinson L-5 observation aircraft. In August 1949, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army issued a joint specification for an all-metal, short/unimproved field aircraft capable of performing a variety of tasks. Among these were observation, rescue, photo-reconnaissance, and artillery fire control. Additionally, the aircraft was to be adaptable for both ski and float operations. The initial fly-off competition date was set for March 1950.

Cessna was interested in competing for this contract. To make the deadline, that company decided to use components from the existing production Models 170 and 195. The new aircraft was designated Model 305, and was completed within 90 days. It was then flown to Wright Field in Ohio for the competition with aircraft from Piper, Temco, and Taylorcraft. Cessna won and was issued the contract on May 29, 1950, for 418 aircraft under the designation L-19A. As specified, this aircraft had the capacity to trade wheels for skis or floats and had a MK4A bomb rack under each wing. A steel-spring landing gear reduced ground-loop tendencies and made unimproved field operations practicable. A slotted high-lift flap along the trailing edge of each wing increased performance during slow flight and short field landings. Tests demonstrated that the L-19A could takeoff and land over an obstacle 50 feet high in as little as 167 yards.

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began. Cessna was immediately pressed for increased production. Other services also became interested in this versatile aircraft. It was the first all metal, high-wing, single-engined aircraft to see service in U.S. Army aviation which eventually accepted 3,105 of them. The L-19 had dual controls for the pilot and observer. Foreign nations were also finding the L-19 to be a useful aircraft. General Mark Clark named the L-19 "Bird Dog". He chose this name as it represented one of its primary missions--hunting. During its lifetime the L-19 proved to be one of the most enduring aircraft in modern military history.

In the Korean War, the L-19 or, as it was affectionately called, "the jeep with wings," was used for a variety of missions including artillery spotting, laying communication wire, evacuating wounded, and dropping supplies and flares. It was frequently used as an observation platform for commanders in the field.

Again, during the Vietnam War, the L-19 proved itself to be irreplaceable. In a new role, the Air Force began to employ the Bird Dog and its crew as a forward air controller (FAC) for supersonic jet fighters. Flying low and slow the L-19 pilot looked for concentrations of Viet Cong while attack aircraft circled at high altitude. After spotting the enemy, the Bird Dog would "point" the attack aircraft to the target with white-phosphorus rockets.

In a demonstration of remarkable durability, in February 1952, an L-19 was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Twelve feet of the right wing was shot off but the pilot and observer regained control and miraculously landed the aircraft at an Air Force base. Within three hours, a new right wing had been installed and the pilot was able to fly it out to another air base for further inspection and repair.

In response to the Army's need for an instrument trainer, Cessna modified the L-19A and began production of the TL-19D. It boasted a constant-speed propeller, significant engine modifications, and a rear cabin with a hinged instrument panel. A total of 307 TL-19Ds were delivered. The latest version of the L-19, the L-19E, was produced in 1956. In September 1962, the L-19A was re-designated the O-1A (L-19) Powered by a 213 h.p. Continental O-470-11, six-cylinder air-cooled engine, this version had electric flaps and could carry four 2.75 smoke rockets (four additional rocket launchers were added later).

On April 30, 1975, the fall of Saigon appeared imminent. A Vietnamese Air Force major, together with his wife and five children, boarded an O-lA on the island of Con Son (off the coast of South Vietnam) and flew to the carrier USS Midway. With his fuel tanks almost empty he made an excellent carrier landing and became the first 0-lA to land on a carrier deck.

Cessna delivered the Museum's O-lA, Serial No. 51-1963, to the U.S. Army on January 18, 1952. It was transferred to Wichita in February 1952. A gap in the aircraft records exists until January 31, 1958, when it was assigned to the 502nd Aviation Company. It had been redesignated as a TO-1A (trainer). It remained with the 502nd until March 2, 1962, when it was transferred to the Forward Aerial Weapon Depot (FAWD) in Forth Worth, Texas. On May 18, 1963, it left FAWD for duty with the AQC (Aviation Qualification Course), Aviation Maintenance Department, Fort Hood, Texas, where it remained until June 10, 1966. On November 19, 1971, it was assigned to the U.S. Army Aviation School (USAAVNS) at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, on December 28, 1971, it was lent to the Fort Devins Flying Club, Ayers Massachusetts. The airframe had flown 10,333 hours up to that time. The aircraft entered a civilian career as a Cessna 305A, Manufacturers Serial No. 22277, FAA Peg. # N4508B. It remained with the Flying Club until it was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum on May 2, 1978 by authority of the U.S. Army Aviation System Command directive, dated April 14, 1977.