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Aeronca L-3

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Aeronca L-3 Grasshopper
Aeronca L-3B belonging to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Type Observation and liaison aircraft
Manufacturer Aeronca Aircraft
Maiden flight 1941
Primary user United States Army Air Forces

The Aeronca L-3 group of observation and liaison aircraft were used by the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. The L-3 series were adapted from Aeronca's pre-war Tandem Trainer and Chief models. The L-3 was initially designated the O-58 at the time it was first ordered by the Air Corps. The airplane was given its service tests in the summer of 1941 during maneuvers in Louisiana and Texas where it was used for various support purposes such as a light transport and courier.

At the time American ground forces went into combat around the world during World War II, the Army Air Force began using the L-3 in much the same manner as the observation balloon was used in France during World War I—spotting enemy troop and supply concentrations and directing artillery fire on them. It was also used for other types of liaison and transport duties and short-range reconnaissance which required airplanes that could land and take off in minimum distances from unprepared landing strips. Unfortunately, by the time that the United States entered the war, the Aeronca L-3 (and sister ship Taylorcraft L-2) were declared Operationally Obsolete, and never formally left for a foreign front; this was partially due to a nasty tendency for it to stall and spin in a left-hand turn, partially because newer and more capable aircraft were already being pressed into service. Instead they were reelegated to training fields to serve as trainers and hacks. Liaison pilots would train in an L-3 and then be moved on to larger aircraft like the Piper L-4 or, in the case of the Air Force, Stinson L-5.

There are reports that some L-3s were accidentally shipped to the African front, and subsequently given to the Free French Forces operating within the area at the time. It is not known how many were received by the French, nor how many survived the war.

Museum displays


  • YO-58 — Four aircraft with a 65 hp YO-170-3 engine
  • O-58 / L-3 — A civilian Aeronca Defender in USAAC markings. Identifiable by "D"-windows in rear, and side-by-side seating.
  • O-58A / L-3B — Now sported greenhouse canopy (like the above photo), and tandem (one behind the other) seating. Small radio mast on vertical stabilizer(identifiable by a tiny windsock). Some were fitted with wind-driven generators, presumably to provide power to the radios (The Aeronca L-3 had no electrical system).
  • O-58B / L-3B — An L-3C before USAAC switched classification systems from "Observer" to "Liaison."
  • L-3C — In responce to "field" reports, body is widened by two inches to accommodate pilots flying with parachutes and other army gear. Radio mast is now a small tab over the vertical stabilizer and is little more than a grounding point.
  • L-3D — D-J model L-3s are not actual contract aircraft, but aircraft straight from the civilian factory impressed into military service. An L-3D is merely an Aeronca 65TF Defender with a Franklin engine
  • L-3E — An Aeronca 65TC Defender with a Continental engine.
  • L-3G — 65L Super Chief with a Lycoming engine (4 planes)
  • L-3H — 65T Defender with a Lycoming engine (1 plane)
  • L-3J — 65TC Defender with a Continental engine (1 plane)
  • TG-5 : 250 were built as training gliders for the USAAF.
  • LNR : Three TG-5s were supplied to the US Navy.


Specifications (L-3C)

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[1].

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot, observer
  • Length: 21 ft 10 in (6.67 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 1 in (2.74 m)
  • Wing area: 169 ft² (15.6 m²)
  • Empty weight: 835 lb (379 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 1,260 lb (572 kg)
  • Powerplant:Continental O-170-3 OR a Continental O-65-8 flat-4 engine, 65 hp (48 kW)



  1. Jane, Fred T. “The Aeronca Grasshopper.” Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. p. 203-204. ISBN 1 85170 493 0.


  • Andrade, John M. (1979). U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials Since 1909. Midland Counties Publications. ISBN 0-904597-22-9. 
  • Abel, Alan (2001). Aeronca's Golden Age. Wind Canyon Books. ISBN 1-891118-42-0. 
  • Guillemette, Roger. Aeronca L-3. US Centennial of Flight Commission. Retrieved on 2006-01-04.
  • Aeronca L-3 Aircraft Finder. AeroWeb: The Aviation Enthusiast Corner. City University of New York. Retrieved on 2006-01-04.

External links

Related content

Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence

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See also

cs:Aeronca L-3 de:Aeronca L-3 it:Aeronca L-3 pl:Aeronca L-3