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O-1 Bird Dog

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(Redirected from Cessna L-19 Bird Dog)
Bird Dog redirects here. For other uses, see bird dog
L-19/O-1 Bird Dog
O-1 Bird Dog.jpg
An O-1 Bird Dog
Type Observation aircraft
Manufacturer Cessna
Maiden flight 1949
Introduced 1950
Retired 1974 (US)
Primary users United States Air Force
United States Army
Vietnam Air Force
Royal Thai Air Force
Number built 3,431
Developed from Cessna 170

The Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog is an American liaison and observation aircraft, it was the first all metal fixed wing aircraft ordered for and by the U.S. Army, since the US Army Air Force separated from the army in 1947, becoming its own branch of service, the United States Air Force. The Bird Dog had a lengthy career in the U.S. military as well as in other countries.

Design and development

The U.S. Army was searching for an aircraft that could adjust artillery fire, as well as perform liaison duties, and preferably be constructed of all metal, as the canvas covered Liaison airplanes used during World war II (primarily Stinson and Piper products) had a short service life. The US Army issued the specification for a two-seat liaison and observation monoplane and the Cessna Aircraft Company submitted the Cessna Model 305A a development of the Cessna 170. The Cessna 305A was a a single-engined light-weight strut-braced high-wing monoplane with a tailwheel landing gear. Differences from the Cessna 170 included a re-designed rear fuselage to improve the view to the rear, and transparent panels in the wings cente-section. A wider door was fitted to allow a stretcher to be loaded.

The U.S. Army awarded a contract to Cessna for 418 aircraft which was designated the L-19A Bird Dog. The prototype Cessna 305 (registration N41694) first flew on the 14 December 1949. Deliveries began in December 1950 and the aircraft was soon in use fighting its first war in Korea from 1950 through 1953. An instrument trainer variant was developed in 1953, later versions had constant-speed propellers and the final version the L-19E had a larger gross weight. Cessna produced 3,431 aircraft which was also built under licence by Fuji in Japan.

Operational history

The L-19 received the name Bird Dog as a result of a contest held with Cessna employees to name the aircraft. The winning entry, submitted by Jack A. Swayze, an industrial photographer, was selected by a U.S. Army board.[citation needed] The name was chosen because the role of the army's new airplane was to find the enemy and orbit over them until artillery (or attack aircraft) could be brought to bear on the enemy. While flying low and close to the battlefield, the pilot would observe the exploding shells and adjust the fire via his radios, in the manner of a bird dog (Gun dog) used by game hunters.

The Defense Department ordered 3,200 L-19s that were built between 1950 and 1959. The planes were used in various utility roles such as artillery spotting, front line communications, medevac and training. In 1962 the Army L-19 was redesignated the O-1 (Observation) Bird Dog and entered its second war in Vietnam. During the early 1960s the Bird Dog was flown by South Vietnamese airmen (ARVN-Army Republic Vietnam/SVAF South Vietnamese Air Force), US Army aviators, and clandestine (Ravens) aircrews. In 1964 the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a memorandum directing that the U.S. Army turn over its "Fixed Wing" O-1 Bird Dogs to the US Air Force, while the army began its transition to a "rotor-wing" force (helicopters).

The U.S. Army was allowed to retain some O-1 Bird Dogs for artillery observation (spotting/forward air control) until the new army helicopters entered service. All previous operators mentioned above, including the US Army, continued using the O-1 Bird Dog throughout the war, however the bulk of the O-1s were operated by the U.S. Air Force from 1964 until the end of the war in 1975 (flown primarily by South Vietnamese airmen in 1975). During the Vietnam War, the planes were used for reconnaissance and forward air control (FAC). Supplementing the O-1, then gradually replacing it, was the USAF O-2 Skymaster which entered Vietnam in the mid 1960s. The last U.S. Army O-1 Bird Dog was officially retired in 1974.

During the course of the Vietnam War, 469 O-1 Bird Dogs were lost to all causes. The USAF lost 178, the USMC lost seven, and 284 were lost from the US Army, South Vietnamese Forces, and clandestine operators. Three Bird Dogs were lost to enemy surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).[1]

In Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Cadets use L-19 aircraft equipped with a towing rig to tow their Schweizer 2-33 [2] gliders for the Air Cadet gliding program.[3] These particular L-19 variants are used in the Atlantic Region, Eastern Region and Pacific regions. They have been modified for noise reduction by the use of a smaller-diameter, 4-blade Hoffman composite propeller and exhaust modification. The fuel delivery system has also been modified from the original design, placing the fuel selector valve closer to the pilot. As with most aircraft used for glider towing, the aircraft has also been outfitted with mirrors mounted to the struts.


L-19A (Cessna 305A)
Initial production version for United States Army, redesignated O-1A in 1962, 2486 built.
L-19As converted to dual control trainers, redesignated TO-1A in 1962.
L-19A with a 210shp XT-50-B01 engine, one built.
19A with a 210shp XT51-T-1 engine, two built.
TL-19D (Cessna 305B)
Instrument trainer version of the L-19A with dual controls, redesignated TO-1D in 1962, 310 built.
L-19E (Cessna 305C)
Improved version of the L-19A with equipment changes and higher gross weight, became O-1E in 1962, 469 built.
60 L-19As delivered to the United States Marine Corps, redesignated O-1B in 1962.
OE-2 (Cessna 321)
Redesigned version of the OE-1 with Cessna 180 wings and remodified fuselage, became O-1C in 1962, 27 built.
L-19A redesignated in 1962.
O-1As converted as trainers.
OE-1 redesignated in 1962.
OE-2 redesignated in 1962.
A number of TO-1Ds converted for Forward Air Controller duties with the United States Air Force.
TL-19D redesignated in 1962.
L-19E redesignated in 1962.
O-1F (Cessna 305E)
Forward Air Controller conversions of the O-1D for the USAF.
O-1G (Cessna 305D)
Forward Air Controller conversions of the O-1A for the USAF.


File:Bunny II.jpg
The Australian Army' sole L-19A was 51-4883 Bunny II, seen here displayed at the Army Aviation Museum, Oakey, in 2007. This was acquired and operated unofficially in Vietnam.
L-19E from the used by the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in the Atlantic region of Canada. The 4 blade propeller and exhaust modifications are visible.
Template:Country data South Vietnam

Specifications (O-1E)

Template:Aircraft specification


  1. Hobson, Chris. "Vietnam Air Losses." 2001. ISBN 1-85780-1156
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  • Green, William and Pollinger, Gerald. The Aircraft of the World. London: Macdonald, 1955.

External links

Related content

Related development

Comparable aircraft

See also
Template:USAF liaison aircraft Template:USN observation aircraft Template:US observation aircraft Template:CF aircraft