In the late 1940’s the United States Army issued a requirement for a light two seat observation and liaison monoplane aircraft. Cessna Aircraft Company was declared the winner in June of 1950, with its Model 305A submission; an initial contract was awarded for 418 aircraft.
Deliveries began in 1950 under the Army designation L-19. Additional U.S. Army orders were soon added to the original order, as well as, orders for the United States Marine Corps. However, with the new orders went higher performance requirements, which resulted in the improved L-19E. Soon many foreign nations also purchased L-19’s for similar missions that the U.S. Army used the aircraft for.
By the time Bird Dog production ended, Cessna and Fuji in Japan had manufactured 3,431 aircraft. The Fuji built aircraft being produced under license. With the redesignation of aircraft in the United States in 1962, the L-19 became known as the O-1 Bird Dog. However, in Canada the designation of L-19 was retained.
The Roles of the L-19 Bird Dog
The Canadian Army first used the L-19 Bird Dog aircraft to support Army artillery units, scouting for targets for the artillery to strike. Once a ground target was found, the L-19 would then relay the target information to the artillery unit for them to strike. The L-19 would fly under the artillery arc of the shells, remaining in the vicinity of the target, spotting the falling rounds and advising the gunners how to adjust their fire.
Scouting / Reconnaissance:
This role of the L-19 Bird Dog is quite similar to the artillery role. However, this role was much more general in that the L-19 was used by all combat units in the Canadian Army. The aircraft would fly ahead of the units a scouting for enemy locations and scouting the terrain for friendly units. This action enables the Army to move faster and more efficiently, with the chance for fewer casualties.
Air Cadets Glider Tugs:
This was the last role of the L-19 Bird Dog in military uses. The Air Cadets train young adults to fly glider aircraft during summer time. However, an aircraft is required to tow the glider aloft. The L-19 Bird Dog is an excellent aircraft for the job because it is a stable aircraft that is able to pull the gliders with ease.
As one can see, the L-19 Bird Dog is a very versatile aircraft that handled these roles with ease during its service life. Today, the L-19 has been retired from the Canadian Armed Forces, having been replaced by the helicopter in the spotting and scouting roles. It is still in service with the Air Cadets. Additionally, there are a large number of L-19’s on the Warbird market; many are seen at various airshows throughout North America.
ACAM’s L-19 Bird Dog:
This aircraft rolled out of the Cessna factory on the 21st of May 1957 with the United States Army serial of 56-4037. This particular aircraft was a Cessna Model 305C, or the L-19E Bird Dog.
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) acquired this L-19E Bird Dog (56-4037), one of 26 acquired under the Military Assistance Program (MAP Program), on the 6th of July 1957. Although this aircraft was to be used with the Canadian Army it was registered under the RCAF because it was an aircraft. When the aircraft came to Canada it was given the Canadian serial number, 16720. From 1957 -1960 it was posted to the Light Aircraft School in Rivers, Manitoba. Its history for the next 9 years is lost at this time (if you have time on L-19’s and can help fill this gap in time please let us know.)
On the 20th of April 1969 this L-19 (16720) suffered a Category B accident. It was decided by the RCAF that rather than repairing the damage that the aircraft would be disposed of via CADC (Crown Assets Disposal Corporation). It was here on the December 11, 1969 that the Seneca Flight College acquired the aircraft for use as a training aid for AME’s (Aircraft Mechanics Engineers).
According to Military records, the aircraft was given a new serial number as 119720 on the June 11, 1970, six months after having been disposed of. At this time its designation was changed from the L-19E Bird Dog to CO-119. It seams odd however that it would be reserialled after being written off the Military inventory. The unit that the aircraft was assigned to is unknown, as is the role that it should have fulfilled. Further research is being done to clear up this mystery.
Later the aircraft was acquired by the Moncton Flight College and again the aircraft was used to train AME’s (Aircraft Mechanics Engineers). In 2000, the aircraft no longer suited the Flight Colleges needs and it was loaned to the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, for preservation. The Museum would like to thank Mr. Boyd Geddes and Mr. Gordon Nielson for arranging for the aircraft to be loaned to the Museum.
In January of 2001 the L-19 was transported to the Museum from Moncton via truck. At this time it is planned to restore the aircraft in Royal Canadian Army colors, as it would have worn while serving at CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.
The Status of ACAM’s L-19 Bird Dog
Update January 2011.
The bird Dog is being restored by Colin Wilmshurst and as can be seen from the following photos a lot has been accomplished. The outside is masked and in Primer coat. The finish coat will be applied when the weather warms up and/or we find suitable spray facilities.
Pics will follow shortly.
At this time small jobs are being completed on this project as volunteer time allows.
These jobs include:
- Cleaning and maintaining the aircraft for public view.
- Placing small parts and components on the aircraft.
- Researching the history of the aircraft.
- Cataloging large parts and components, which will remain in storage until restoration begins.
- The work being done on the aircraft at this time is vital to completing an accurate and successful restoration.