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Digital Subscriptions > Scale Aircraft Modelling > October 2017 > SCALED UP


Walking the Dog

The Cessna O-1 Bird Dog was developed as Cessna Model 305 by levelling out the rear fuselage of the existing Model 170 and adding new cockpit windows with 360 degree all-round visibility. Production began in 1950 and just under three thousand four hundred aircraft in various versions were built before it ended in 1959. Additional aircraft were licence built by Fuji in Japan and a further eighty itted with a turbo prop engine and revised tail built by SIAI-Marchetti in Italy as the SM.1019. The aircraft was operated by the sometimes multiple air arms, paramilitary and civil organisations of some two dozen nations with in time ex military examples finding their way directly into the civilian light aviation market or remanufactured as the Ector Mountaineer and Super Mountaineer. Initially designated L-19 for the US Army and OE-1 for the US Marine Corps the O-1 designation was universally adopted under the tri-service naming arrangement that took effect from September 1962 by which time the US Air Force was showing an interest in acquiring aircraft for service in South East Asia.

In United States service the Bird Dog entered service during the Korean War and served through to operations over South Vietnam and surrounding countries on a wide range of missions. These ranged from low-level and lowspeed visual reconnaissance, the Forward Air Control of higher performance attack aircraft and gunnery control for both land based artillery and naval guns, casualty evacuation, resupply and everything that could possibly be described as liaison duties. Dependant on version it could carry up to four underwing stores racks for rockets, guns, lares, camera pods, droppable stores and on at least one occasion live pigs. Trials both official and otherwise were conducted with various ixed, lexibly mounted and hand carried infantry weapons used from the cockpit, although it was very much the case that if the aircraft was low enough to use these effectively to hit targets on the ground then those same targets could easily reciprocate, in addition to the potential threat posed by loose cartridges getting into places they had no right to be.

The subject of this walk around was built as twin control Cessna L-19E 58-24582 and is currently on the UK Civil Aviation Register as GVDOG being owned and operated by Jim Watt, the Managing Director of Tayside Aviation Ltd. The aircraft spent its service life with l’Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre (ALAT) or French Army Aviation but has been restored albeit with its own serial in a representative colour scheme of a US Army O-1E as operated by 73 Aviation Company (Airplane Surveillance)(Light) based at Na Trang in South Vietnam between 1963-64. This was one of the first US Army Aviation units officially sent to the country and after about eighteen months service was renumbered as part of a reorganisation of the rapidly growing US presence and these markings relect a time before the realities and lessons of the conlict brought about a far duller and toned down appearance. The aircraft carries a typical load of paired tubed 2.75” Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR) with M156 White Phosphorous Smoke Warheads mounted on Mk 4A Stores Racks under each wing. As far as possible the aircraft has been restored to its original equipment it although in line with current use a GPS unit is itted above the left side of the instrument panel and a Transponder control unit below with associated white aerial above the cockpit and smaller white notch aerial below. The three upper surface whip aerials usually carried on the wing tips and on the aircraft centreline are not itted although their mounting fairings remain. To mark its lengthy time in French service the stencilled crest of A.A. ALAT DAX or Amicale des Anciens de l’Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre de DAX et Sud-Ouest, the association for former members of French Army Aviation in DAX and the south-west, is carried under the windscreen forward of the cockpit door and some of the instrument panel and control labels survive in their original language.

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