Flying low over the jungle on tree top level the exploits of the Cessna O-1E Bird Dog in South East Asia are legendary. However, this venerable warbird is maybe one of the lesser known and unglamorous aircraft types flown during the Vietnam War, being manned by USAF and South Vietnamese pilots. Nevertheless some of the Bird Dog’s relive a renaissance today, as they are a cheap and affordable warbird, and a joy to fly!
Where? Hahnweide, Germany
When? September 2016
Cessna O-1 Bird Dog
Cessna delivered its Model 305 to the US Army in December of 1950. It was a successor to the WWII Piper L-4 Grasshopper family of aircraft and designated as L-19 for a liaison aircraft and named the “Birddog”. Many of the L-19’s were immediately deployed to the war in Korea.Years later, Birddogs were still of valuable use and sent to Vietnam in 1962 and used in various combat roles by the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. By then the designation had been changed to O-1 (Observation). The enemy feared the presence of the Birddog because it forewarned of bad things to come.
Forward Air Control (FAC) over the Vietnamese Jungle
The Birddog overtook the role of a Forward Air Control (FAC) and its mission was to pin-point enemy troop locations through communication with ‘friendlies’ on the ground. Once proper recce was done and the positions spotted, these ground targets were marked with rockets that hung underneath its wings. Air strikes subsequently took care of the following actions.
Flying and operating the Bird Dog as a Warbird
One of the Birddogs flying nowadays in Europa is based at Madrid, Spain, and is linked to the Fundación Infante de Orleans (FIO – www.fio.es). This O-1E / L19 is a former Italian Army / Esercito aircraft (S/N 305M-0040, military registration MM61-2992, code E.I. 6) and was bought by its recent owner José Luis Olias Sanchez and brought to Spain.
He restored it during four years and brought it back to an immaculate condition, nowadays representing a light gray, shark-mouth paint scheme used by the USAF 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS) that was based at the Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon, Vietnam.
The photos were taken during the Oldtimer Meeting Hahnweide (http://www.oldtimer-hahnweide.de/), Germany’s largest oldtimer fly-in. José Luis brought the aircraft to Germany on a 14-hour trip including three stops. They used their travelling time well and visited also the annual European Meeting of the International Bird Dog Association that was held in combination with the Classic Cessna meeting at Wershofen, Germany. This event even featured a formation of six European Bird Dogs!
Cessna O-1E “Bird Dog” (S/N 305M-0040) EC-MAB Air-Air – Photo Gallery
Thanks to 2x José Luis, Michal and Mathias who were involved in the photoflight! Flying around the autumn-coloured trees around the Teck castle gave an impression of what it must have been to see this aircraft in its former role.
More nice reads on the O-1E Bird Dog are found on the following pages. The article above uses some extracts thereof: