A new addition to the Caboolture ”Beaufort Hangar” is Cessna O-1G Bird Dog, VH-XVB built in 1951. The aircraft has been acquired by a syndicate of Beaufort Group members and will operate from the Qld hangar. An interesting fact about this is aircraft is that the correct tail number for 21546 should be Serial No 0-14661 or 51-14661, however the markings that have been applied are for another Bird Dog, construction number 22290 serial No 51-11976 or 011976.
Originally built as an L-19A-CE at Cessna’s Pawnee plant to a 1951 order as military serial Number 51-11976, this aircraft saw service with the USAF in Vietnam. It was one of a batch of Bird Dogs imported to Australia and restored to it’s accurate Vietnam war colour scheme by Randal MacFarlane at Archerfield, Queensland and was first registered as VH-XVB ‘Little Puff’ on 7 May 1992. VH-XVB has been displayed at numerous air shows over the years by Randal and is somewhat of an icon of the Warbird movement in Australia, particularly in Queensland where it always seems to turn up at events across the State.
This particular Bird Dog was one of a group of the type brought into Australia from Thailand and Vietnam by the late Col Pay.
The aircraft features a very comprehensive fit out of contemporary equipment including accurate dummy smoke rockets for target marking. The radio equipment and instrumentation is also period correct and it is finished in an excellent period correct grey Camouflage scheme.
The aircraft carries the Snoopy mascot on the nose and really looks the part as a real Warbird, especially “armed” with the eight smoke rockets under the wings. It seems almost unbelievable that this aircraft has lived a hard 64 years of service. The restoration is a credit to Randal McFarlane and rest of those involved in its restoration – it is in beautiful condition.
The aircraft is powered by the ever reliable Continental O-470-11 flat six engine giving it a very respectable performance and is a delight to fly, having very few vices and being very forgiving as with the majority of the Cessna tail dragger line.
Bird Dogs are very popular as Warbirds in Australia and globally because of their practicality and desirability, which ensures they are still commanding good prices in the market. A good Bird Dog is worth well in excess of $100,000 AUD – a lot more than an equivalent civil Cessna of the same age!
The Bird Dog was a legend in South East Asian conflicts, where it was able to loiter over downed airmen for hours and assist in their helicopter extraction. Many airmen owe their lives to the Bird Dog. The FAC (Forward Air Control) pilots of the time were able to provide excellent guidance to attacking aircraft and “light up” targets with the smoke rockets mounted on the wings as well as correct bombing and artillery fire via the extensive radio fit out.
Australian pilots served on exchange with the USAF as FAC pilots and several Bird Dogs were even “Acquired “ by the Australian 161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight and flew alongside the Cessna 180 and Bell 47G helicopters of the unit. One of these aircraft “161” survived and was transferred back to Australia where it is on display to this day at the Museum of Australian Army Flying at Oakey.
It is intended to keep this aircraft flying at airshows and events well into the future and it will certainly attract attention wherever it goes.
© John Parker 2015