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Bird Dog Duo

Registration: G-VNAM & G-PDOG

Aircraft Type: X2 Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs 

Operator: G-VNAM O-I Aviation - G-PDOG R.J.Dalley

Year of Manufacture: G-VNAM 1951 - G-PDOG 1957

Powered by: Continental O-460, 213hp.

Colour Scheme: G-VNAM USAF 21st Vietnam 1966. G-PDOG - ?


Bird Dog (G-VNAM)

Built in the second production batch, this O-1 BirdDog (Cessna model 305A, US Army designation L-19A, USAF redesignation O-1 from 1962) was initially assigned to the US Air Force with serial 51-4781 & allocated to train Japanese Pilots in the USA prior to the establishment of the post-WW2 Japanese state (in 1954).


The Korean War was in full swing at this time & most state-side Bird Dogs were hurriedly reassigned to front line service, so the next part of its history is unknown, only that it arrived in Japan some time in mid 1954, likely via Korea.


It was used by the new Japanese National Security Force (Hoantai) from August 1954 until November 1956, when, 18 days after the Japanese Self Defence Forces were activated, it was transferred to the Japan Ground Self Defence Force with serial 11017 (JG-1017).


It remained in Japan for the next 23 years.


A rare photo from 1969 shows it carrying the code letter N on its nose, equipped with skis against a backdrop of snowy mountains, indicating that it was then assigned to the Northern Regional Army Aviation Sqn, based at Okadama on the northern island of Hokkaido. It was retired form service in the late 1970s & was returned to the US Air Force when the Military Assistance Programme expired in 1978.


The USAF transferred the aircraft to the Civil Air Patrol in 1982 & it must have been in poor condition even then, as it drew the short straw of being allocated to the Hawaii wing, where it towed gliders at Dillingham Field, O'ahu (Honolulu) for the next 35 years.


It is one of the oldest BirdDogs still flying, having not stopped from 1951 to 2017, when it was brought to the UK. It logged over 8,000 hours in military service & over 10,000 hours glider towing. Having spent much of its life on Pacific islands, it was in a very tired condition when it arrived at Membury for restoration.


Very few O-1s survived Vietnam, most were left behind or donated to the South Vietnamese Air Force. In recognition of the O-1 pilots who flew as Forward Air Controllers during the Vietnam War we chose to restore it to a USAF scheme as it would have carried in Vietnam circa 1966.


The inspiration for this was a 21st TASS FAC called John Flanagan, who served in Vietnam as a USAF Forward Air Controller assigned to Project Delta & who kept detailed records of his tour, later writing a memoir "Vietnam Above the Treetops" that provides the most detailed insight into a FACs role in that conflict & the amazing flying they did.


Bird Dog (G-PDOG)

G-PDOG  S/N 24550 was one of the last production batch of Bird Dogs so she missed the French Indochina war but served in the Algerian conflict. She was delivered new to the French Army in 1957 as 24550 and shipped to Algeria.

In December 1984 she was acquired privately and registered F-GKGP. She was acquired and registered G-PDOG 25th September 1998.


G-PDOG is painted in the colours of the famous Bird Dog that was flown by South Vietnamese Air Force Major Ly Bung during the fall of Saigon. Seeking to escape the North Vietnamese overrun of the South, he loaded his family (wife & five children) in the back and flew her out to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. The USN pushed a load of Huey helicopters over the side to make space for him to land. (look on YouTube). The actual aircraft is in the Pensacola USN museum.

Image credit: G-VNAM & G-PDOG - Darren Harbar.

Cessna O-1 Bird Dog
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