AIRPOWER ORPHANS, PART II: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LIAISON AIRCRAFT?

The airplane was remarkably pretty. Sporting a steel frame, the O-49 was a high-wing, fabric-covered monoplane built for the Army Air Corps in 1940. Silvery sheet metal enclosed the engine, in front of a two-place cockpit. The skeletons of the control surfaces and tail were stainless steel, immune to corrosion. It could land in its own length, or clear a 50-foot obstacle a mere 500 feet after starting a takeoff roll. Drawn from the Stinson Model 74, which engineers designed as a business airplane, the O-49 was a new type of aircraft — the liaison aircraft.

Also called an “Army cooperation” aircraft, designers intended the liaison aircraft to perform traditional observation functions but added another traditional role — using small aircraft to facilitate communications between widespread ground elements (especially artillery) on the move — and to ensure that air support met the needs of the ground commanders in an environment where distant communications were unreliable. To do that, the aircraft needed to be able to land pretty much anywhere.

READ MORE