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O-1 Bird Dog Kit

Model USA 1/48 O-1 Bird Dog Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2009 Manufacturer Model USA
Subject O-1 Bird Dog Scale 1/48
Kit Number 0001 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build Cons Flash on parts, fit
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

O-1 Bird Dog Kit
O-1 Bird Dog Kit
O-1 Bird Dog Kit
O-1 Bird Dog Kit

For a quick look at this aircraft's history, look here.

I had the opportunity to fly the Bird Dog in the mid-1970s while I was in school in Monterey, CA. Fort Ord had several L-19/O-1s in their flying club and I quickly arranged for a check-out in the type. With a perfect sea breeze shooting straight down the runway, I stopped the aircraft at the departure end, and held the brakes. Before I could get the throttle to full power, my check-pilot and I were airborne before I could even release the brakes. I had reached pattern altitude before reaching mid-field and we aviated off to the south over the post.

The check pilot wanted to demonstrate the aircraft's low-speed stability and wanted to see how slow I could get the aircraft before it would stall. Soon I had the aircraft literally hanging on the prop with zero airspeed showing on the indicator and as we gently turned into the wind, we watched the ground move backwards beneath us!

After some additional orientation, it was time for the first landing. Downwind entry into the pattern, the check pilot wants speed and altitude maintained all the way onto final approach. It felt a little odd still being at pattern altitude as I watched the runway numbers disappear under the nose on final, but then the check pilot called for idle power, full flaps, and about 65 knots airspeed. With full flaps out, I had to nearly point the nose straight down to maintain 65 knots - those weren't flaps, they were barn doors. As the runway got uncomfortably close, the check pilot wanted the nose to stay down/maintain airspeed until about 50 feet above ground level and then flare the aircraft. I now know what it must have looked like diving on warships during WW2!

At 50 feet I smartly pulled the stick all the way back and the O-1 instantly stopped flying and plunked onto its landing gear with less than a 50 foot roll. Wow! This aircraft could get in and out of places that even the Fieseler Storch couldn't. Nevertheless, if you didn't maintain control of the aircraft during take-off or landing, it would ground loop on you in an instant. There were several examples of damaged Bird Dogs on the Fort Ord flightline. Since I took my Private Pilot's checkride in a Cessna 140 (taildragger), the Bird Dog felt like home on the ground and like a dream in the air (as long as you're not in a hurry to get anywhere).

Here is the first and only kit to be released from Model USA - the 1/48 scale O-1 Bird Dog. When these kits hit the streets back in 1988, I grabbed a few of these for my collection since I thoroughly enjoy the subject.

Molded in light gray styrene, the kit is presented on two parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The kit is simply laid out and features scribed details. The sprues have a bit of flash in the wrong places, so you'll be spending a little time cleaning up these parts for your project.

The kit will require modeling skills to complete as it has some fit issues, but nothing that can't be overcome with the usual regimen of dry fitting, filing and filling that we'd do on any other limited production kit.

The kit does have the Continental six-cylinder engine in the cowling, so you can modify the kit to open the cowling, but you'll need to add the requisite plumbing and wiring to render the right effect.

The cockpit is nicely done with the rear instrument cluster even having details molded on its rear side. The differences in the front and rear seats are properly captured in the kit.

This is a good candidate to use for vacuforming your own windows. While the kit windows aren't bad, some are a little thick and replacing these with vac windows and windscreens will greatly enhance the model's appearance.

Markings are provided for three examples:

  • O-1E, 57-6268, 19 TASS, USAF, Bien Hoa AB, 1966
  • O-1E, 51-14981, 124 OS, VNAF, Bien Hoa AB, 1975
  • L-19, 11051, 1 OS, JASDF, Tachikawa, Japan, 1980

I don't know if we'll ever see another styrene L-19/O-1 in 1/48 scale, and despite some of the fit and flash issues, I've seen this model build up into a great result. I've definitely still have my models and still plan to build these one of these days soon! Now if we could only get this subject done in 1/35th scale!