1945 Stinson Sentinel L-5C (VW)
USAAF 44-17280 FAA N178
Colonel RB “Doc” Hecker
The Flying Jeep
The Stinson L-5 Sentinel is a single engine, 2-place tandem arrangement utility military observation-liaison reconnaissance type aircraft that was initially designed in 1941 and manufactured by the Stinson Division, The Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation, located in Wayne, MI, USA. The prototype Model V-75 corporate style aircraft was a conversion of an earlier Stinson Model 105 Voyager. The final accepted military design was Stinson’s model number V-76, and the subsequent delivered military designation was L-5 (VW); the VW indicating the Wayne, MI manufacturing facility. The first civilian flight of the Nashville, TN built prototype model V-75B, civilian registry NX27711, occurred on June 19, 1940 and was later modified with a Lycoming 0-435 military engine upgrade as the V-75C. The first official acceptance flight of the military Model V-76 was on June 28, 1941 as the US Army O-62. The L-5 series aircraft were in production from 1941-1945 and were in primary US military service from 1942 to the 1950s, with some later models seeing service into the 1960s. Other military designators assigned to this model of aircraft were: O-62 (USAAF 1941), L-5 (USAAF 1943), OY (US Marine Corps), and U-19 (USAF 1962). With a gross weight of 2,250 pounds and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities, the L-5 was easily able to carry to carry heavy loads in and out of unimproved fields. Based upon it robust qualities, the aircraft’s ubiquitous use in the role of a utility aerial vehicle quickly lead to its being given the nickname of “The Flying Jeep”.
A grand total of 3,591 L-5 variants were produced beginning with the L-5 and continuing with the L-5B, L-5C, L5E and L-5G. The L-5 was a standard “observer” model. The L5-A design was not placed into production as its proposed Ranger in-line engine was dedicated to other aircraft manufacturers. The next modification was the L-5B ambulance version which featured expansive cabin transparencies and a right sided loading hatch capable of accommodating a patient litter (stretcher) behind the pilot. The model L-5C was essentially the L5-B configuration with the addition of being capable of mounting a photo reconnaissance camera behind the cabin seats. The designator L5-D was reserved for a design project in 1943 that was not developed. The redesigned L-5E saw both an engine and wing upgrade to further the STOL capabilities of the aircraft. The L5-E and later models had adjustable drooping ailerons to increase lift at slow speeds. There was no official L-5F version although the USAF converted a 1945 L-5B (44-17103) with a propeller and exhaust upgrade to “stealth” status and designated it as an XL-5F. The L-5G was the final variant manufactured and had engine and equipment upgrades. This model was designated as the U-19B in 1962 by the USAF. There are fewer than 200 registered L-5 variants listed on the FAA database, and as this robust aircraft saw world-wide service, it is probable that flyable L-5s can be found almost anywhere general aviation is active.
N-178 was part of a block of L-5Cs contracted in 1944 by the US Army and completed on February 2, 1945 as construction number V76-3571 with assigned US Army serial number 44-17280. The delivered power plant was a military series Lycoming 0-435 6 cylinder horizontally opposed normally aspirated engine with a designed rating of 185 horsepower (138 kW). A wooden propeller was standard equipment. The L-5C was a standard L5-B ambulance model with a factory conversion as a photo-reconnaissance version capable of mounting an US Army K-2 camera in the rear fuselage. A total of 200 L5-C models were constructed as USAAF military block 44-17253 through 44-17452.
N178 was initially delivered to the USAAF and saw Pacific Theater war service at Clark Field, The Philippines. It apparently was transferred post-hostilities to the Philippine Air Corps which later became the Philippine Air Force. At some time in the past, the fuselage was metalized and extra wing fuel tanks were installed. The engine was retro-fitted with a pilot controlled Hartzell Hydro-Selective propeller. The aircraft eventually saw civilian service in the Philippines. It was imported back into the United States in 1994 as a group of 5 aircraft where it underwent type certificate A-764 conformity acceptance by the FAA in 1995 and was assigned registry number N178. The aircraft was subsequently acquired by the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum and is currently maintained and operated by members of the Tex Hill Wing (Hondo, TX) of the Commemorative Air Force as an L-5C (VW). The markings currently displayed on N178 represent the 1st Air Commando Group, 10th Air Force, which included composite aircraft utilized in India from 1944-1945 as part of the China-India-Burma (CIB) campaign. Both L-5 and L-5B aircraft assigned to the 1st ACG typically performed essential cargo and passenger ferry service in addition to “hack” service between subordinate commands and field headquarters.
RB “Doc” Hecker (CAF 35011) is a FAA Senior AME (20969) who retired from the US Army Medical Department in 1997 after 26 years of service. He holds a Commercial/Instrument Pilot Certificate for ASEL, ASES, AMEL, SIC B-17 and AMES along with an A&P Mechanic Certificate. He has logged over 2,500 hours and prefers small, intimate airparks. He has restored a 1965 Cessna C210E (N4904U), a 1946 Taylorcraft BC12-D (NC43306),a 1946 Aeronca 7AC (NC2241E), refurbished a 1943 Aeronca O-58B / L-3B (NC47185), a 1945 Stinson L-5C (N178) and a 1947 Taylorcraft BC12-D (N43928). He is currently restoring a 1947 Aeronca 7BC / L-16 (N119TX). His other projects include building a RV-8 (N51TX) and he is assisting in the restoration of a 1976 Taylorcraft F-19 (N3556T). He has previously owned a Cessna C-172 (N61785), a Grumman AA-5B (N74447) and a Mooney M20C (N10AD). In his free time, Doc practices medicine in San Antonio, TX. He is a member of EAA Chapter 35 of San Antonio, TX, EAA Chapter 92 of Orange, CA, and is an EAA Technical Counselor and Flight Advisor. In addition, he is a Life Member of the Commemorative Air Force and affiliates with the Tex Hill Wing (Hondo, TX) as a Sponsor Pilot, Houston Wing (Houston, TX) as a Sponsor Pilot, and crews with the Gulf Coast Wing (Houston, TX) as a Sponsor Pilot, Flight Engineer and member of the maintenance team where he does sheet metal and fabric repair work on that magnificent 1945 B17-G war bird “Texas Raiders” (N7227C).