Stinson L-1 Vigilant

The Stinson L-1 Vigilant (company designation Model 74) was a 1940s American light observation aircraft built by the Stinson Aircraft Company at Wayne, Michigan (by November 1940 a division of Vultee Aircraft Corporation).[1] The aircraft was operated by the United States Army Air Corps as the O-49 until 1942.

L-1 (O-49) Vigilant
Vultee L-1A Vigilant USAF
Role Light Observation, Liaison
Manufacturer Stinson Aircraft Corporation
Designer A.P. Fontaine
First flight 15 July 1940
Introduction 1941
Primary users United States Army Air Corps
Royal Air Force
Number built 324

Design and development

The Vigilant was designed in response to a 1938 United States Army Air Corps design competition for a two-seat light observation aircraft. When the German-manufactured Fieseler Storch was demonstrated at the Cleveland Air Races, the Air Corps revised its specifications in an attempt to match the performance of the Storch. Stinson (later a division of Vultee), won the $1.5 million contract over 11 competitors, including the Bellanca YO-50 and Ryan YO-51 Dragonfly.[2]

The Model 74 was a single radial engined high-wing monoplane with trailing-edge high-lift devices for low speed and high lift performance. The prototype aircraft was built with full-span leading-edge automatic slots manufactured by Handley Page, and slotted flaps. The Model V-74 was given the Army designation YO-49 for evaluation, with the first flight by test pilot Al Schramm on 15 July 1940.[2]

The aircraft was built of steel tubing and fabric, with the fuselage forward of the wing enclosed in sheet metal. Control surfaces and the empennage were fabric-covered stainless steel. The Lycoming power plant was hand-cranked inertia starting, and was fitted with a Hamilton Standard constant speed propeller. At least 12 ambulance conversions were fitted with Edo 49-4000 floats (4,000-pound displacement)[3] for amphibious landings and takeoffs.[2]

The Vigilant was capable of stopping in less than its own length, and could maintain stable flight at 31 miles per hour. Anecdotally, the Vigilant was said to be capable of backwards flight in a strong headwind.[2]

Operational history

Stinson L-1
1941 L-1, Reserve Grand Champion, AirVenture 2016
Stinson O-49 Vigilant N63230 Weeks Tamiami FL 11.11.89R
Ex-USAAC O-49 Vigilant in the Weeks Museum at Tamiami, Florida, in 1989 wearing RAF-style markings

The Stinson Vigilant was used in diverse roles such as towing training gliders, artillery spotting, liaison, emergency rescue, transporting supplies and special espionage flights.[4] Another contract was later awarded for the O-49A which had a slightly longer fuselage and other equipment changes. In April 1942 the aircraft were redesignated the L-1 and L-1A (liaison). Up to 17 L-1 and 96 L-1A aircraft were allocated to the British Royal Air Force under the Lend-Lease Act, with varying numbers given for aircraft actually delivered (see Variants, below). The RAF designated the aircraft the Vigilant Mk I and Vigilant Mk II respectively. General Harry Crerar, Commander of the First Canadian Army in Europe during World War II, maintained a Vigilant for his personal use.

Aircraft were modified for a variety of roles including as an ambulance aircraft. No further production orders were placed as the aircraft was superseded by procurement of vast numbers of both the militarized Piper J-3 Cub, the L-4 Grasshopper (in addition to Aeronca's and Taylorcraft's similar conversions), and Stinson's own L-5 Sentinel, itself produced in nearly 4,000 examples; were all generically classified as "puddle-jumper" aircraft.

A Vigilant was modified in 1943–1944 for experiments in boundary layer control.[5]


Stinson 0-49 at Patterson Field during World War II
O-49 Vigilant at Patterson Field during World War II
Stinson Model 74
company designation
O-49 Vigilant
U.S. Army designation for first production batch, 142 built.[3]
L-1 Vigilant
1942 redesignation of O-49.[3]
O-49A Vigilant
Fuselage lengthened 13 in (33 cm)[6] 182 built.
O-49B Vigilant
Conversion to ambulance variant, three or four[7] converted.
L-1A Vigilant
1942 redesignation of O-49A.[3]
L-1B Vigilant
1942 redesignation of O-49B.[3]
L-1C Vigilant
L-1A ambulance variant, 113 converted.[7]
L-1D Vigilant
L-1A training glider tug, 14 to 21[7] converted.
L-1E Vigilant
L-1 amphibious ambulance variant, seven converted.[3]
L-1F Vigilant
L-1A amphibious ambulance variant, five conversions.[3]
Vigilant Mk I
RAF designation of L-1, 14[7] to 17 allocated by Lend Lease
Vigilant Mk II
RAF designation of L-1A, 96 allocated, circa 13 to 54[7] delivered
CQ-2 Vigilant
US Navy conversion of L-1A to target control aircraft, one or more[7] converted


 United Kingdom
 United States

Surviving aircraft

Five examples of the Stinson L-1 Vigilant currently survive in museums in the United States.[8]

Specifications (L-1A)

Data from American Warplanes of World War II[19]

General characteristics


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Eden and Moeng 2002, p. 1100.
  2. ^ a b c d Merriam 2002, p. 26.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Merriam 2002, p. 27.
  4. ^ Adcock 2005, p. 7.
  5. ^ "Money-box Slottery." Flight, 4 August 1949, p. 124.
  6. ^ "Vultee L-1A Vigilant." National Museum of the United States Air Force, 17 April 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Stinson O-49." Aerofiles, 17 April 2009.
  8. ^ Ogden 2007, p. 604
  9. ^ a b c Goodall, Geoff (6 September 2015). "STINSON O-49/L-1 VIGILANT" (PDF). Geoff Goodall's Aviation History Site. Geoffrey Goodall.
  10. ^ "1941 Stinson Vultee L-1E". Fantasy of Flight. Fantasy of Flight. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Airframe Dossier – Stinson L-1 Vigilant, s/n 40-3102 USAAF, c/r N63230". Aerial Visuals. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Fantasy of Flight's Stinson L-1 Flew Today!". Warbirds News. Warbirds News. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  13. ^ Baugher, Joe. "1940 USAAC Serial Numbers". Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  14. ^ "1941 STINSON L-1". Alaska Aviation Museum. Alaska Aviation Museuma. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Airframe Dossier – Stinson L-1F Vigilant, s/n 41-18915, c/r N1ZS". Aerial Visuals. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Airframe Dossier – Stinson L-1 Vigilant, s/n 41-19031 USAAF, c/r N1377B". Aerial Visuals. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  17. ^ page 55; Sport Aviation magazine; Vol.66 No.4 April 2017
  18. ^ "Vultee L-1A Vigilant". National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  19. ^ Donald 1995, p. 236.


  • Adcock, Al. US Liaison Aircraft in action (Aircraft in Action: No. 195). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 2005. ISBN 978-0897474870.
  • Donald, David (ed.). American Warplanes of World War II. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1-874023-72-7.
  • Eden, Paul and Soph Moeng (eds.). The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2002. ISBN 0-7607-3432-1
  • Merriam, Ray (ed.). World War II Journal #15: U.S. Military Aircraft of World War II. Bennington, Vermont, USA: Merriam Press, 2002. ISBN 1-57638-167-6.
  • Ogden, Bob. Aviation Museums and Collections of North America. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians ) Ltd, 2007. ISBN 0-85130-385-4.
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982–1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.

External links

10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group

The 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was to the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, West Germany. It was inactivated on 8 December 1957.

14th Weapons Squadron

The 14th Weapons Squadron is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the USAF Weapons School, stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The squadron is a geographically separated unit of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The mission of the squadron is to produce weapons officers for the special operations community by providing graduate level instructional flying on Air Force Special Operations Command aircraft through weapons instructor courses. Currently, the squadron produces special operations force weapons officers specializing in Lockheed AC-130, Lockheed MC-130 and Pilatus U-28 aircraft.

The unit traces its lineage back to the 14th Observation Squadron and participated in the landings at Normandy in June 1944. Later, during the Vietnam era, the 14th Air Commando Squadron, flew Douglas AC-47 Spooky gunships between 1967 and 1968. The 14th flew out of Nha Trang Air Base, Phan Rang Air Base, Bien Hoa Air Base, and Binh Thuy Air Base, providing fire support in defense of US air bases, special forces camps, Republic of Vietnam Army outposts, and South Vietnamese hamlets. Decorations of this combat unit include the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device.

These two units were consolidated in 1985.

36th Intelligence Squadron

The 36th Intelligence Squadron is an active non-flying squadron, of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to the Air Force Targeting Center at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, where it has been stationed since 1990. The squadron has earned the Air Force Meritorious Unit Award, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award while stationed at Langley.

During World War II the squadron served in the Pacific as the 36th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron The squadron earned the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for its combat operations during the Liberation of the Philippines in 1944–1945.

3d Special Operations Squadron

The 3d Special Operations Squadron flies MQ-1 Predator Remotely Piloted Aircraft and is currently located at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. The squadron is under the command of the Air Force Special Operations Command.

426th Reconnaissance Group

The 426th Tactical Intelligence Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was active as the 426th Reconnaissance Group in 1943, but was disbanded before becoming fully organized. It was reconstituted as a military intelligence unit in 1985, but has not been active since.

69th Reconnaissance Group

The 69th Reconnaissance Group was an active United States Air Force that is part of Air Combat Command. A geographically-separated unit of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, the group is stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota where it was a tenant of the 319th Air Base Wing.

The group served in the American and European Theaters of World War II as a reconnaissance unit flying a variety of aircraft until returning to the United States where it was inactivated. It was reactivated in the fall of 2011 as an unmanned aircraft reconnaissance group.

76th Tactical Reconnaissance Group

The 76th Tactical Reconnaissance Group is a disbanded United States Army Air Forces organization. It was last active in 1944 as part of the Desert Training Center at Thermal Army Air Field, California.

Carter Harman

Carter Harman (June 4, 1918; Brooklyn, New York – January 23, 2007; Stowe, Vermont) was a composer, writer, and music industry executive. During World War II, Harman achieved particular distinction for his service in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He piloted the first mission by a U.S. military helicopter in a combat zone in 1944. In 1945, the U.S. Army awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross for these efforts. Harman later rendered service to the music industry over a career spanning the 1940s through the 1980s. In 1981, BMI awarded him their Commendation of Excellence, and the American Composers Alliance awarded him their Laurel Leaf Award.

Chalgrove Airfield

Chalgrove Airfield (ICAO: EGLJ) is a former Second World War airfield in Oxfordshire, England. It is approximately 3 mi (4.8 km) north-northeast of Benson in the heart of South Oxfordshire between Henley and Oxford; about 42 mi (68 km) north-northwest of London.

Opened in 1943, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces. During the war it was used primarily as a combat reconnaissance airfield. After the war it was closed in late 1946.

Today, the airfield is primarily used by the Martin-Baker company for testing Ejection seats.

It was announced on 6 September 2016 that Chalgrove Airfield had been the subject of a Ministerial Transfer from the MoD to the Homes and Communities Agency, with a view to building houses on part of the airfield as part of the South Oxfordshire District Council's Local Plan 2032. This is subject to review and consultation.

Henschel Hs 126

The Henschel Hs 126 was a German two-seat reconnaissance and observation aircraft of World War II that was derived from the Henschel Hs 122. The pilot was seated in a protected cockpit under the parasol wing and the gunner in an open rear cockpit. The prototype aircraft frame was that of a Hs 122A fitted with a Junkers engine. The Hs 126 was well received for its good short takeoff and low-speed characteristics which were needed at the time. It was put into service for a few years, but was soon superseded by the general-purpose, STOL Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and the medium-range Focke-Wulf Fw 189 "flying eye".

High Barbaree (film)

High Barbaree (aka Enchanted Island) is a 1947 film directed by Jack Conway. It stars Van Johnson and June Allyson, in the third of their six screen pairings. The screenplay based on the novel High Barbaree (1945) by authors Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. The real-life drama of the Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft in the Pacific theater was merged into a search for a mystical "High Barbaree".

Kermit Weeks

Kermit Weeks (born July 14, 1953 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is an American aviation enthusiast, pilot, and aircraft collector. He has competed in aerobatics, designed aircraft, and promoted aviation and vintage aircraft restoration.Oil and gas royalties from the Weeks Royalty, derived from his grandfather Lewis George Weeks' work, provide Weeks with the funds, capital and resources to pursue the preservation of historic aircraft.

List of aircraft of the United Kingdom in World War II

Here is a list of aircraft used by the British Royal Air Force, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, Army Air Corps and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) during the Second World War.

List of experimental aircraft

This is a list of experimental aircraft, or aircraft used or built to conduct experiments involving aerodynamics, structural materials, propulsion systems, configuration and equipment. Prototypes, pre-production and homebuilt aircraft described as experimental but which were not used in this manner outside their own development are excluded.

Lycoming R-680

The Lycoming R-680 is a nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, the first aero engine produced by Lycoming. The engine was produced in two types, the E and B series; both are essentially the same. The B4E was available in a trainer version with a front exhaust collector "ring" for use without cylinder air baffles. R-680 received Approved Type Certificate No. 42 on 4 Feb 1930.

Ryan YO-51 Dragonfly

The Ryan YO-51 Dragonfly was an observation aircraft designed and built by Ryan Aeronautical for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). A single-engined parasol wing monoplane, it was designed for optimum STOL capability, but although three prototypes proved highly successful in testing, the Stinson YO-49 was judged superior and no production contract was placed.

Stinson Aircraft Company

The Stinson Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturing company in the United States between the 1920s and the 1950s.

Stinson L-5 Sentinel

The Stinson L-5 Sentinel was a World War II era liaison aircraft used by all branches of the U.S. military and by the British Royal Air Force. It was produced by the Stinson Aircraft Company. Along with the Stinson L-1 Vigilant, the L-5 was the only other American liaison aircraft of World War II that was purpose-built for military use and had no civilian counterpart. All other military liaison airplanes adopted during World War II were lightly modified "off-the-shelf" civilian models.

Stinson aircraft
Model numbers
Vultee aircraft
Manufacturer designations
By role
Designation sequences for this aircraft:


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.