My friend David has a nose for aircraft; by that, I don’t mean that he exclusively enjoys the nose sections of individual aircraft (despite the fact that he knows a great deal about nose art!), I mean that he can almost sniff them out…..
There we were, our visit to the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum at Geneseo, New York, (home of the famed Geneseo Airshow) was almost over, and he suggested that we might look behind this rather dusty, and to my eyes, unpromising door. It lead to a small annex, where we found a selection of exhibits stored away from the main collection – well done, David! Here you can see what appears to be a New York National Guard Aeronca L-16A, finished in typical U.S. Army scheme of the 1950s, all-over silver, with appropriate warning stencils and serial numbers. Aeronca had produced many hundreds of O-58 Defenders during WW2, but they were overshadowed by the products from Piper, Taylorcraft and Stinson, who seemed to get all the publicity and the majority of the front-line rôles. Never the less, every type in this class of liaison aircraft were collectively refered to as ‘Grasshoppers’.
The same need for artillery observation, casualty evacuation, training and liaison remained in the immediate postwar years, and Aeronca upgraded their basic Champion model, by adding a more powerful engine – Continental Motors Corporation O-190-1 of 85 hp, strengthening the wing and making alterations to the undercarriage. This Model 7BCM Champion sold well in the civilian market, and it was adopted (with alterations) for the U.S. military, as the L-16A. The L-16A, and a slightly more powerful version, the L-16B, saw service during the Korean War with the U.S. Air Force, as well as R.O.K. forces (seven were supplied to South Korea). Postwar, many were passed on to the Civil Air Patrol, or used by National Guard units, before eventual disposal to private buyers.
I said that this aircraft appeared to be an L-16A. However, there is a small civil registration, N3033E, under the tailplane. This reveals that this is a Aeronca 7BCM Champion, c/n 7AC-6619, built in 1946, and re-worked to resemble an L-16A (despite having the lower-powered Continental A&C65 engine of only 65 hp) of the New York National Guard.
There are some genuine L-16A aircraft still active, although substituting their original wooden wing spars for modern metal ones can cost owners around $13,000! Elaine Huf of Kingsley, Pennsylvania flies an amazing 1947 L-16A (N4008A, ’47-1095′); the aircraft is called Rudolf, and Ms Huf definitely does NOT believe in low-visibility camouflage – Rudolf is bright pink!
Oh, and the figure in the background, wearing a snow-hat (the hangar was unheated, and the outside temperature on the airfield was about minus 20F) is none other than David, who is searching for yet MORE aircraft – and he found some, too!