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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedL-5 love affair leads to Oshkosh
By Frederick A. Johnsen EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

July 28, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - The object of Taylor Stevenson’s affections is more than three times his age, and he vows that he and his love will forever remain inseparable. His mesmerizing affair is with a 1945 Stinson L-5G, the last model of the durable L-5 liaison series.

Now 20 years old, Taylor’s infatuation began at age 12, when he participated in Commemorative Air Force air shows with his father in the family T-6. “I knew realistically if I was going to get into the warbird movement I’d start out small,” Taylor explains. He was hooked by the L-5’s pedigree. Unlike most liaison aircraft of the era that evolved from civilian counterparts, the L-5 was all G.I. all the way.

Most powerful of the liaison family, the L-5 can also be among the most docile. Taylor likes to show planeside visitors how his warbird’s ailerons can be simultaneously drooped to add effective flap area to the wing. It’s pretty much a trick for final approach once a landing is committed; even though the ailerons still work differentially, their travel is restricted when drooped, and the airspeed can be down to 40 miles an hour in a descent.

Knowing his first warbird would be an L-5, it was a matter of time before Taylor settled on a disassembled G model that had not flown since a minor ground looping in 1958. As he researched the history of L-5s, Taylor acquired the papers, photos, and uniforms of a U.S. Army captain in the 1st Cavalry who had flown L-5s in postwar Japan in the late 1940s. These images and additional rare color slides were a window into the L-5G’s world as an Army—not Army Air Forces—liaison aircraft. That’s how Taylor decided to paint and mark his G model, complete with the large yellow and black 1st Cavalry badge that adorns L-5s in some of his vintage photos. On special occasions, Taylor dons the uniform of the departed Army captain to lend a poignant realism to the display of his airplane.

Taylor enlisted the help of L-5 restorer Lanny Parcell in Fort Worth to make his dormant L-5 come alive again. This is the 14th L-5 Parcell’s Cowtown Aerocrafters has turned out, and Taylor was determined to help Parcell outdo himself. Taylor is quick to point out that Parcell “did the brunt of the restoration.” Taylor’s contributions ranged from “the gopher stuff” to tracking down vintage radio tuners, first aid pouches, a flare gun and flares, a USAAF-marked fire extinguisher, and all the small touches that make a warbird stand out from the crowd.

Exterior colors accurately represent wartime olive drab with medium green edge blotching, with undersurfaces a convincingly dark shade of gray. Insignia and numerals are crisply proportioned and look very vintage. Inside, parts that required refurbishing and repainting have been restamped with original part number stamps in the correct locations. To ensure this level of authenticity, Taylor and Parcell carefully wet-sanded old paint until evidence of part numbers and markings was revealed. The result is a tour de force in how to restore a warbird.

About that long-term romance, Taylor says: “This plane is going to be with me my entire life because I want my kids to learn on it.” Taylor, a student at Vanderbilt University, is not ready for the wife-and-kids part yet. But if his sequencing of warbird before wife breaks the normal order of things, consider that he soloed on his 16th birthday— before he got his driver’s license.

Panorama by Pat St. Clair
An authentic look into the cockpit of a World War II era L5 observation plane.
Click the photo to open in QuickTime, then simply put your cursor on the photo and
move right or left to see what is in either direction; you can also zoom in.

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