N47648, a 1943 Taylorcraft L-2A-TA Liaison Warbird

Copyright 2007, Doug Robertson, posted on 2007-12-13





The Taylorcraft Model D tandem two-seat high wing cabin monoplane taildragger trainer aircraft was an outgrowth of the Taylorcraft Models A (40 Hp) and B (50-65 Hp) side-by-side two seat aircraft in the pre-WWII years. The D model was introduced in 1941 with a nine inch fuselage extension to accommodate tandem seating and was offered for ab initio training in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. The aircraft was better known as the Army L-2, and was produced through 1946. Some 2,200 were delivered counting all subsequent versions of the O-57/L-2 models. The basic Taylorcraft D model was initially built in three versions, the DC with 65 Hp Continental A65-7 or -8 (O-170-3), the DF with 65 Hp Franklin 4AC150 and the DL with 50 Hp Lycoming O-145-B1 engines. Many of the DFs and DLs were later converted to the larger displacement, better performing Continental 65 Hp engine as DCs. These opposed four cylinder air-cooled engines had exposed cylinders in the narrow tandem seating fuselage much like the engine installation in the similar tandem seat Piper J-3C, 3F and 3L Cubs. If the reader is wondering about the Taylorcraft Model C in this series, that aircraft was a British license-built version of the Model B (later Plus C).
The US Army evaluated four Taylorcraft Model Ds as YO-57s, and 70 were subsequently ordered as O-57 unadorned observation aircraft. A militarized version was dubbed O-57A and later redesignated L-2A, for combat liaison aircraft.. Additionally, the L-2B and L-2M versions were procured in several contracts in quantity. The L-2M featured a fully cowled engine and wing spoilers. A number of Taylorcraft Model DC, DF and DL aircraft were impressed from civilian owners for military service after the war broke out, as well as Taylorcraft earlier civilian Model BC, BF and BLs. The impressed aircraft numbered around 50. After the war, Taylorcraft dropped the tandem seating Model D and brought out the civilian side-by-side seating Model BC-12D with strengthened fuselage and with 65 horsepower Continental engine, fully cowled. The BC-12D was faster in cruise and top speed than the Piper J-3C CUB with same engine. Many of the O-57/L-2 Warbirds were sold to civilians after the war.
The subject aircraft of this article  registered N47648 is called a 1943 Taylorcraft DCO by the Federal Aviation Administration, and because of its year build and configuration was a L-2A-TA of the US Army Air Corps in WWII. It is owned by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum at Lake Hood near Anchorage, and is in beautiful appearance.. Yet, some differences from the stock L-2A-TA are the deeper L-2M-style fully cowled engine (which is now a Continental A&C 65 engine) and the colorful, but non-standard paint scheme. The observation and liaison warbirds were painted a camouflage olive drab over gray during their war service years. The red ball in the fuselage side insignia seen on N47648 was removed from all US military aircraft prior to 1943 because of the recognition similarity to the Japanese red sun insignia on their combat aircraft. The blue circle with white star and blue-outlined white bars US insignia (not shown on N47648) became standard for a time in the war years and after. It is believed that 476 examples were built of the L-2A-AT model. (I just hope my friends in the Museum Restoration Hangar don't jump all over me on this).
A prominent recognition feature of the Taylorcraft L-2A-TA liaison aircraft  was the modified cabin and cut down aft fuselage with far more 'Vinylite' brand  fenestration, including on the cabin roof replacing the fabric covering there. The large cabin windows could be opened in flight or on the ground. A cutaway wing trailing edge near the wing root on each side and an extended clear canopy over the cut-down flat turtledeck to accommodate a military SCR-585 transceiver offered better and wider visibility through the extended streamlined clear fairing behind the rear seat. The rear observer/radio operator could be seated facing forward or aft, with excellent visibilty out the aircraft. As an aside, the colorful paint scheme may be excused because this aircraft is maintained in airworthy condition able to fly out of the Lake Hood gravel strip Z41, and if lost or downed could be more easily located in the harsh Alaska flying weather and terrain conditions than if camouflaged. I don't know that the green-tinted fenestration on N47648 was standard, though.
Please click on the top photo to see the Aircraft Profile page and more information and photos of N47648, including Timothy Aanerud's fine photos taken at Z41. Mine were taken on the Museum grounds. The lower photo shows the excellent visibility afforded by the Taylorcraft design, taken on a rainy Alaskan day.
I am listing the specifications and performance figures for both the Taylorcraft Model D built with best performing engine and for the L-2A-TA military version for your comparison.
Model DC                                                                                                           Model O-57/L-2 Grasshopper
Specifications                                                                                                  Specifications
Power: one 65 Hp Continental  A65-7 or -8 (O-170-3)                   Power: one 65 Hp Continental O-170-3
four cylinder air-cooled engine                                                    four cylinder air-cooled engine
Wingspan: 35 ft. 5 in.                                                               Wingspan: 35 ft. 5 in.
Wing area: 180 sq ft.                                                                Wing area: 181 sq. ft.
Length: 22 ft. 7 in.                                                                    Length: 22 ft. 9 in.
Height: 7 ft. 0 in.                                                                      Height: 8 ft. 0 in.
Weight empty: 720 lb.                                                               Weight empty: 875 Lb.
Weight loaded: 1,200 lb.                                                           Weight loaded: 1,300 lb.
Power loading: 18,46 lb/Hp                                                        Power loading: 20 lb/Hp
Wing Loading: 6.67 lb/sq. ft.                                                      Wing loading: 7.18 lb/Hp
Performance                                                                                                     Performance                                                                                                 
Max speed: 102 mph                                                                Max speed: 90 or 98 mph (references vary)                                                                                                                                            
Cruise speed: 92 mph                                                               Cruise speed: 78 mph
Stall speed:  35 mph                                                                 Stall speed: unknown                                                               
Initial  climb rate: 600 ft/min.                                                     Initial climb rate: 350 ft/min.
Ceiling: 15,000 ft                                                                      Ceiling: 10,050 ft.
Cruise range: 300 miles                                                             Cruise range: 230 miles

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