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L-3 Grasshopper
Aeronca L-3B belonging to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Role Observation and liaison aircraft
Manufacturer Aeronca Aircraft
First flight 1941
Primary user United States Army Air Forces

The Aeronca L-3 group of observation and liaison aircraft were used by the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. The L-3 series were adapted from Aeronca's pre-war Tandem Trainer and Chief models.


Design and development

The L-3 was initially designated the O-58 at the time it was first ordered by the Air Corps. The airplane was given its service tests in the summer of 1941 during maneuvers in Louisiana and Texas where it was used for various support purposes such as a light transport and courier.

At the time American ground forces went into combat around the world during World War II, the Army Air Force began using the L-3 in much the same manner as the observation balloon was used in France during World War I — spotting enemy troop and supply concentrations and directing artillery fire on them. It was also used for other types of liaison and transport duties and short-range reconnaissance which required airplanes that could land and take off in short distances from unprepared landing strips. Unfortunately, by the time that the United States entered the war, the Aeronca L-3 (and sister ship Taylorcraft L-2) were declared Operationally Obsolete, and never formally left for a foreign front; this was partially due to a nasty tendency for it to stall and spin in a left-hand turn, partially because newer and more capable aircraft were already being pressed into service. Instead they were relegated to training fields to serve as trainers and hacks. Liaison pilots would train in an L-3 and then be moved on to the standard front-line aircraft like the Piper L-4 or, in the case of the Army Air Corps, the Stinson L-5.

Research and photos indicated that some L-3s were (accidentally?) shipped to the African front, and subsequently given to the Free French Forces operating within the area at the time. It is not known how many were received by the French, nor how many survived the war. At least one of the aircraft served with US forces in Italy.

The TG-5 was a three-seat training glider of 1942 based upon the O-58 design. This aircraft retained the O-58's rear fuselage, wings, and tail while adding a front fuselage in place of the engine. In all, Aeronca built 250 TG-5 gliders for the Army. The Navy received a small number as the LNR-1.


  • YO-58 — Four aircraft with a 65 hp (48 kW) YO-170-3 engine
  • O-58 / L-3 — A civilian Aeronca Defender in USAAC markings. Identifiable by "D"-windows in rear, and side-by-side seating.
  • O-58A / L-3B — Now sported greenhouse canopy (like the above photo), and tandem (one behind the other) seating. Small radio mast on vertical stabilizer(identifiable by a tiny windsock). Some were fitted with wind-driven generators.
  • O-58B / L-3B — An L-3C before USAAC switched classification systems from "Observer" to "Liaison."
  • L-3C — In response to "field" reports, body is widened by two inches to accommodate pilots flying with parachutes and other army gear. Radio mast is now a small tab over the vertical stabilizer and is little more than a grounding point.
  • L-3D — D-J model L-3s are not actual contract aircraft, but aircraft straight from the civilian factory impressed into military service. An L-3D is merely an Aeronca 65TF Defender with a Franklin engine
  • L-3E — An Aeronca 65TC Defender with a Continental engine.
  • L-3G — 65L Super Chief with a Lycoming engine (4 planes)
  • L-3H — 65T Defender with a Lycoming engine (1 plane)
  • L-3J — 65TC Defender with a Continental engine (1 plane)
  • TG-5 : 250 were built as training gliders for the USAAC.
  • TG-33 : TG-5 converted for prone pilot.[1]
  • LNR : Three TG-5s were supplied to the US Navy.


 United States

Museum displays

Specifications (L-3C)

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II.[2]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot, observer
  • Length: 21 ft 10 in (6.67 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 1 in (2.74 m)
  • Wing area: 169 ft² (15.6 m²)
  • Empty weight: 835 lb (379 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 1,260 lb (572 kg)
  • Powerplant:Continental O-170-3 OR a Continental O-65-8 flat-4 engine, 65 hp (48 kW)


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p.584.
  2. ^ Bridgeman, Leonard. “The Aeronca Grasshopper.” Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946.. p. 203-204. ISBN 1 85170 493 0.


External links



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