Airfix Cessna O-1 Bird Dog

1/72 scale
Kit No. A01058
Cost: $5.75
Decals: Three versions (USAF, Vietnam,1960; Canadian Armed Forces, 1974; Vietnamese Republic Air Force, 1960)
Comments: Perfect weekend kit of the Cessna O-1 spotter plane


One of a long line of civilian light planes converted to military use (like the Taylor, Piper, and Stinson “Grasshoppers” of World War II fame), the Cessna L-19 “Bird Dog” observation and Forward Air Control aircraft traced its origins to the Cessna 170, a 4-place civilian light plane, with its military power upgraded from 145 to 213hp.

Winning a U.S. Army contract in 1950 with its Model 305A redesign of the Model 170, Cessna was awarded an initial contract for 418 of the aircraft, which were then designated L-19A, and named “Bird Dog.” The O-1 was employed as an artillery spotter and reconnaissance craft in the Korean War, but saw action only in limited numbers, mainly with the Army and Marines. It was more widely used in Vietnam from 1962 on, for artillery spotting, reconnaissance and forward air control. By the time the final aircraft rolled off the Cessna assembly line in 1962, over 3,400 Bird Dogs had been built.

Although they were only used in small numbers during the Korean War, Bird Dogs were widely employed during the early days of the Vietnam war, when the U.S. Air Force acquired many to use in the Forward Air Control and observation roles, for which they were upgraded to carry wing stores, such as White Phosphorus (“Willie-Pete”) target-marking rockets.

While long out of production, some Bird Dogs are still in active use around the world. In Canada, for instance, O-1s were deactivated in 1973 by the Canadian Army (with whom it first entered service in 1954), but 17 were subsequently reassigned to the Royal Canadian Air Cadets for glider towing and familiarization flying. On the civilian market, Bird Dogs have become popular as economical warbirds in the United States and Australia.

The Kit

The Airfix Cessna O-1 is a simple kit, molded in grey plastic and consisting of 36 parts. It has raised panel lines, and considering the age of the mold, a very well detailed pilot figure and well sculpted propeller blade. Overall, the kit is not terribly detailed but should not present any difficulties in construction.  The Bird Dog’s decals are very good, better than any I’ve seen from Airfix in the past, perfectly in register and with realistic color.


This kit is a “new” re-issue by Airfix and has very good decals. There are three versions:

  1. One for a U.S. Air Force O-1F in Vietnam, circa 1960;
  2. One for a South Vietnamese Air Force O-1E, also 1960;
  3. And finally an O-1 of the Canadian Air Force’s Tactical Air Group Mobile Command, circa 1975.







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