The most substantial, and certainly most exceptional, among L-birds was the Stinson L-1 Vigilant. The L-1 derived from Stinson Aircraft Corporation’s Model 74. It was identified by the military as O-49, originally classified as an Observation aircraft. The L-1 was a rarity, due in part to the onerous task of keeping it flying. Its restoration proved, above all, a treasure hunt for the one-of-a-kind systems, accessories and equipment that made it unique. Despite the L-1’s absence today, ALS is proud to claim its revival began at Cannon Field.
This aircraft now resides at Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage, Alaska
Lending justification to the rarity of the L-1, Ken Wakefield noted in his book The Other Ninth Air Force: Ninth US Army Light Aircraft Operations in Europe 1944-45 (p. 44), “As Andrew Kennedy recalled: We had two strips at Maastricht, the artillery Cubs being based at a small strip east of the Maas River (known as the Meuse in Belgium and France)… Our other airstrip was located on top of a high hill west of the river. This was the site of Fort St Pieter, an ancient 12th century Dutch fort situated on one of the highest points in Holland. Our other air force unit, the 125th Liaison Squadron, based their L-5s at this strip…The only time I saw a Stinson L-1 in the ETO was also at this strip.”
Also from Ken Wakefield’s The Other Ninth Air Force, p. 73: December 7, 1944 – Call from Maj. Parker, Surgeon Section, requesting information concerning capabilities of L-1 aircraft in evacuating wounded from forward Arty airstrips. Several L-1s are available to the Army as flying ambulances.
The L-1, while uniquely significant for its impressive STOL capability, use in the field, including maintenance, rendered it excessively burdensome. Further reference to its obsolescence, again in The Other Ninth Air Force, p. 104: February 14, 1945 – Called Maj. Bristol, FUSA Arty Air Officer, and told him that the 153rd LS could come and collect their L-1 at our strip. Were through with it and will stick to L-4s and L-5s. Page 110: On February 26 four L-1s were delivered to the Army strip. Investigation discloses that they are for the 153rd LS (FUSA), which is at Spa. When notified of their location, the 153rd stated they didn’t want them.
Likewise, a rare Aeronca C-3 was restored at Cannon Field.