The L-2 first flew in September 1941, and was affectionately known as “Grasshopper.” Manufactured by Taylorcraft Aircraft Company, it was an adaptation of the pre-war commercial Model D tandem trainer. The L-2 was initially designated O-57 when first ordered by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Given service tests in the summer of 1941 during maneuvers in Louisiana and Texas, the L-2 was used for various support purposes such as a light transport and courier. As many as 2,143 examples and variants of the Taylorcraft L-2 were eventually built.
At the time American ground forces went into combat around the world during WWII, the U.S. Army Air Forces began using liaison aircraft, or L-birds, in much the same manner as the observation balloons were used in France during WWI—spotting enemy troop and supply concentrations, and directing artillery fire on them. L-birds were also used for other types of liaison and transport duties, and short-range reconnaissance which required airplanes that could land and take off in minimum distances from unprepared landing strips. Taylorcraft was based in Alliance, Ohio.
Wingspan: 35 ft 5 in
Length: 22 ft 9 in
Height: 6 ft 8 in
Empty weight: 875 lb
Max. takeoff weight: 1,300 lb (L-2M 1,325 lb)
Wing area: 181 sf
Engine: Continental O-170-3 of 65 hp
Crew: Two (pilot and observer)
Max. speed: 92 mph
Cruise speed: 83 mph @ 2,150 rpm
Stall speed: 43 mph (power on)
Range: 303 miles @ 2,000 rpm
Service Ceiling: 12,000 ft
Rate of climb: 395–455 ft/min
Wing loading: 7.18 lb/sf
Blu and Yella vs. Invasion Stripes
Pre-WWII, a common trainer paint scheme (like that used on the Boeing Stearman Kaydet Trainer Model 73) was bright blue and yellow to be easily distinguished in flight. The L-2, an aircraft of simple durable construction (also like the Kaydet), was widely used for training. While the Army used planes with a blue fuselage and chrome yellow wings and tail surfaces, Navy planes were all yellow. A US national aircraft insignia consisting of a red disk within a five-pointed white star on a circular blue field was introduced in 1917 to avoid confusion with enemy markings. Pursuit aircraft, as early as 1937, had rudder markings of red and white horizontal stripes (13 total) replicating the US flag.
Alamo Liaison Squadron’s L-2M features a commemorative “invasion stripes” paint scheme although this aircraft did not participate in the Normandy invasion. One month after D-Day, the Army ordered stripes removed from the upper surfaces of all planes to make them more difficult to spot while stationed. This aircraft was additionally decorated with “Whispering Hope” artwork on its boot cowling. Operating frequently from Cannon Field, the L-2M is now radio and ADS-B equipped. A gear mounted wind generator sustains battery power for electric starts and avionics function.
British Military Liaison and Observation
At the start of WWII, Taylorcraft in the U.S. licensed the construction of its Models B, C, and D planes, to Taylorcraft Aeroplanes in the UK. Dubbed the Taylorcraft Auster, the British military liaison and observation aircraft played an important role for the RAF. As noted in Ken Wakefield’s The Other Ninth Air Force: the Taylorcraft Austers “never performed courier missions” and “the aircraft were not too satisfactory (not enough power [130 hp], not enough maneuverability and not enough climb),” as stated by Capt. Good (RAF), British 30th Corps Air OP pilot.
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