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  • Stinson L-1 Vigilant (Model 74) Liaison / Observation / Utility Aircraft

    The Stinson L-1 Vigilant provided a much-needed Short Take-Off and Landing capability for American and British forces of World War 2.

     Updated: 6/12/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The massive American military of World War 2 (1939-1945) fielded various "Light Observation and Liaison" aircraft during the years-long conflict. One entry became the Stinson L-1 "Vigilant" of which 324 were completed. A first-flight was had on July 15th, 1940 and service introduction arrived in 1941. The system went on to be used by both the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) and the British Royal Air Force (RAF). Design of the aircraft is attributed to A.P. Fontaine with all manufacture stemming from the Stinson Aircraft Corporation.

    Observation and Liaison aircraft in military service provide improved communication for ground forces by giving a much-needed "eye in the sky". These aircraft are typically constructed as light as possible with few creature comforts for the crew and allow for basic performance while being very rarely armed. A high-wing monoplane fit is also typical as this generates inherent lift and allows the already light aircraft to loiter on station for longer periods of time when compared to traditional aircraft. It also allows these aircraft to operate from short, little-prepared airfields or rough terrain. A Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) feature became common to such aircraft.

    Prompted by the impressive showing of a German Fieseler "Storch" liaison aircraft at the Cleveland Air Races, the USAAC pushed forth a requirement in 1938 for a similar-minded aircraft. Nearly a dozen concerns threw their hats into the ring but Stinson was able to convince USAAC authorities of the merits of their proposed lightweight platform. The aircraft became known internally as the "Model 74" and carried the usual traits - a high-wing monoplane, fixed undercarriage, limited internal space, a nose-mounted engine, and traditionally-arranged tail unit. Internally, the aircraft's construction was largely of steel tubing while its skin consisted of fabric and some light metal.

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    Stinson L-1A Vigilant Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1941
    Type: Liaison / Observation / Utility Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Stinson - USA
    Production Total: 324

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 3
    Length: 34.25 feet (10.44 meters)
    Width: 50.85 feet (15.50 meters)
    Height: 10.17 feet (3.10 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 2,668 lb (1,210 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 3,406 lb (1,545 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Lycoming R-680-9 radial piston engine developing 295 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 121 mph (195 kph; 105 knots)
    Maximum Range: 280 miles (450 km)
    Service Ceiling: 12,795 feet (3,900 meters; 2.42 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 410 feet-per-minute (125 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload


    Global Operators / Customers

    United Kingdom; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    L-1 "Vigilante" - Base Series Designation

    Model 74 - Company model designation

    YO-49 - U.S. Army evaluation designation

    O-49 Vigilant - Initial production models; 142 built

    O-49A Vigilant - Extended fuselages; 182 examples completed.

    O-49B Vigilant - Air ambulance model; up to four converted.

    L-1A Vigilant - 1942 redesignation of O-49A models

    L-1B Vigilant - Redesignation of O-49B models

    L-1C Vigilant - Air ambulance based on L-1A

    L-1D Vigilant - Training glider tug based on L-1A

    L-1E Vigilant - Amphibious Air Ambulance based on L-1

    L-1F Vigilant - Amphibious Air Ambulance based on L-1A

    Vigilant Mk I - RAF designation for L-1 models

    Vigilant Mk II - RAF designation for L-1A models

    CQ-2 Vigilant - USN target control aircraft variant