The use of light aircraft as the eyes of the army is as old as the airplane itself; however, at the outset of the Second World War it was still an unorthodox role. Flying low and slow was already becoming out of vogue, but the U.S. Army quickly learned it needed an aircraft capable of short take off and landing from rough forward airstrips that were little more than pastures cleared of cattle.
The U.S. Army obtained high-wing liason aircraft from three companies in 1941 -- Piper, Taylorcraft and Aeronca. Each was evaluated, but with America's entry into the Second World War all three were pressed into service. The Aeronca began its Army career as the O-58, but the designation was quickly changed to L-3. Numerous civilian Aeroncas were drafted in 1942 and given a variety of L-3x designations. At one point, the L-3 was pressed into service as a glider trainer -- the engineless TG-5.
At the end of the war, the Army purchased a new series of the Aeronca classic, the L-16. Slightly heavier and with a new wing form, the L-16 had vastly improved performance over its predecessor (110 mph max speed vs. 87 mph for the L-3; 14,500 ceiling vs. 7,750). Going into service in 1947 and 1948, the L-16A and L-16B moved into the National Guard and Civil Air Patrol inventories in the 1950s.
The L-16A on display at the Arkansas Air Museum is owned by Lance Ashmore of Centerton, Ark. It is number 383 of 584 Aeroncas that served in the Civil Air Patrol. After service in the USAF, it was transfered to the North Carolina CAP. It is unique as it still carries its original military serial number. Most former CAP Aeronicas were converted to civilian numbers. The civilian version of the L-16 was sold as the Aeronca 7BCM Champ.
This L-16A was fully restored into USAF livery in 1988, and when not parked at the A.A.M. can be seen on grass strips across northwest Arkansas.
The Aeronca L-16-A is on loan to the Arkansas Air Museum by its owner, Lance Ashmore of Centerton, Ark.