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L-3 Grasshopper
Aeronca L-3B belonging to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Role Observation and liaison aircraft
Manufacturer Aeronca Aircraft
First flight 1941
Primary user United States Army Air Forces

The Aeronca L-3 group of observation and liaison aircraft were used by the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. The L-3 series were adapted from Aeronca's pre-war Tandem Trainer and Chief models.

Design and development

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The L-3 was initially designated the O-58 at the time it was first ordered by the Air Corps, a designation prefix that was retired in April 1942. The airplane underwent service tests in the summer of 1941 during maneuvers in Louisiana and Texas.

When American forces went into combat after Pearl Harbour, the Army Air Force used the L-3 in much the same manner as observation balloons were used during World War I — spotting activities and directing artillery fire. It was also used for liaison and transport duties and short-range reconnaissance which required airplanes to land and take off in short distances from unprepared landing strips. Liaison pilots would train on L-3s before moving on to front-line aircraft like the Piper L-4 or the Stinson L-5. Some L-3s were shipped to north Africa, and subsequently given to the Free French Forces in the area at the time. At least one of the aircraft served with US forces in Italy.

The TG-5 was a three-seat training glider of 1942 based upon the O-58 design. This aircraft retained the O-58's rear fuselage, wings, and tail while adding a front fuselage in place of the engine. In all, Aeronca built 250 TG-5 gliders for the Army. The Navy received three as the LNR-1.


O-58 designation replaced by L-3 designation in April 1942[1]

  • YO-58 — Four aircraft with a 65 hp (48 kW) Continental YO-170-3 engine.[1]
  • O-58 / L-3 — production order of 50, most used for training in the US.[1]
  • O-58A / L-3A — Fuselage widened four inches and extended greenhouse canopy. 20 built.[1]
  • O-58B / L-3B — Modified canopy and additional radio equipment. 875 built.[1]
  • O-58C / L-3C — As O-58B/L-3B but with radio equipment removed for use as trainer. 490 built.[1]
  • L-3DAeronca 65TF Defender. 11 aircraft impressed.[1]
  • L-3EAeronca 65TC Defender. 12 aircraft impressed.[1] Continental engine.
  • L-3FAeronca 65CA Defender. 19 aircraft impressed.[1]
  • L-3GAeronca 65L Super Chief with side by side seating. 4 aircraft impressed.[1] Lycoming engine.
  • L-3HAeronca 65TL Defender. 1 aircraft impressed)[1] Lycoming engine.
  • L-3JAeronca 65TC Defender 1 additional aircraft impressed.[1] Continental engine.
  • JR-1 — Three L-3Cs supplied to the US Navy.[1]
  • TG-5 — 250 were built as training gliders for the USAAC.[1]
  • TG-33 — TG-5 converted for prone pilot.[1][2]
  • LNR — Three TG-5s supplied to the US Navy.[1]


United States

Museum displays

Aside from 17 L-3s (2 L-3, 8 L-3B, and 7 L-3C) that remain on the US civil registry as of July 2012,[3] a number have also found their way into museums

Specifications (L-3C)

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II.[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot, observer
  • Length: 21 ft 10 in (6.67 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 1 in (2.74 m)
  • Wing area: 169 ft² (15.6 m²)
  • Empty weight: 835 lb (379 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 1,260 lb (572 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Continental O-170-3 OR a Continental O-65-8 flat-4 engine, 65 hp (48 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 87 mph (76 kn, 139 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 79 mph (69 kn, 126 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 46 mph (40 kn, 73 km/h)
  • Range: 218 mi (189 nmi, 350 km)
  • Service ceiling: 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
  • Wing loading: 7.45 lb/ft² (36.1 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: .051 hp/lb (85 W/kg)

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Adcock, 2005, p.21
  2. Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p.584.
  3. FAA Registry Search for Aeronca L-3 accessed 9 July 2009
  4. Bridgeman, Leonard. “The Aeronca Grasshopper.” Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. p. 203-204. ISBN 1 85170 493 0.


External links

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