1/72 Pavla Cessna L-19 (0-1) Bird Dog

Gallery Article by Carmel J Attard on Dec 16 2011


The Cessna L-19 Bird Dog was developed from Model 170, a lightweight strut based high-wing monoplane for liaison and observation duties with the USAF. Deliveries of production aircraft began in December 1950 under the designation L-19A and with the name Bird Dog. By October 1954 2,486 had been delivered of which 60 went to the US Marine Corps with designation OE-1. Several versions continued to evolve with the final one being the improved L-19E of higher gross weight to bring the total production of Bird Dogs to 3,431. With redesignation in 1962 the US Army L-19A, TL-19D and L-19E aircraft became O-1A. Bird Dogs operated in small numbers during the Korean War, but the US Air Force acquired many of the US Army’s O-1s for use by Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam. Target marker rockets were mounted under each wing for these FAC missions throughout the war. In addition to being supplied to many nations the O-1s were also built under licence by Fuji in Japan.

The aircraft has been in widespread service for quite a time and therefore the scale modeler has a wide variety of color schemes and markings from which to choose. An Air Arm which continued to use the L-19 Bird Dog is that of Malta Air Squadron which was with the acquisition of its first fixed wing aircraft. Previous to that it was the Helicopter Flight wing. The Italian AF at Viterbo donated five Cessna O-1E. The Italians gave flying Training and technical instructions as part of the deal. The five L-19s arrived in Malta on 2nd February 1992. These were ex-Italian Army and were registered in May 14th as 9H-ACA, -ACB, -ACC, -ACD, -ACE. These had previous Italian registration written in small numeral in white at an area under the tail plane. E.g. 9H-ACC was 61-2986, 9H-ACD was 61-2990. In due course in the year 2000 the civil Maltese registration was again altered and L-19 ex- 9H-ACD became AS209 etc. 

Apart from the sudden expansion in assets, the Air Squadron had to invest also in newly trained pilots so that by the end of April 1993 the AFM had 9 qualified pilots in its squadron that also included one female pilot. L-19 9H-ACB suffered one of the number of accidents when it swirled violently on landing which resulted in damage to the starboard wing and tail plane and shearing off the main starboard undercarriage. This is now on permanent loan to the Malta Aviation Museum at Ta’ Qali. The new military serial for all the L-19s are as follows: 

9H-ACB …AS9207

All L-19s have now been phased out of service being supplanted by Alouette IIIs and Bulldogs.


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Make: Pavla resin sets with Airfix kit.
Scale: 1/72
Type: two resin sets containing all the details for the Airfix Bird Dog L-19

The kit
Reissue of the Airfix Bird Dog is again intended to depict an aircraft in the markings of units engages as Forward Air Control during the Vietnam war. There is an O-1F of USAF in late 60s during the Vietnam conflict, alternatively one can go for an O-1E as operated by the Vietnam Republic Air Force during same conflict. There is a third option, which is totally new with the reissue kit for an overall olive green L-19 of No 10 Tactical Air Group Mobile Command of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1974. The kit having nicely detailed panel lines and rivets not detracting from the look of the finished model. The use of centre wing panels, which fit into a complete wing section approach, makes for correct thin leading edges of the wings. While construction is straightforward and the assembly drawings are clear enough to determine exact location of parts, the Airfix Bird Dog can be much enhanced in detail by addition of highly detailed interior parts, separate control surfaces that Pavla Models provides in brown colored resin. A long aerial above the central wing and shorter aerials attached to tail plane fairings at leading edges will add more authenticity to the model. 

To begin with I opted to build the L-19 as operated by the fixed wing of the Armed Forces of Malta during the time it was in service in the 90s. The under wing smoke rockets and racks were deleted. I made good use of the Pavla sets C72-079 and U72-104. The former dealt with cockpit interior including new resin seats, side of cabin with all its details, floor instrument panel and I also added strengthening brackets inside the cockpit forward and aft. The set also had a clear vac canopy for front and back. The starboard door can be assembled in the open position so that the detail on the interior could be more visible. I opted to keep the doors closed and the clear canopies that I used still allowed the detail to be observed from the outside. The finely engraved resin instrument panel and accurate control sticks added to this detail. Many of these interior items replaced the kit parts. Pavla set 72-104 consisted of wing control surfaces and accurate pair of wheels, which are the right size since the Airfix ones, were small in diameter and having thin section. Color details were also given for all the resin detail parts.

In brief the sequence of construction entailed the following:

1) Separations of the tail wheel from the kit lower rudder area, which was then fixed to the resin rudder issued in the set. This had a tiny shallow slot so that the tail wheel will register in it. The resin rudder had trim tab detail and more pronounced surface spars detail making them appear more realistic.

2) Mold ejector pin markings which spoil the kit fin part was removed by filing down, similar surface marks were removed from lower wing by smoothening down so that the lower wing control inserts could fit properly.

3) New resin elevators replaced the kit ones as they were in greater detail as well as absence of ejector pin marks. The kit elevators were sliced away from tail plane using Exacto saw blade. The new elevators were set at a slightly lowered angle.

4) Port and starboard fuselage had detail on the inside removed as well as the section thickness reduced. Scraping as the soft kit plastic on the inside was easily manageable. The new resin side panels were then fitted using super glue.

5) The rectangular side cabin windows were cut from thin clear acetate and fitted in place fixing them with Klear (Future) liquid.

6) New resin flaps and elevators were fixed at a slightly lowered angle. 

Color and markings.
Interior was cockpit green and details on instruments were mainly black while seat straps were khaki. The AFM L-19 had silver undersides of fuselage and wings while the upper surface disruptive camouflage was dark earth and dark green. The shade of green varied subject to weathering. Luckily I found ‘Letraset’ black lettering of the correct size. For the Malta Armed Forces roundel, my colleague aircraft modeller Gordon Zammit came to the rescue and printed a set of decals in time for my L-19. These were of two different sizes and consisted of a red outer circle with white centre having a George Cross superimposed over the white at centre. The civil registration was eventually replace with a serial number as indicated above. A Maltese flag appears on the tail fin. Prior to application of decals the kit was given a coat of Klear. In the end the model was given an overall coat of Model Master semi gloss lacquer.

The L-19 was a common sight flying across the Maltese archipelago sky mostly flying at relatively low altitude with the characteristic engine sound telling the type long before it came into view. It made local history as it was the first fixed wing type to equip the MAF.

The resin set issued by Pavla Models is highly recommended for use with the Airfix kit and with some care a very pleasing model will result.


  • Malta Flypast magazine issued by the Malta Aviation Museum

Carmel J Attard

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Armed Forces of Malta Roundel



Photos and text © by Carmel J Attard