A liaison aircraft, or “L-bird” as they’re also known, is a small, unarmed military airplane used primarily for observation and reconnaissance or light transport. Known for their ability to take off from and land in small, unimproved fields, these planes played a generally uncelebrated but nevertheless significant role in the successes of World War II.
Today, a collection of vintage liaison aircraft is maintained and displayed by the Alamo Liaison Squadron, as one of the only L-bird Flying Museums in the world. Located at Cannon Field in San Antonio, the planes are kept in flying condition and make occasional public appearances. The L-birds perform fly-bys at memorial services and cultural events; guest pilots are invited to fly into the “grass strip” airfield; and an annual picnic is held at the field where attendees can view flight performances and ride in the vintage aircraft.
The Alamo Liaison Squadron restores and protects these original military liaison aircraft. The organization maintains a collection Taylorcraft L-2, Aeronca L-3, Piper L-4, Stinson L-5, and Interstate L-6 flying examples at its facility. The aircraft are flown by experienced and veteran pilots who have mastered the art of flying, as they are affectionately called, “taildraggers.”
The story of L-birds and their pilots is well documented in Box Seat Over Hell: The True Story of America’s Liaison Pilots and Their Light Planes in World War II, written by Alamo Liaison Squadron founder and master mechanic Hardy Cannon, who worked with a team to restore the original collection of L-birds. The book tells the story of the men who flew in combat armed only with a pistol, confronting the enemy in aircraft made of tubing, wires, and fabric. Cannon’s artistry and imagination in both aircraft restoration and writing has kept the legacy of the L-birds alive.