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FAC: 1/48th Model USA O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

Model USA's 1998 kit of the Cessna O-1 (L-19) Bird Dog was the only 1/48 scale kit on the market until quite recently. So if you wanted one, (before 2018) this was your starting point, and a rough one at that.

1/48th Model USA O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

Notable Kit Features:

  • Basic kit with few parts

  • Open door option

  • M-16 included (yeah really;)

  • Three decal options

1/48th Model USA O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

Build Inspiration:

This small Cessna aircraft carried out some amazing work as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft all the way into Vietnam in the early seventies . Think about the mission, your job is to guide the fast moving ground attack jets onto targets in your area of operation. You are flying a light powered, even lighter armed aircraft with no armour and a top speed of 185 km (115 mph / 100 kn) in hostile territory. You are tooling around at relatively low levels (where pretty much everything fired at you can hit you) looking for trouble, and when you find it, staying in the area to co-ordinate the attacks by marking the targets and communicating with the fast movers who are coming in hot. YGBSM!

O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

Heads-Up Report:

  • Lots of flash was present on the parts

  • Sprues and attachment points are heavy so be careful cutting pats off the trees

  • Most parts require cleanup and test fitting prior to glue

  • Poor fitting parts (wings had to be heavily filed before they would fit together)

  • Interior detail attempt was made but the parts require clean-up & are fragile

  • Surface detail is a bit toy-like

  • Horrible transparencies (and I use that term loosely) that REALLY don't fit well

  • General post-cleanup build requires: spreaders, trimming, filler and sanding (are we having fun yet?)

  • Landing gear is very fragile

  • Decals were thin and flexible, however the clear film yellowed quickly in my example

1/48th Model USA O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

Kit Additions / Modifications:

  • Started to add some additional detail but then just cut and ran through the build as best I could to get it done


The paint call outs in the instructions are in Federal Standard colours, with an overall paint job of FS16473 (Air Defence Gray). I worked with my standard finish at the time (in oil paints) and used Klear /Future for the gloss and to assist with decal adhesion. For some reason the decal film yellowed on me within a year, so the top UAF marking really suffered. Not a prize-winner by any means but one for the Hangar to represent the type.

1/48th Model USA O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

The After-Build Report:

The required cleanup and poor fitting parts put this 1/48th Model USA O-1E Bird Dog kit in a category for more experienced model makers only (think of it as an early short-run kit). Unless you get the kit dirt cheap and are willing to take on the task at hand, pass for another aircraft type or go for the Roden kit. Roden's release of their L-19/O-1 Bird Dog in 2018, has to be an improvement over this kit... I will take the tight tolerances and fiddly bits over this challenger.

1/48th Model USA O-1E (L-19) Bird Dog

Completed build #169 - December 2013 using the 1/48th scale Model USA #0001 kit.

Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers

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