Aircraft of the Pacific: Stinson L-5 Sentinel

August 08, 2018

It’s not one of the more famous World War II-era aircraft on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum, but the Stinson L-5 Sentinel played an important role in World War II. The non-combat plane, also known as the “Flying Jeep,” evolved from a civilian craft introduced before the war, the Stinson HW-75.

In 1940, Stinson received a request from the Army Air Corps for a low-cost, short-range observation craft. Several versions of the Voyager were produced with 80-horsepower engines and provided to the military for testing, but they weren't approved for production. Stinson returned to the drawing board and came back with a retooled model that was stronger and met the Army’s standards for military aircraft. This was the beginning of the Stinson L-5 Sentinel, a purpose-built military aircraft based on the HW-75 civilian craft.

By December of 1942, the L-5, with its tandem pilot and observer seating, was put into service. Over the course of the war, more than 3,800 of the craft were manufactured.

A Versatile Tool

The Stinson L-5 was favored for its ability to operate from unimproved airstrips, and became a versatile plane with many different tasks. The unarmed craft, dubbed the “Sentinel,” was tasked with delivering supplies to front line troops and securely transporting vital intelligence. The Sentinel was also used for aerial photography; the dropping of food, medical supplies, and ammunition; spraying pesticides; dropping propaganda pamphlets, and many other duties.

High-ranking officers liked the Stinson L-5 as an efficient means of short-range transportation. It was simple, fast, and could get them to where they needed to be safely.

Operational After World War II and Beyond the United States

Production of the Stinson L-5 ended in 1945, but the plane served beyond World War II. L-5s were used during the Korean War, specifically as the 24-volt L-5G variant, the OY-2, which started production in July 1945.

The Civil Air Patrol made much use of the Sentinel for search and rescue operations. Since the United States needed fewer and fewer L-5s, many were shipped to air forces in many countries around the world.

The Stinson L-5 Today

Stinson L-5 Sentinel on display at the Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB

Stinson L-5 Sentinel on display at the Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB

There are many surviving examples of the long-since discontinued Stinson L-5, though they’re located mainly in the United States, Australia, and the Netherlands. One of the surviving craft can be seen in Hangar 79 on a tour of the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The first L-5 built is currently at the Boeing Aviation Hangar of the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.

Other craft can be found at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH; the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL; the Heritage Center at Travis Air Force Base, CA; and the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB.

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