CAF Air Group One Stinson L-5 Sentinel’s Restoration

Wing assembly, 2013
Wing assembly, 2013
Wing assembly, 2013

Based on an article by Bailey Burkhartsmeier:

Each spring the skies of San Diego fill with airplanes of days gone by due to help from Air Group One, San Diego’s local wing of the Commemorative Air Force. From 1930’s era Stearman biplanes to the magnificent P-51 Mustang WWII fighter plane, there is something for everyone to enjoy at “AirShow San Diego” held each year at Gillespie Field in El Cajon. While many of the aircraft whizzing above the airfield visit from nearby CAF squadrons or private collectors, there are a handful of these vintage flying machines that Air Group One is proud to have collected, restored and maintained. Members and volunteers alike from Air Group One have been working tirelessly on their most highly anticipated project yet.

“Betsy”, as they affectionately call her, is Air Group One’s L-5 Sentinel. Stinson developed the L-5 at the beginning of WWII as an Army liaison aircraft, which held many crucial duties within the service. Not only did this sturdy lightweight plane serve as a VIP transport, resupply and  reconnaissance ship, but it also flew missions to evacuate wounded soldiers and deliver vital messages. One of the most important, yet overlooked aircraft of WWII, this historic aircraft will soon take to the skies again much like she once did over seventy years ago.

“Betsy’s” career began in 1943, when she arrived at Cox Field in Paris, Texas, ready for duty with the 163rd Liaison Squadron. She helped train many a pilot at Air Force bases throughout Texas and Oklahoma until her decommissioning in 1948. After the war, “Betsy” passed through the hands of a number of civilian owners, serving many purposes, from the Civil Air Patrol to glider towing, before sadly slipping into dereliction in Van Nuys, California. It was here that Air Group One’s Ray Goodrich discovered the L-5 in 1976. He restored her to flying condition again, and she made many appearances at air shows over the following decades. However, the time has come again for a full restoration, and Air Group One has gladly taken on the task to get “Betsy” back in the air again, where she belongs.

Using blueprints from more than half a century ago, volunteers have devoted countless hours and enormous effort to the complete restoration of their beloved L-5. Wooden components for the wings required remanufacture from scratch and the team created precision tools to produce them; by no means a small task. Momentum is continually gaining on the project, with a hoped-for completion date of June 7th which should allow “Betsy” to fly at her first air show in over two decades. Stay tuned to Air Group One’s L-5 restoration blog to get the most up-to-date information on her progress.

If you would like to be a part of the restoration or would like to donate to Air Group One’s L-5 restoration fund, contact Air Group One at (619) 259-5541 or visit their website to help get “Betsy” back in the air and see a vital piece of American History come back to life.

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