Popularly known as the “Flying Jeep,” the L-5 was used as a utility airplane for observation, liaison, and artillery spotting work during World War II. The L-5 had a two-seat tandem cockpit, a slightly larger fuselage, higher operating weights due to military equipment, and military standard instruments and communications equipment.
In 1942, the Sentinel was designated O-62 but was changed to L-5 after the first 275 airplanes had been delivered. Deliveries of the initial version of the L-5 totaled 1,713 and orders for later variants brought the total to more than 3,500, making the L-5 the second most produced of all Army light-observation aircraft, just behind the Piper L-4 Cub.
The L-5 was as safe and spin resistant as the state of the art could make it at the time. The airplane could execute a very short takeoff in an emergency situation and was an exceptionally stable aircraft. EAA’s variant, the L-5E, had provisions for a K-20 reconnaissance camera in the fuselage and had drooping ailerons which operated in conjunction with the flaps.
After seeing an ad in an issue of Trade-A-Plane in 1970, L. Vance Hester, EAA 26341, offered the highest bid and bought the L-5E from an auction held by the US Air Force. Vance fully restored the airplane and helped others restore their L-5s. One of Vance’s friends, Edward “Buck” Hilbert, EAA Lifetime 21, acquired the L-5E and donated it to the EAA AirVenture Museum in 1983. Both Buck and Vance were proud to know the treasured L-5E would be preserved with other World War II aircraft.