By: Norm Goyer
I would like to thank Wikipedia for the historical data provided for this article. NG
When World War II ended, the aircraft manufacturing industry was in disarray. It is very hard to build and sell airplanes when there is no Uncle Sam to purchase them by the hundreds. Thousands of highly skilled aeronautical workers had to be fired and warehouses full of raw materials, engines, aluminum sheets and extrusions only good for melting down had to be used or disposed of. Many of these great companies believed that there was still a market out there someplace for new civilian aircraft, there was, and there wasn’t. One such company was Boeing, located near Seattle Washington. Boeing marketing thought that they should build one last small single engine aircraft for military liaison duties, building on the experiences gained by the thousands of hours flown with the grasshopper series such as the Piper, Stinson and Aeronca L series. All of these were simply civilian two place trainers with an olive drab or silver paint job plus some stars and bars. Boeing and other companies thought that a specially designed liaison aircraft would be needed for future wars or skirmishes. Piper countered with the L-21 which was nothing more than a Super Cub with an uniform. North American tried its Navion as the L-17 and sold a small number to the Army. But it was Boeing, the builder of the huge B-29 and B-50 bombers that came up with the most unusual liaison plane ever designed, the L-15 Scout.
Years earlier in the 1930s Boeing had built another small single engine fighter the P-26 Peashooter. The tiny open cockpit fixed gear aircraft which was often compared to the Gee Bee R series of racing aircraft. Folks in Southern California are lucky to have the only flying P-26 in our backyard at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California. This small Boeing has been a very popular model aircraft design for decades, it is a unique, very cute little pursuit aircraft.
Boeing’s last small aircraft was the L-15 Scout or YL-15, a piston engine liaison aircraft built in very small numbers after World War II. It was a short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft powered by a 125 hp Lycoming engine. The L-15 was an attempt by Boeing to expand its product line as World War II drew to a close and Boeing’s production of combat aircraft declined. Boeing decided against marketing the L-15 as a general aviation aircraft, and the twelve that were produced went to the United States Army for testing, then were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska for various duties.
The scout was an conventional geared aircraft which was also tested on ski and float gear. The unique fuselage tapered sharply behind the pilot similar to a helicopter fuselage, with a high mounted boom supporting the tail surfaces. The original design included a single vertical stabilizer, but two small downward mounted stabilizers were used on production models. Spoiler-ailerons were used for roll control, and full length flaps were mounted on the trailing edge of the wings. The rear fuselage was all-window, and the tandem co-pilot could swivel the chair rearward.
Although its cruise speed was only 101 mph, the aircraft was rated to be towed by another aircraft at speeds up to 160 mph. Boeing only built 12 Scouts, but the design has been kept alive by thousands of model aircraft builders who were instantly taken by the tiny Boeings unique design and, it really flew very well as a model.
Specifications L-15 Scout
- Crew: Two (pilot and observer)
- Length: 25 ft 3 in
- Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in
- Height: 8 ft 8½ in
- Wing area: 269 ft²
- Empty weight: 1,509 lb
- Loaded weight: 2,050 lb
- Engine: Lycoming O-290-7 four cylinder air cooled horizontally opposed engine, 125 hp
- Maximum speed: 97 knots 112 mph
- Cruise speed: 88 knots 101 mph
- Stall speed: 30 knots 35mph
- Service ceiling: 16,400 ft
- Rate of climb: 628 ft/min
- Wing loading: 7.62 lb/ft²
- Power/mass: 0.061 hp/lb
- Endurance: 2¼ hours normal, 5½ hours with external fuel