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Air Group One keeps history alive through aircraft restoration

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Each spring the skies of San Diego fill with airplanes of days gone by with the help of Air Group One, San Diego’s local wing of the Commemorative Air Force. From antique Stearman biplanes of the 1930s to the powerful and majestic P-51 Mustang fighter plane of WWII, there is something for everyone to enjoy at “AirShow San Diego” at Gillespie Field in El Cajon. While many of the aircraft whizzing through the airfield visit from nearby squadrons and private collectors, there are a handful of these flying relics that Air Group One proudly collect, restore and maintain; and members and volunteers alike have been working tirelessly on their most highly anticipated project yet.

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“Betsy”, as she is affectionately called, is Air Group One’s Stinson L-5 Sentinel. The L-5 was developed at the beginning of the war as a liaison aircraft, which held many crucial duties within the service. Not only was this sturdy lightweight plane used for VIP transport, resupply and photo reconnaissance, it was also used to evacuate and transport wounded and deliver important (and often confidential) messages. One of the most important, yet overlooked aircraft of WWII, this historic aircraft will soon take to the skies again as she did over seventy years ago.

Betsy’s career began in 1943, when she was arrived at Cox Field in Paris, Texas, ready for duty with the 163rd Liaison Squadron. She prepped many a pilot at Air Force bases throughout Texas and Oklahoma until she was decommissioned in 1948. After the war, Betsy was passed through the hands of a number of grateful owners and served many purposes, from civil air patrol to glider towing until she was discovered in derelict condition in Van Nuys and brought back to life by Ray Goodrich of Air Group One in 1976. She made many appearances at air shows and was a favorite to display, but the time has come again for a full restoration, and Air Group One has gladly taken on the task to get her back in the air, where she belongs.

Using blueprints from more than half a century ago, volunteers have devoted countless hours and enormous manpower to the complete restoration of their beloved L-5. Wooden components for the wings needed to be manufactured from scratch and precision tools were created to produce them, this was by no means a small task. Momentum is continually gaining on the project and a hopeful completion date of June 7 should allow Betsy to take wing for her first air show in over two decades. Stay tuned to Air Group One’s L-5 restoration page here 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 the website to help get Betsy back in the air and see an important and hugely impactful piece of American History come back to life.

Bailey Burkhartsmeier
January 2014

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