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Restored Birddog flies in Italy by Geoff Jones

CESSNA BIRDDOG, “Mekong Mauler” took to the air again on February 2 at Montagnana airfield, northern Italy following a six year restoration process by Andrea Rossetto.

The aircraft represents the Cessna O-1G 51-11952 Mekong Mauler that was flown by W/O Rick Shoup who was based at Vinh Long, South Vietnam, in 1967 and 1968 as part of the 199th Reconnaissance Aviation Company – it was noteworthy in being the first BirdDog in South East Asia to wear a “shark-mouth” decoration on the nose. Shoup flew over 1 000 hours in his BirdDog in Vietnam, was shot down twice, and earned six air medals.

birddog

In 2001 while operating as a glider tug at Foligno, near Perugia, and registered I-EIAIl, the aircraft was badly damaged in a groundloop and relegated to the back of the club hangar. Andrea Rossetto, the President of HAG (Historical Aircraft Group) in Italy, having already restored a Macchi MB.308, acquired the aircraft and transported it to his workshop hangar near Montagnana.

Every aircraft component was stripped and overhauled and the engine was removed and zerotimed – all the panels, radios and antenna were re-fitted to be as close to the 1960s original as possible. It has been re-registered as I-BDOG. Rossetto’s next project is restoration of a F.15 Picchio.

birddog

RestorerAndrea Rossetto is proud of his aircraft and what she represents. “May this plane serve as a special tribute to those brave pilots who served as Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam, because their story has been, for too much time, untold”.

The aircraft is in-fact 61- 2987, one of 43 BirdDogs delivered to Italy in 1963 under the US Government’s MDAP (Military Assistance Defence Programme) and was coded EI–20. It flew with the Italian Army until 1992 when it was sold to the Italian Aero Club and converted to a Cessna 306C at the OMA Factory near Perugia............................ For the FULL ARTICLE please subscribe to our digital edition.

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