93-year-old Veteran Takes His Chance To Fly In A Cessna L-19 “Bird Dog” Once Again

A U.S. Army L-19 (O-1) with a fuel tanker, circa 1967. <a href=Photo Credit." title="A U.S. Army L-19 (O-1) with a fuel tanker, circa 1967. Photo Credit." width="800" height="419" />
A U.S. Army L-19 (O-1) with a fuel tanker, circa 1967. Photo Credit.

93-year-old Preston Hyde is still pretty spry. He can take stairs with ease and continues to drive a car.”I never drank or smoked, and I walk on the treadmill 30 minutes a day,” said Hyde. “My driver’s license is good until I’m 98!”

During World War II, Hyde flew as a spotter over Germany during his service with the Ninth Air Force. He recently got the chance to fly in a Cessna L-19 “Bird Dog” liaison aircraft much like the one he flew back then.

Instrument panel of an O-1. Photo Credit.
Control panel of a Cessna O-1E/L-19 Bird Dog. Photo Credit.

Hyde has many stories about his time during the war. “I got up to the end of the runway 300 feet in the air, and the engine quit,” he recalled. “You have about three seconds to make a decision – a life or death decision. I reached down and hit the fuel tank.” Hyde said that decision saved his life.

Another time, he flew over a runway with no radio in his plane. “I’m looking down from the plane I’m flying,” Hyde recalled. “Here’s six B-29 bombers. Engines all running ready to take off and I just flew in there with no radio and froze everything. I stopped the war right then,” he joked.

Jim Ostrich met Hyde at a local event. Ostrich is the owner of Benton Air Center, and he happens to own a Cessna almost identical to the one Hyde flew in the war. Ostrich offered Hyde a ride. “I’m a Navy veteran myself,” said Ostrich. “I’m going to give him, hopefully, a nice thrill ride.”

Hyde said the flight brought back memories of flying over Europe 70 years ago.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE