OV-10Ds and Gs To Continue Service Throughout USA

By Mike Whaley

Info Updated: 7/27/2010 4:30 PM ET
The US State Department’s fleet of OV-10D and OV-10G Broncos, which were until recently used to fly anti-narcotics spray missions in Central and South America, are now being sent on to begin new lives in a variety of roles and locations throughout the United States. Best of all, many will continue to fly!

CDF’s Ferry Flight
Here are some shots of CDF’s preparations and the coast-to-coast ferry flight to bring their OV-10D’s from Maryland to California. Photos courtesy Mel Clouser.

On December 16, 2009, three OV-10D Broncos which were recently retired from anti-narcotics service with the US State Department took off from a storage facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, bound for Sacramento, CA, to serve as aerial firefighting spotter and control aircraft with the CDF (Calif. Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire). The three Broncos (BuNos 155395, 155406 and 155502) were “de-preserved” and flown back to California on a four day cross country flight, arriving in Sacramento on Saturday, December 19th. The depreservation crew consisted of OBA Director (and “Doctor of Broncology”) Melvin Clouser (mechanic), Tony Agosto (Quality Control Rep), Marty Buno (CalFire Rep) and Russ Looney (Test Pilot), while the ferry flight crew consisted of Todd Deline (Pilot), Lee Donham (Pilot), Ray DiLorenzo (Pilot) and Melvin Clouser (Mechanic). The three Broncos are now parked on CalFire’s ramp alongside the existing fleet of OV-10A Broncos. The D’s await annual inspections, which likely won’t happen for several months. It’s unclear whether they will be “donor” airframes or will be converted to fly for the firefighting efforts. If so, they will have their armor plating, spray equipment, and other modifications not useful to the CDF’s mission removed.

Just before that, another Bronco went to a new home in Florida. Bob Finer sent us the following write-up: “On December 10, 2009, OV-10 Bronco BuNo 155447, after being de-preserved and serviced, was test flown and delivered to the Lee County Florida Mosquito Control District (LCMCD) by retired Marine Corps LtCol and former Bronco pilot Bob Finer. Serving as technical consultant and assisting in the process was Bronco Mech and retired Marine Master Sergeant, Melvin Clouser. Finer and Clouser served together in VMO-2 almost thirty years ago. This particular aircraft, while in Marine “green”, was flown by VMO-1 as an A model before being converted to a D model during the 1970’s. It was then later modified to the “D-plus” configuration through the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) in the late 1980’s. After service in the Marine Corps, this aircraft was acquired by the U.S. State Department where it was modified for use in their counternarcotics program. Clouser worked with the LCMCD maintenance contingent of Al Bennett and Dave Statler in the de-preservation and flight preparation, while Finer’s counterpart in the flight checks and delivery process was Robert Roper, one of the pilots on the Bronco program for LCMCD.”

Note: The photos Bob sent sent show a plane with a four-bladed prop, which would seem to indicate the plane has actually been upgraded to the G-model standard (updated engines, props, and avionics)… however I’m a bit unclear as to if the photos were of the specific aircraft sent to LCMC, or if any of the D’s got only a prop upgrade. In any case, G-model Broncos can be considered as a modernized D-model.

The remainder of the former DOS Bronco fleet, all of which are ex-USMC OV-10D models and a few modernized OV-10G models, are being distributed throughout the country. Here are the ones we are currently aware of.

The GSA has sent the following BuNos to the following states. Please let us know if you can fill in the blanks further!

  • BuNo 155395 – Calif. Dept. of Forestry & Fire Prot. (CDF), CA (OV-10D) **
  • BuNo 155406 – Calif. Dept. of Forestry & Fire Prot. (CDF), CA (OV-10D)
  • BuNo 155409 – Valiant Air Command Museum, Titusville, FL (OV-10G, FAA lists as OV-10D, Reg. N15453 as of 01/2010)
  • BuNo 155417 – New York
  • BuNo 155436 – Russell Military Museum, Zion, IL
  • BuNo 155447 – Lee County Mosquito Control District, FL (OV-10D+ [G?], Reg. N592MC as of 04/2010)
  • BuNo 155451 – Tennessee Museum of Aviation, Sevierville, TN (OV-10D, Reg. N12320 in 07/2010)
  • BuNo 155470 – Unknown Owner in Beaufort, SC (OV-10D, Reg. N34578 “Pending” as of 07/2010)
  • BuNo 155474 – Vermont
  • BuNo 155502 – Calif. Dept. of Forestry & Fire Prot. (CDF), CA (OV-10D, Reg. N477AW as of 04/2010)

** BuNo 155395 was one of the original two YOV-10D (NOS/NOGS) prototypes (the other was 155396) that flew in the “Night Rider” program. These were the only “D” models to serve in the Vietnam War. OBA member Ed Clayman is seeking info, films, and photos from anyone who worked on or with either of these airframes, either in SEA or stateside, for use in a coming documentary on the “Night Rider” program. If you have any connections to these airframes, please contact Ed at 713-291-1923 or test@buyaero.com

A word of caution… please note that whenever significant numbers of any highly sought-after warbird like the OV-10 become available, a flurry of rumors and misinformation always seems to accompany it… so until actual possession of airframes can be verified or we learn from people directly involved, it can be difficult to confirm who is “actually” receiving an aircraft as opposed to the folks who sometimes claim “they’re going to” when in fact they aren’t on the final list. Nevertheless, here’s the info on other new owners (or rumors of such) that we’ve compiled thus far. Note that the GSA often actually retains ownership rights for some period of time (typically 5 years) before the new owners actually assume full possession of the aircraft, especially in the case of museums and training schools.

  • NASA is receiving two G models (this is an engine, prop, and avionics modernization program offered by Marsh Aviation in Arizona, which was originally developed by the Colombian Air Force) which will join their existing Bronco fleet used for scientific research. BuNo 155481 is now registered as N34457 and BuNo 155492 is now registered as N3634U (the FAA lists both as OV-10Ds). (Confirmed!)
  • The Lee County Mosquito Control District (LCMCD) in Florida received OV-10D+ BuNo 155447, now registered as N592MC. (Confirmed!)
  • Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville, FL has been confirmed to have received an airworthy G-model Bronco with no restrictions against flight. It will live in the new Vietnam hangar currently being built. During the day on Monday, 5/10/2010, the plane was towed on its own landing gear from Patrick AFB to the VAC… a distance of about 20 miles! This caused quite a stir along the way. News reports indicated that it “was safer” to tow it over the road than get it ready for a ferry flight. This is BuNo 155409 and it’s registered as N15453 (FAA lists it as an OV-10D). (Confirmed!)
  • The State of Georgia is said to have received one Bronco (Unconfirmed)
  • Russell Military Museum, Zion, Illinois has already taken possession of BuNo 155436. They have a bunch of boxes including engines and props. (Confirmed)
  • There had been some serious proposals for transferring these planes to a foreign country for government/military service, but it now appears that this idea may have fallen through. (Proposal confirmed, outcome speculatory)
  • Boeing’s OV-10X proposal for the USAF’s LAAR project might have used one or more of these airframes as a demonstration platform, however it is being speculated by many that the OV-10X is rather unlikely to come to fruition. (Logically, restarting the OV-10 production line offers additional challenges over adapting an aircraft currently in widespread active service, such as the Super Tucano or AT-6 Texan II, although neither of these offers all of the unique features of the Bronco.)

We’ll bring you more information as we learn it.

Bronco in storage in Maryland Pilot Bob Finer
“Doctor” Mel Clouser Note that this Bronco has been upgraded to a new, 4-blade prop.