|Length:||25 ft 10 in (7.88 m)|
|Wingspan:||36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)|
|Height:||7 ft 4 in (2.23 m)|
|Wing area:||174 sq ft (16.16 m²)|
|Empty weight:||159 ft² (14.8 m²)|
|Loaded weight:||1,614 lb (734 kg)|
|Max. takeoff weight:||2,430 lb (1105 kg)|
|Powerplant:||1 × Continental O-470-11 flat six piston, 213 hp (159 kw)|
|Maximum speed:||115 mph (100 knots, 185 km/h)|
|Cruise speed:||104 mph (87 knots, 167 km/h)|
|Stall speed:||54 mph (47 knots, 87 km/h)|
|Range:||530 miles (460 nmi, 853 km)|
|Service ceiling:||18,500 ft (5,640 m)|
|Rate of climb:||1,150 ft/min (5.8 m/s)|
|Take-off distance to 50 ft (15 m):||560 ft (170 m)|
|Landing distance from 50 ft (15 m):||600 ft (180 m)|
The U.S. Army was searching for an aircraft that could adjust artillery fire, as well as perform liaison duties, and preferably be constructed of all metal, as the fabric-covered liaison aircraft used during World War II (primarily Stinson and Piper products) had short service lives. The U.S. Army issued the specification for a two-seat liaison and observation monoplane, and theCessna Aircraft Company submitted the Cessna Model 305A, a development of the Cessna 170. The Cessna 305A was a single-engined, lightweight, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane with a tailwheel landing gear. The greatest difference from the Cessna 170 was that the 305A had only two seats, in tandem configuration (the largest tandem-seat aircraft Cessna ever produced), with angled side windows to improve ground observation. Other differences included a redesigned rear fuselage, providing a view directly to the rear (a feature later dubbed “Omni-View”, carried over to Cessna single-engined aircraft after 1964), and transparent panels in the wings’ center-section over the cockpit (similar to those found on theCessna 140 and the later Cessna 150 Aerobat model), which allowed the pilot to look directly overhead. A wider door was fitted to allow a stretcher to be loaded.
The U.S. Army awarded a contract to Cessna for 418 of the aircraft, which was designated the L-19A Bird Dog. The prototype Cessna 305 (registration N41694) first flew on 14 December 1949. Deliveries began in December 1950, and the aircraft were soon in use fighting their first war in Korea from 1950 through 1953. An instrument trainer variant was developed in 1953, later versions had constant speed propellers, and the final version, the L-19E, had a larger gross weight. Cessna produced 3,431 aircraft; it was also built under license by Fuji in Japan.
The L-19 received the name Bird Dog as a result of a contest held with Cessna employees to name the aircraft. The winning entry, submitted by Jack A. Swayze, an industrial photographer, was selected by a U.S. Army board. The name was chosen because the role of the army’s new aircraft was to find the enemy and orbit overhead until artillery (or attack aircraft) could be brought to bear on the enemy. While flying low and close to the battlefield, the pilot would observe the exploding shells and adjust the fire via his radios, in the manner of a bird dog (gun dog) used by game hunters.