May 4, 2017 - If you ask someone about the Boeing YL-15, all but the hardest of the hardcore aviation nuts will greet you with a blank stare. After all, with just 12 built and only one currently flying, most of us have never seen one. All that will change this July when Keith Brunquist brings his to display it at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
Boeing built two XL-15s as proof of concept prototypes and then 10 YL-15s for evaluation as they competed for the U.S. Army Air Forces (which quickly became the U.S. Air Force) contract for a new L-bird, a liaison aircraft. Boeing ultimately lost the contract to Cessna who had developed the L-19 Bird Dog. The L-15, the last manned piston-powered airplane Boeing ever built, never went into production.
Brunquist’s airplane was the last one built, rolling off the assembly line in Wichita on March 8 of 1949. It’s an unusual looking airplane, to say the least. It’s a taildragger, sort of, but it sits at what at first looks like a near-level attitude when on the ground. The wings and the horizontal stabilizer are mounted at a pronounced angle of incidence to the fuselage boom, which has the effect of making the twin tails — that look upside down to begin with — stick up when it’s in level flight. As with any L-bird, it’s got excellent visibility, and the unusual “pod” cabin area allows an observer to sit facing aft with a near unobstructed view out the back.
Brunquist’s father Norm bought the airplane from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at auction in 1954, while working for that agency as an A&P. The elder Brunquist installed floats on the airplane (per Boeing’s original design) and flew it for years until it started showing some signs of wear and parked it in 1966. Brunquist inherited the airplane when his father died in 1994, and, when he was ready, started restoring the airplane in 2003. It flew again 13 years later, on July 28, 2016, just missing his chance to bring it to Oshkosh last year — we’re really looking forward to seeing this delightful rarity here this summer.
To see some of the other aircraft we expect to host this summer, keep an eye on the regularly updated aircraft highlights gallery on our blog.