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745px-Douglas O-2H at NACA Langley Research Center 1934

The Douglas O-2 was a 1920s American observation aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company.


The important family of Douglas observation aircraft sprang from two XO-2 prototypes, the first of which was powered by the 420 hp (313 kW) Liberty V-1650-1 V-engine and test-flown in the autumn of 1924. The second XO-2 was powered by the 510 hp (380 kW) Packard 1A-1500 Vee engine, which proved unreliable. The US Army ordered 45 O-2 production aircraft in 1925, these retaining the XO-2's welded steel tube fuselage, wooden wings and overall fabric covering but at the same time introducing aluminum panels on the forward fuselage. The XO-2 had been flown with short and long-span wings, the latter giving improved handling and therefore being specified for the production aircraft. The fixed tailskid landing gear included a main unit of the divided type, the horizontal tail surface was strut braced, and the engine was cooled by a tunnel radiator.

The O-2 proved to be a conventional but very reliable biplane which soon attracted orders for 25 more aircraft: 18 O-2A machines equipped for night flying and six O-2B dual-control command aircraft for the US Army, plus one civil O-2BS modified specially for James McKee, who made a remarkable trans-Canada flight in September 1926. In 1927 the O-2BS was adapted as a three-seater with a radial engine.

The O-2Hs were an entirely new design but continued the same basic model number. Major differences were heavily staggered wings, a more compact engine installation, and clean landing gear secured to the fuselage.

Up to 2011 there were no O-2's known to exist. However in 2011 the wreckage of O-2H 29-163 that crashed out of Kelly Field Texas on March 16, 1933 has been positively identified. The rear and central/forward portion of the fuselage behind the firewall, wing attachments and landing gear parts, tailplane and many engine parts and eight of the twelve pistons are now recovered. Research is continuing on this aircraft. It is known it was flown by Aviation Cadet Charles D. Rogers on a night recon advanced training mission. Apparently flying low, the aircraft hit a hill and burned after the crash leaving only the found wreckage today. Weather was not considered a contributing factor. Cadet Rogers was instantly killed in the crash by the impact. His body was recovered but the wreckage was abandoned due to the airframe and engine both being a writeoff.

The only similar aircraft known to exist are a restored Douglas M-2 mailplane and a follow-on derivative of the O-25 variant, an O-38.