Ercoupes Still Flying for Uncle Sam!

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Alaska Defense Force Ercoupes. Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

Alaska Defense Force Ercoupes.
Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

Originally published online circa 2003-2004 by the Ercoupe Owners Club (Updated by 20th Century Aviation Magazine on 10th June 2016). Hello fellow Ercoupe owners. I am a new member to this listserve. I have some interesting information that I would like to share with fellow-members. I am the Commanding Officer of the 491st Aviation Regiment, Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF), Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

What I believe you’ll find particularly interesting is that my regimental aircraft are 1946 [ERCO] Ercoupe C and D model aircraft. We however refer to them as PQ-13’s, the military spec number.

ASDF-logo-150x150The ASDF is part of the Alaska National Guard, reporting to the State Adjutant General, Major General Campbell. Our Commander is Brigadier General Thomas Westall. The 491st Aviation Regiment has eight [privately owned] aircraft – seven PQ-13s and one L-16. The planes are privately owned; however, the 491st maintains them.

ASDF Ercoupe. Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

ASDF Ercoupe.
Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

Our mission is direct support to the 49th Military Police Brigade. We conduct transportation flights to move MP’s from various locations, we fly aerial photography missions using digital camera equipment, we fly aerial observation and control missions, and we are often used for communication platforms for multiple ground units.

As you are all very much aware, the Ercoupe is very inexpensive to operate. The costs of sending one of my unit’s aircraft for a mission, as mentioned above, is astronomically less expensive than launching a C-130 or Blackhawk. Because we are so costs effective, our Governor and Adjutant General have assigned our parent unit a Homeland Security mission. I wanted to share with those who know and appreciate the Ercoupe the fact that, although these little gems are old in years, they are still doing the job.

Alaska State Defense Force Ercoupes and C-5 Galaxy. Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

ASDF Ercoupes and C-5 Galaxy.
Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

We attended a military air show at Elmendorf Air Force Base about a year ago and placed five of our aircraft under the right wing of a C-5 Galaxy. We caught a lot of ribbing about their size, but no one failed to appreciate the benefit of their operating cost.

We’re weekend warriors who don’t leave our state; however, the 491st with their PQ-13’s (Ercoupes) are doing their part.

The ASDF is a volunteer organization whose primary role is to augment and support the Alaska National Guard.

ASDF Ercoupe and F-15s. Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

ASDF Ercoupe and F-15s.
Photo: Col. Michael Reeves

Our soldiers are equipped and trained for various missions including communications, emergency management, medical, logistical support, chaplaincy, and shelter management. Our soldiers meet for training on a monthly basis.

Note: The author flew PQ-13 3490H.

On 7 June 2016, Col. (Ret.) Reeves replied to several questions put to him by John Stemple. Reeves stated the following: “If memory serves me, I believe we started using the Ercoupe for the aviation ‘detachment’ around 1998. A few years later the detachment became a regiment when the ASDF became a brigade. I retired in 2007. BG Westall retired a couple of years later and Brigadier General Holl, the XO [executive officer] during my tenure, took command of the brigade. Shortly after that the brigade changed missions and was re-classified as a support brigade, removing the MP designation. With that the 491st Aviation Regiment stood down around 2012.”


The author (Col. M.E. Reeves, Commander, 491st Aviation Regiment) originally submitted this content to the Ercoupe Owners Club circa 2007. It was published on the organization’s website until sometime in 2015. It is republished with Col. (Ret.) Reeve’s permission. Reformatting and editing was performed by John Stemple. 20th Century Aviation Magazine thanks Col. Reeves for granting permission to republish this interesting contribution to Ercoupe and National Guard history.

Sources and Suggested Readings

Alaska Army National Guard

Alaska State Defense Force

Alaska State Defense Force

Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

ERCO Ercoupe 415-C

Ercoupe 415 (YO-55)

Ercoupe Owners Club

The ERCO Ercoupe’s military legacies