Ercoupes Still Flying for Uncle Sam!

Alaska State Defense Force personnel with PQ-13 Ercoupes. Photo: Col. M.E. Reeves.

The content below was originally published online circa 2003-2004 by the Ercoupe Owners Club. It was republished with permission and additional content was added in 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.

Alaska State Defense Force logo. Source: Wikipedia.

The ASDF is part of the Alaska National Guard, reporting to the State Adjutant General, Major General Campbell. Our Commander is Brigadier General Thomas Westall. 

ASDF is a volunteer organization whose primary role is to augment and support the Alaska National Guard. We’re weekend warriors who don’t leave our state. The ASDF personnel meet for training on a monthly basis.

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, which is the military spec number. The 491st Aviation Regiment has eight (seven PQ-13s and one L-16) airplanes. The aircraft are privately owned; however, the 491st maintains them. (Note: M.E. Reeves flew PQ-13 3490H.)

Two ASDF Ercoupes. Photo: Col. M.E. Reeves.

Although these little gems are old in years, Ercoupes are still doing the job. 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 costly than launching a Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport or Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.

Because we are so cost effective, our Governor and Adjutant General have assigned our parent unit a Homeland Security mission.

Our personnel are equipped and trained for various missions including communications, emergency management, medical, logistical support, chaplaincy, and shelter management.

Col. (Ret.) M. E. Reeves.

More specifically, the 491st is providing direct support to the 49th Military Police (MP) Brigade, conducting transportation flights to move MP’s to and from various locations, flying aerial photography missions using digital camera equipment, performing observation and control, and serving as communication platforms for multiple ground units.

Alaska State Defense Force Ercoupe and U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles. Photo: Col. M.E. Reeves, Jr.

Recently, the 491st 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 the Ercoupes’ operating costs.

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.

Alaska State Defense Force Ercoupes and U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. Photo: Col. M.E. Reeves, Jr.

I retired in 2007. Brigadier General 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 circa 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. The processes of reformatting, editing, and updating were performed by John T. Stemple. Military Aviation Chronicles 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