With the drastic reduction in military aircraft production at the end
of World War II, North American looked at building light aircraft for the
civil market. The prototype NA-143 Navion (for North American
avion) first flew in 1946.
In 1947, the U.S. Air Force purchased 83 Navions as liaison aircraft
and designated them the L-17. Many were later transfered to
the Army and redesignated the U-18 in 1962.
When military contracts started coming back in as the cold-war ramped
up, North American sold the Navion program to Ryan. Ryan built over
1,200 Navions--163 for the U.S. Air Force.