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Cessna Aircraft Company

Info from (address no longer valid) http://www.wingsoverkansas.com/history/article.asp?id=627

Clyde Vernon Cessna, whose 250-year American lineage stemmed from French and German
ancestry, was born in Hawthorne, Iowa, December 5, 1879. At the age of two, he traveled the long
overland journey with his parents to Kingman County, Kansas, where they settled on a homestead
along the Chickasaw River. In early boyhood his aptitudes revealed visionary creativity and
mechanical talents that found instant outlets in the dire necessities and rugged demands of pioneer
life. In this environment he became a self taught expert in developing and improving farm machinery
and farming methods for producing food and for services that were non-existent. As the family
increased to nine, the challenges and opportunities presented themselves in an extended world of the
early automobile.

Becoming the owner of a first horseless carriage, he followed avidly the trends in improvement and in
this way became a mechanic salesman and in time operated an automobile sales agency in Enid,

He became captivated with flying after learning of Louis Blériot's 1909 flight across the English

Traveling east to New York, Cessna spent a month at the Queen Airplane Company factory, learning
the fundamentals of flight and the art of plane building. He became so enthusiastic about flying that
he spent his life savings of $7,500 to buy an exact copy of the Blériot XI monoplane, shipping it west
to his home in Enid, Oklahoma. Cessna flew this aircraft, along with others he designed and built, in
exhibition flights throughout the Midwest, continuously modifying the planes to improve their
performance. He spent the next several years traveling to exhibition air shows, meeting many of the
daredevil pilots of the era, including Roland Garros, René Simon, Charles Hamilton, and René


Silverwing was Clyde Cessna’s first aircraft. It

was built and flown by Cessna in 1911. Although
the actual aircraft no longer exists, several
replicas have been built. Currently, a replica is
hanging at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas.
The replica was built by Cessna employees in
the 1960s.

In 1913, he moved his family to an acreage near his childhood home in Kingman County, Kansas,
and built a metal shop for his operations. During the cold Kansas winters he built a new, improved
airplane each year in preparation for another season of contracted Exhibition Flying at county and
state fairs and public celebrations throughout the mid-West and south into Florida. Over miles of
country roads he often pulled his trusty monoplane on a trailer between exhibitions.

In 1917, he built four monoplanes at the Jones Six Plant in Wichita, Kansas, using the planes for pilot

In 1924, Clyde partnered with fellow aviation pioneers Lloyd C. Stearman and Walter H. Beech to
form the Travel Air Manufacturing Co., Inc., a biplane-manufacturing firm, in Wichita, Kansas. Clyde
infused the fledgling company with cash and equipment and became its president. In 1925 he
became the initial president and first major financier for the Travel Air Manufacturing Company for
production of aircraft. Two models, the "City of Oakland" and the "WOOLAROC," set Trans-Pacific
records in 1927.

But Clyde always preferred monoplanes, so in 1927, he left Travel Air to form his own company, the
Cessna Aircraft Company. There he would build his vision of the ideal aircraft, a full-cantilever-winged
monoplane dubbed the Phantom. Production of his Model "A" series monoplane began in 1927 and
was followed by a series of improved models, as well as a variety of racing planes and primary gliders
designed with the help of engineer son, Eldon. Commercially successful, the Phantom, along with the
Model AW and DC-6, sold well until the start of the Great Depression. After the plant was closed by
the depression he and his son, Eldon, formed the Cessna Aeroplane Company, a 50-50 partnership.

Clyde and his son Eldon turned their attention to building racing aircraft in the early 1930s—their CR-
1 racer made a notable showing in the 1932 National Air Races, and the CR-3 established an
international speed record in 1933. But Clyde abruptly retired from aviation when his close friend Roy
Liggett was killed in the crash of a Cessna-built racing plane. He never again participated actively in
the industry. In his later years Clyde and his wife, Europa Dotzour Cessna, resided at the country
place near Rago, Kansas, where they had lived after their marriage June 6, 1905. This was the center
throughout his life for his farm-related businesses, which underwrote much of his aviation enterprises
and retirement needs.

Clyde's nephew Dwane Wallace, an aeronautical engineer, along with brother Dwight and engineer
Jerry Gerteis, designed a sleek monoplane, the Model C-34. Dwane then assumed the mantle of
leadership, reviving the Cessna Aircraft Company in 1934 to manufacture and market the plane.

The C-34 became the aircraft that enabled Cessna Aircraft Company to emerge intact from the
Depression and established the firm as one of the leaders in American general aviation. A four-
passenger high-winged monoplane, it could achieve a top speed of 162 miles per hour (261
kilometers per hour). Known as the Airmaster, the C-34 won the title of the "world's most efficient
airplane" in 1936.

The Airmaster evolved into the C-37 and C-38, improved versions with wider fuselages and landing
gear, rubber engine mounts, wing-mounted flaps on the C-37 and a belly-mounted drag flap on the C-
38. The last Airmasters, the C-145 and C-165 models, sported longer fuselages, split wing-flaps, and
more powerful engines.

The Airmaster line ended with the arrival of World War II after a total of about 180 had been built. Its
design reappeared after the war with the larger, all-aluminum Cessna 190 and 195, produced from
1947 to 1954.

Cessna introduced its first twin-engine design, the Model T-50, in 1939. Thousands were sold to the
Canadian and U.S. armed forces for use as pilot training aircraft during World War II.

After the war's end in 1946, Cessna's facility began manufacturing two versions of tail-wheel
monoplanes, the Model 120 and 140, selling more than 7,000 of these popular and inexpensive two-
seaters before shifting to the production of four-seat aircraft.

In 1948, advertisements began appearing in aviation publications for what would become the biggest
selling and most widely produced light aircraft in history—the Cessna 170. This single-engine four-
seat plane was actually a stretched and enlarged version of the Model 140. It had fabric-covered
wings, V-shaped wings struts, and three fuel tanks for additional range. Late in 1948, Cessna
replaced the fabric-covered wings with all-metal wings with larger flaps and changed the V-strut to a
single strut configuration, creating the most recognizable variation of the aircraft—now dubbed the
Cessna 170A. The future direction of Cessna now centered on the design of all-aluminum, high-
winged, monocoque fuselage aircraft, featuring side-by-side seating, flat-spring steel landing gear
and dependable engines. Known as a "good, honest taildragger," a total of more than 5,000 Cessna
170s of all types were manufactured during the plane's six-year production run—half of those aircraft
are still flying in 2001.

In 1953, Cessna began manufacturing the Model 310, a twin-engine lightweight five-passenger
aircraft. Popularized by the television series "Sky King," the Model 310 is widely regarded as one of
the most attractive aircraft ever built. Produced for almost 30 years, more than 5,500 Model 310s
were manufactured, eventually becoming Cessna's most popular twin-engine model.

Cessna unveiled a pair of twin-engine aircraft in the early 1960s that were designed to avoid the
asymmetrical drag that often occurs if one of the two engines fails—the Model 336 Skymaster (with
fixed landing gear) and the Model 337 SuperSkymaster (with retractable landing gear). Capable of
carrying six passengers, it also served with the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War. The
aircraft's versatility and excellent cockpit visibility for the pilot made it ideally suited as a spotting
aircraft that searched and marked targets for other aircraft to attack. Approximately 2,000 Skymasters
were manufactured in its 20-year production run that ended in 1983, becoming Cessna's second best
selling twin-engine model.

A specialized aircraft designed for crop-dusting, the Model 188, was developed in the mid-1960s,
selling under a variety of names. These aircraft featured lights for night operations, safety
windshields, and wire-cutter blades designed for unexpected encounters with telephone wires.
Equipped with powerful turbocharged engines and large hoppers, about 4,000 Model 188s were

The Model 172 Skyhawk, developed as Cessna's answer to Piper Aircraft's popular PA-22 Tri-Pacer,
replaced the 170 in 1956. It featured tricycle landing gear and a new tail design. Affordably priced and
easy to handle, the Model 172 could fly at almost 144 miles per hour (232 kilometers per hour) and
would become (and remains) the best selling four-seat aircraft in the history of general aviation.

A tricycle-geared version of the Model 140 soon became aviation's most common two-seat training
aircraft—the Model 150. The second most popular general aviation aircraft ever built, its production
started slowly at first. Only 122 were built during 1959, its first year of production, but eventually, a
grand total of 23,840 were manufactured before production ended in 1977.

In 1966, a version of the 150 designated the Model F150 started production in Reims, France—a total
of 1,758 model F150s were built. An aerobatic version of the 150 saw limited production, starting in
1970. This plane used a four-cylinder 100-horsepower (75-kilowatt) Continental O-200 engine and
Cessna made a number of changes to the plane's airframe and configuration during its 18-year
production run. In 1978, Cessna introduced the more powerful Model 152, which was also better
adapted to newer aviation fuel blends. By the time production ended in 1985, a total of 7,500 Model
152s were manufactured.

In the 1960s, Cessna began producing lighter twin-engine aircraft with a pair of pressurized cabin
models, the 411 and 421, followed by a move into the business jet aircraft market with the turbofan-
powered Fanjet 500 in 1968. In December 1993, the Cessna Citation X business jet made its first
flight, establishing itself as one of the fastest mass-produced aircraft in the world, capable of carrying
12 passengers and two pilots while flying at Mach 0.92 (about 600 miles per hour [447 kilometers per

After becoming a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation in 1985, Cessna stopped producing
piston-engine airplanes with the 1986 model year due to concerns over product liability. In 1992,
Textron, Inc. acquired Cessna Aircraft and soon resumed producing light aircraft; however, rising
production costs and concerns over product liability did not justify the reintroduction of the popular
and affordable two-seat models.

Clyde Cessna, with only a fifth-grade education and lacking a private pilot's license, helped create the
general aviation industry. Although it was his two nephews, Dwane and Dwight Wallace, who
transformed Cessna Aircraft into the aviation powerhouse that produced more than 100,000 piston-
powered airplanes and another 2,000 Citation jets, it is Cessna's name that has become synonymous
with small planes—a legacy to Clyde Cessna's vision.

—Roger Guillemette


 Christy, Joe. The Complete Guide to Single-Engine Cessnas. New York: McGraw-Hill
Professional Book Group, 1979.
 Pattillo, Donald M. A History in the Making – 80 Turbulent Years in the American General
Aviation Industry. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
 Phillips, Edward H. Cessna: A Masters Expression. Eagan, Minn.: Flying Books, 1985.

Online sources:

 Bass, Bob. History of the Cessna 170 Airplane, The International Cessna 170 Association
 Cessna Aircraft Company. www.cessna.com
 "Clyde Vernon Cessna," National Aviation Hall of Fame.
 Phillips, Edward H., Clyde Cessna and the Birth of a Legend. Aviation History.

Aviation History
Clyde Cessna's Budget Racers

The concept of powered, manned flight was only eight years old when 34-year-old Kansas farmer-
turned auto salesman Clyde Cessna paid $7,500 for an American-built copy of the Blériot XI and
taught himself to fly on the broad expanse of a salt plain in northern Oklahoma. He had to teach the
French design to fly, as well; by the time both were successful they had crashed twelve times and the
machine had been rebuilt--and improved--so often that it was more Cessna than Blériot.

During the winter of 1913-14, Cessna constructed an airplane of his own design to fly at exhibitions
and fairs in Kansas and Oklahoma, and by 1916 had set up shop in Wichita. But when World War I
interrupted civil aviation, he returned to his farm near Rago, Kan. Foregoing his own creations, he
bought a biplane from Swallow salesman Walter Beech in 1924. A year later, Cessna, Beech and
Lloyd Stearman jointly formed Travel Air and began manufacturing airplanes. While Cessna kept
pushing for new monoplane designs, the other two partners favored the more popular biplane, and
the partnership lasted for only two years. Cessna struck out on his own, and on the last day of 1927
founded the Cessna Aircraft Company to build exclusively monoplane designs.

The practicality and dependability of aircraft had been proven on Charles Lindbergh's epic
transatlantic flight, and the public was quick to realize its value. In the company's first two years, 129
aircraft were delivered. Sales had soared after Cessna pilot Earl Rowland won a New York-Los
Angeles race in 1928 and the Warner-powered Model AW was turned into a successful pylon racer
by Clyde's son, Eldon.

Then came the October 1929 Wall Street crash. But, while the public had no money to buy aircraft,
they continued to attend air races across the country. To a struggling manufacturer like Cessna, prize
money offered in these events provided a ready and needed source of income.

So in 1930 when engine manufacturer American Cirrus offered $25,000 in prizes for the 5,541-mile
Cirrus All-American Air Derby, Clyde Cessna designed his first purpose-built racer, the GC-1.
Powered by a 90 hp, 310 cu. in. Cirrus (a requisite for the race) fitted with supercharger, the sleek,
mid-wing airplane was dubbed the "Winged Torpedo" by the press but ironically suffered from so
many engine problems that it could only earn seventh-place money. Sans supercharger, however, it
placed fourth in a 1930 National Air Races event at a respectable 137.4 mph average.

The effects of the Depression grounded more customers, and in the spring of 1931 Clyde Cessna
had lost control of his own company; the Board of Directors ordered the doors closed and locked. A
similar fate had fallen on dozens of other Wichita planemakers. But Clyde Cessna was not out of
business; he and Eldon still had the modified Model AW.

Eldon entered it a September cross-country event that ended at the National Air Races in Cleveland
and earned $1,200 for a third-place finish, then followed that with a $750 check for winning a heat
race. The Cessnas returned home and used the winnings to start a modest factory on East Pawnee
Road a half-mile from former partner Lloyd Stearman's plant adjacent to Wichita Municipal Airport and
began work on a racing airplane.

What emerged early in 1932 was a radically small monoplane, the CR-1 (The CR designation was for
Cessna Racer). Barely 12 feet in length, it had a full cantilever wooden shoulder wing that spanned
only 16 feet. Its most innovative feature was its landing gear, which retracted manually into the
fuselage (Cessna didn't believe that the wings, the strongest part of the aircraft, "should have holes in
them just to stow the gear") just aft of the NACA-cowled seven-cylinder, 110 hp Warner radial engine.
To the eye of an experienced aeronautical engineer (of which there were precious few at the time),
the airplane's specifications were scary. While the airplane's power-to-weight ratio was more than
adequate, the tiny wing area (estimated at about 40 sq. ft.) could provide only marginal lift, and the
short distance between propeller and empennage would surely lead to longitudinal control problems.
Not being an experienced aeronautical engineer, Eldon climbed bravely into the CR-1 for its maiden
flight in January. Bouncing across the field, the pair finally got airborne at 100 mph thanks to a mound
of dirt that acted as a catapult. As he struggled to keep the racer in control, Eldon decided that
discretion was more important than valor and returned as quickly as possible, making his approach at
130 mph and landing the CR-1 on its first and only flight.

Back at the drawing board, Clyde and Eldon began engineering away some of the racer's bad habits.
Retaining the Warner engine (they had to; it was the only powerplant they owned), wingspan was
increased to 18 ft., 4 in., length to 14 ft. 10 in., and the empennage area was enlarged to aid stability.
When it was finished, the new airplane weighed only 677 lbs. empty. Christened the CR-2, it was
piloted by Roy Liggett, a friend of Clyde's and a successful AW racer. The first flight in May was
flawless, and in succeeding weeks leading up to its debut at the Omaha Air Races, speeds of 190
mph were attained.

In its first race the CR-2 placed fourth in the 500 cu. in. event and fifth in two unlimited races behind
such famous racers as the Gee Bee Y, Benny Howard's "Mike," Keith Rider, and Johnny Livingston's
clip-wing Monocoupe. Even though it was down by as much as 450 hp to some of the competition,
the tiny Cessna's speed was less than 10 mph from victory, and after the Nationals, Clyde Cessna
looked for a way to pick up the difference.

Horsepower was the quickest route to more speed, and Warner's 499 cu. in. 145 hp Super Scarab
seemed to be the answer, but it cost money which was not available. Liggett continued to compete at
other races with 110 hp version, but still had to continue settling for second behind Livingston's

At the late summer National Air Races in Cleveland, with victory finally in sight after leading at the
halfway point of a Cleveland-Cincinnati-Cleveland race, Liggett lost out to Livingston and Steve
Wittman because he couldn't retract the landing gear for the last leg. In a later 510 cu. in. unlimited
race, he placed the airplane second behind Benny Howard's "Ike," then was third in the Woolaroc
Trophy race. Liggett's total for the week was $900 in prize money, and Eldon Cessna in the AW
added another $770 to the company coffers.

In December, the 145 hp Warner was finally installed, and the CR-2 was flight tested at speeds up to
255 mph, according to Clyde Cessna. In January 1932, the new speedster copped the Col. E.H.R.
Green Trophy at 194.056 mph at the All-American Air Races in Miami, finally beating Johnny
Livingston in his Monocoupe. In March, Livingston flew to Wichita and placed an order for a new
Cessna racing airplane.

Livingston had his own ideas, and one was a high-wing configuration which would minimize airspeed
loss during pylon turns. The 145 hp Super Scarab from his Monocoupe was swapped for the CR-2's
original 110 hp Scarab. Rolled out in June, the first flight of the CR-3 produced a few handling
problems, but they were quickly cured with aerodynamic modifications.

At the 1933 Omaha races, Livingston held his own against Howard's "Mike," and in Chicago he won
the Baby Ruth Trophy Race at more than 200 mph, followed closely by Art Davis in the revamped
CR-2, and the pair repeated the sweep later in the Aero Digest Trophy.

Then Livingston went out to break the record for airplanes powered by engines of under 500 cu. in.
displacement, which was set at 213.8 mph by Benny Howard in "Ike." Johnny smashed the mark,
flying to a two-way average of 237.4 mph. On Aug. 1, when he couldn't get his landing gear to lock
down on a flight at Columbus, Ohio, he bailed out of the CR-3 and let it smash itself against the

Amazingly, it had only been 45 days since the CR-3's first flight, but it had won virtually every
important race it had entered, and it could have been the catalyst Clyde Cessna needed to continue
with a succession of speedy, small-displacement air racers. As it happened, it was the end of the line.
At the same time, the CR-2 had undergone some CR-3 style modifications and emerged as the CR-
2A in time for the 1933 Chicago International Air Races. Roy Liggett started with a second place in
the 550 cu. in. race at 191.14 mph. Four races remained in which the Cessna would be a favorite, but
as the racer took off for the second event and flew across the field at about 175 mph, a section of its
engine cowling reportedly blew off and sliced off the wing at its root. The CR-2A whipped into a
vicious roll and crashed, killing the pilot instantly.

Clyde Cessna witnessed the accident. Besides losing his friend Liggett, the tragedy seemed to drain
the drive and enthusiasm for flying he'd held since those early days on the salt plains in Oklahoma.
He saw his nephew, Dwane Wallace, take over operation of his company in January 1934, and by
1936, Cessna had stepped down and retired to his farm, rarely to return to the company he had

Cessna racers--specifications and performance

Gross, wt., Empty, wt., Wing span, Length Speed

Engine HP Registration
lb. lb. ft ft. mph
Wright J-
CM-1 (1928) 225 30 20.8 X8860
GC-1 (1930) 1,450 Cirrus 90 27 21 160 NR144V
GC-2 (1931) Warner 110 24 20.4 170 NR404W
CR-1 (1931) Warner 110 16 12
CR-2 (1932) 1,002 677 Warner 110 18.3 14.8 190 11717
CR-2 (1933) 1,295 Warner 145 255 11717
Warner 145 270 11717
CR-3 (1933) 750 Warner 145 18.9 17 255 NR57Y

Cessna racers--record

Model Meet Pilot Class mph Finish

GC-1 1930 Cirrus Derby Stanton 72.5 7
1930 Chicago Nat.Air Races Smith 1,000 cid 4
GC-2 1930 Chicago Nat.Air Races Ong 450 cid 145.5 2
Ong 650 cid 147.8 2
Ong 800 cid 148.3 3
Haizlip Women Unltd. 148.4 2
1931 All American, Miami Rowland Hialeah Trophy 2
CR-2 1932 Cleveland Nat. Air Races Liggett 510 cid 169.9 2
Liggett 800 cid 176.5 3
Liggett Cincinnati Trophy 3
1932 Omaha Air Races Liggett 500 cid 166.1 4
Liggett Unlimited 168.9 5
Liggett Unlimited 172.2 5
1932 Niagara Falls Air Races Liggett 3
1932 Sky Harbor, MI Liggett Unlimited 2
1933 Miami Amer. Air Races Liggett Green Trophy 194.1 1
Liggett Unlimited 195.2 2
1933 Chicago Amer. Air Races Davis Baby Ruth 200.7 2
Davis Aero Digest 202.8 2
CR-2A 1933 Chicago Intl. Air Races Liggett 500 cid 191.4 2
CR-3 1933 Omaha Air Races Livingston 1
1933 Minneapolis Livingston 1

1933 Chicago Amer.Air Races Livingston Baby Ruth 201.4 1

Livingston Aero Digest 202.8 1

Livingston Speed Dash 237.4 1

Roy Liggett won the Col. Green Trophy and was second in the unlimited event at the 1933 Miami air races
flying the CR-2 with 145 hp Warner engine. In the photo Liggett rests against the Cessna CR-2 racer, in which
he was killed in 1933. Liggett's death sapped Clyde Cessna of further interest in aviation. (Truman C. Weaver

Clyde Cessna designed his first racer, the GC-1, for the 5,541-mile Cirrus All-American Air Derby of 1930.
Powered by a 90 hp supercharged Cirrus engine, the airplane was dubbed the "Winged Torpedo" by the press
but suffered from so many engine problems that it could only earn seventh-place money. Sans supercharger, it
placed fourth in a 1930 National Air Races event at a respectable 137.4 mph average.

Johnny Livingston's CR-3 was powered with the Super Scarab from his racing Monocoupe. It set a world
record for aircraft powered by 500 cu. in. engines at 237.4 mph in its last competition.

The CR-1 made only one flight before being rebuilt into the CR-2. With a tiny wing spanning only 16 ft. and a
length of 17 ft., it was a handful for Eldon Cessna on its maiden flight. He finally got airborne at 100 mph
thanks to a mound of dirt that acted as a catapult. Deciding that discretion was more important than valour, he
returned to the airfield quickly, making a 130-mph approach and landing safely.



Aviation owes much to a farm boy whose name became synonymous with monoplanes and played a
major role in making Wichita the "Air Capital of the World."

Clyde Vernon Cessna had been a successful Overland automobile dealer in Enid, Oklahoma for
several years until 1911 when he was struck with flying fever. Fascinated by the frail but efficient
Bleriot XI monoplane that traversed the English Channel in 1909, Cessna eventually left Oklahoma
for New York City, where he worked briefly for the Queen Aeroplane Company and learned about
airplanes and how they were constructed.

Cessna dubbed his first airplane the "Silverwing." It was an American-built copy of the Bleriot XI, and
would eventually teach Cessna the art of aviating. Powered by a two-stroke, four-cylinder Elbridge
"Aero Special" engine that developed 40 hp. at 1,050 RPM, the Elbridge was a marine powerplant
that had been converted for aviation use. In Throughout 1911 Cessna made many flights in the
airplane on the Great Salt Plains near Jet, Oklahoma in an effort to teach himself how to fly. He and
Silverwing suffered numerous accidents, but in December 1911 Clyde made a highly successful, five-
mile flight near Enid that included turns and ended with a safe landing at the departure point.

Flushed with success, Cessna severed his ties with the automobile business and devoted his time,
energy, and money to exhibition flying. It was a lucrative endeavour for any pilot who could keep his
airplane aloft for only a few minutes at holiday events and county fairs. During 1912-1915 he built
several monoplanes, all of them powered by six-cylinder Anzani radial engines that developed 40-60
hp. Although successful, the Cessna Exhibition Company only whetted Clyde's appetite to become
more involved in the fledgling aviation business. Flying was fun and profitable, but what he really
wanted to do was manufacture and sell airplanes of his own design to the public.

Cessna poses with the monoplane he built during

the winter of 1914. It was powered by a 60-hp.
Anzani radial engine. By 1915 it had been
modified with an improved landing gear, shown
here. (Wichita Chamber of Commerce)

Aviator Cessna strikes a causal pose with the
"Comet," a two-place monoplane powered by a
60-hp. Anzani engine. (Smithsonian Institution
Neg. # 81-12610)

In 1916 he set up shop in a vacant building in Wichita, Kansas and built a new airplane for the 1917
exhibition season. Cessna also established a flight school at the "factory" and enrolled five young
men as students. When the United States declared war on the Central Powers in April 1917,
Cessna's exhibition flying ground to halt. Instead, he returned to farming at his home near Rago,
Kansas and harvested wheat to help feed the "doughboys" fighting in France.

In 1917 Cessna occupied a small building north

of downtown Wichita where he built the first
airplane (center) manufactured in the city. A flight
school also was located there. (Cessna Aircraft

Clyde's interest in aeronautics never faded during the war, and he dreamed of returning to Wichita
and resuming the manufacture of airplanes. Cessna continued flying, however, and bought a new
Laird "Swallow" biplane that he flew during the early 1920s. He used the OX-5-powered Swallow to
give his favorite nephew, Dwane Wallace, an introduction to the world of aviation.

Late in 1924, Cessna was visited by Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech, who had been key
employees of the Swallow Company under leadership of the cantankerous Jacob M. "Jake"
Moellendick. The two young men, in concert with a few other people, had split from Swallow and
planned to form a new business to be known as the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. Stearman
urged Cessna to join them, chiefly because Lloyd knew he and Beech needed Cessna's expertise in
aviation as well as his money and equipment. It was a hard sell, but Cessna agreed.

In return for his participation and investment, Clyde was named president. The infant company began
life in a cramped, 30x30-ft. space in the rear of a planing mill in downtown Wichita. Travel Air's first
product was an attractive, two-bay biplane designed by Stearman and was dubbed the "Model A." It
made its first flight in March 1925. At a price of more than $3,000, the OX-5-powered Model A was
expensive compared with the plethora of war-surplus Curtiss JN-4 and Standard J-1 biplanes that still
were available, but it outperformed them both and gradually sales increased to 19 airplanes the first

The company introduced the improved Model B biplane in 1926 that featured the new, 200-hp. Wright
J4 air-cooled radial engine. That year Cessna convinced Walter Beech that the company should offer
a monoplane with an enclosed cabin for use by small airlines. Beech agreed, and the Travel Air Type
5000 was based largely on a monoplane designed and custom-built by Cessna earlier in 1926. A
slightly larger and more powerful version of the prototype airplane was ordered by National Air
Transport, and 8 eventually were delivered to the airline.

Despite the success of the Type 5000, Cessna was restless. In January 1927 he sold his stock and
resigned from Travel Air to build a full cantilever monoplane he named the "Phantom." It was a
graceful, three-place machine powered by a 90-hp. Anzani radial engine and flew well. In 1927
Cessna and Victor Roos joined forces to found the Cessna Aircraft Company on the west side of
Wichita. With help from his talented son Eldon and other company engineers, in 1927-1929 Clyde
marketed a succession of 4- and 6-place monoplanes designated Model AA, Model BW, and the
popular Model AW series.

The Cessna "Phantom" with its full cantilever

wing was an advanced design for 1927. It was
a prototype for the successful "A" series
airplanes introduced in 1928. (Stephen J.
Hudeck Aeronautical Archives)

With the advent of Wall Street's collapse in the autumn of 1929, Cessna and other manufacturers
soon found themselves without customers for their products. To spur sales, Cessna slashed prices
but to no avail. Faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, in 1931 the board of directors of the Cessna
Aircraft Co. voted to oust Cessna and close the factory doors. It seemed as though Clyde's
involvement in aviation was over, but he never gave up.

Undaunted, Cessna and Eldon rented vacant facilities in the abandoned Travel Air complex on East
Central Ave. and created the C.V. Cessna Aircraft Co. that specialized in building diminutive, custom
racing airplanes. The most successful of these was the CR-3 owned and flown by the great air-racing
pilot Johnny Livingston. In the wake of losing his company to the stockholders in 1931, Cessna was
dealt another blow in 1933 when his close friend Roy Liggett died in the crash of the CR-2 racer built
by Clyde and Eldon. Cessna's grief ran deep. He withdrew from aviation and retreated to his farm
near Rago.

In 1934 his nephew Dwane Wallace, armed with a degree in aeronautical engineering and with help
from his brother Dwight Wallace, wrested control of the defunct Cessna Aircraft Company from the
stockholders and introduced the classic Cessna C-34 monoplane. Clyde agreed to participate in the
new venture only in a ceremonial capacity, and was not involved directly in the day-to-day operations
of the company. The C-34 was a success and was named the world's most efficient airplane. Dwane
Wallace went on to guide the company through the turbulent 1930s, oversaw development of the
twin-engine T-50 that became the famed Cessna "Bobcat" of World War Two fame, and introduced
the Model 190/195, Model 120/140 into the post-war market. Later, these airplanes were followed by
the ubiquitous Model 150 and 172 Skyhawk as well as the sleek Model 310 made famous by the Sky
King television series.

After more than 40 years in the aviation business and incalculable contributions to aeronautics, Clyde
Cessna died in November 1954 age 74. He never held a pilot's license and had received only a
rudimentary education, but his genius with airplanes coupled with an unshakable determination to
succeed has made his name and legacy an icon in the history of flying.

By Edward H. Phillips, Cessna and Travel Air historian

The Cessnas that got away


At least part of Cessna's success is the fact that their aircraft are engineered for production. Reigning
for years as the No. 1 manufacturer of General Aviation aircraft, their designs have always been
pragmatic and market-driven, and most importantly, accessible to the masses.

In the boom years since World War II, Cessna has designed, manufactured and marketed scores of
airframe designations. But there was also an equal number of ideas that seemed awfully good at the
time, but which for one reason or another you may not have ever seen at your local airport.

Model X-210-Cessna's first 210 had no direct relationship to the later model of the same name, but
was proposed in the late Forties as a possible replacement for the popular Model 195. The X-210
employed a 195 airframe and its cantilever wings, but in place of the 300 hp Jacobs radial was a
horizontally opposed Continental O-470 of 240 horsepower. The reasoning was that the flat cowl
presented much fewer square feet of frontal area. Wing tips and vertical and horizontal stabilizer had
square tips instead of the rounded ones used on production 195s, the wings featured high-lift flaps,
and the main gear was an innovative tapered tubular steel design.

The X-210 first flew in January 1950, but the gain from the lower cowl profile was no trade for sixty
less horsepower, and the prototype proved to be disproportionately slower than the 195. The
lukewarm feeling was further heightened when the Korean War began, demanding more and more
production materials and space from Cessna for its L-19 Bird Dog, so the project was dropped.

However, several of the design features would show up on later Cessna models.

Model 308-This design could be characterized as a four-place Model 305-the airplane which had
become the U.S. Army's "Bird Dog" in 1950. The 308 was in answer to a military proposal which
called for a new, larger aircraft category that was eventually filled by the de Havilland Beaver. Built on
the general lines of the 170, the Model 308 had a much larger 47-ft wing span and 4,200 lb gross
weight. Powered by a whopping 375 hp Lycoming GSO-580, it could operate smartly off unimproved
strips and carry a 1,000-lb payload for 800 statute miles. Only one example was built, and it first flew
in July 1951.
Model 309/319--Cessna participated in Boundary Layer Control (BLC) research from 1951 to 1955
with the U.S. Navy and Wichita University using a stock 170A modified to house a small gas turbine
in the fuselage which blew air over the wing (1951). The 309A, first flown in February 1952, used an
engine-driven electric generator to operate large fans in the wings to generate the air; the 309B of
1953 and 309C in 1954 used dry chemicals that generated airflow across the wings and flaps.

Another follow-on, the 319-A of 1953, had larger, more powerful flaps. With 225 hp Continental
engine and BLC, the airplane had a stall speed of 32 mph. It could take off in 190 ft, land in 160 ft and
make it in over a 50-ft obstacle in just 450 ft. As a research vehicle, the 309/319 was a success, but
its commercial application was questionable--or as a Cessna test pilot wrote on a report after his first
flight, "All in all, a rather nasty little monster!"

Model 620-Despite Beech's lack of success in finding a market for a four-engine transport nine years
earlier, Cessna announced its Model 620 in 1956. It was an eight to ten-place pressurized aircraft
powered by four 320 hp Continental GSO-526-As. Priced in the $300,000-$400,000 range, it would
cost more than new twin-engine Martin and Convair airliners.

Planned for introduction as a 1958 model, design began in September 1953. Even though work on
the Model 310 twin was underway, very little structure could be found to share with the larger
airframe; virtually every piece on the four-engine airplane was new. It took nearly three years of
prototype construction before the first flight was made.

Its stand-up cabin was six feet high and air conditioned, and the 620 had an on-board APU. Fuel
capacity was over 400 gallons (part of which was carried in the distinctive tip tanks which would be a
Cessna trademark for decades), gross weight was 13,650 lbs, it had a 55-ft wing span, maximum
speed of 282 mph and 27,500 ft service ceiling--22,500 ft on three engines.

It apparently wasn't until after flight testing began that the company started its market research, and it
was then that they discovered much the same which Beech had found earlier--that most potential
customers had a ready supply of larger, pressurized airliners available for far less than the proposed
model. With a total of fifty hours on the only prototype, it was sold to a Wichita scrap metal dealer.
Some of the 620's design lessons, however, would be used in later twin-engine models.

Model 160-Cessna was selling most of the single-engine aircraft produced in the world in 1962. With
models ranging from the $7,495 two-place 150B trainer to the $23,975 Model 210B, the company had
eight models filling the niches. What it needed now, the reasoning went, was a design that would offer
more airplane for less money, and the answer could possibly lie in changing labor-intensive
production procedures. The four-place Model 160 was to be priced at $8,450, between the 150 and
the 172. Its unfashionably square-cut conventionality was more a concession to the economies of
manufacturing than to aesthetics of its market.

Fuselage and wing skins relied on heavy beading for strength and low weight, and the strut-braced
constant-chord wings and free-caster nose gear provided simplicity of manufacture. The prototype
was powered by a 125 hp Franklin engine, and it took the airplane to 134 mph. The 145 hp O-300
Continental engine then in use in the 172 was specified for the production Model 160, and would
provide a top speed of 143 mph. In a proposed military version--the 160M--a Continental IO-360 of
210 hp would push it to a theoretical 174 mph top speed.

Flight tests in 1962-63 showed the model had promise, but not enough to make the necessary
production and tooling adjustments, so the project was eventually abandoned and the company went
back to doing things the way they had always been done. The sole prototype hung around until 1974,
when it was reportedly scrapped.

However, the salvage yard kept putting off the job, and a mechanic from Northeast Kansas bought
the remains of the prototype a few years ago and has offered it for sale.

Model 327-After modest successes with the Center Line Thrust (CLT) concept that Cessna pioneered
in civil aircraft with the 1964 introduction of the six-place, fixed-gear 336 and subsequent retractable-
gear 337 Skymasters, the Model 327, the "Baby Skymaster," was proposed in 1965.

The four-seat twin had cantilever wings and was powered by two 160 hp IO-320 engines. It first flew
in December 1967, and 39 hours of flight testing was completed before the project was canceled from
lack of interest in 1968. The prototype continued to fly, however, working in a joint Langley Research
Center/Cessna Aircraft Company project on noise reduction and being used as a test bed for wind
tunnel evaluation of ducted and free propellers.

Model 187-The 187 was developed as a natural numeric follow-on to the 177, and was intended to
expand the new Cardinal design motif-cantilever wing, flying tail, wide doors and spacious cabin-to all
of Cessna's singles. The project started life in 1965 as the Model 343, with 240 hp GO-336 engine, T-
tail and balanced stabilator, but was redesignated the Model 187 in 1968 with the old standby O-470
engine which had been in use since 1956 in the Model 182. First flown in April 1968, the 187 looked
good, sleek and speedy, but there were no significant performance or handling improvements over
the model it intended to replace. By the time some of its shortcomings were being discovered, the
seminal Cardinal design was foundering in market acceptance, so the Model 187 project was

Model 1014/1034 XMC-One truly innovative Cessna design was the XMC, a public relations acronym
for Experimental Magic Carpet. Probably never intended for production, the single development
airplane was built in the early Seventies to test (and publicize) advanced aerodynamics and materials

A100 hp O-200 Continental engine was mounted behind the two-place cabin with pusher prop. That
rearward weight bias necessitated that the pilot and passenger be placed ahead of the slightly swept
cantilever wing. It was first flown in January 1971 as the Model 1014, and was reconfigured with a
shrouded propeller, spatted nose gear and increased vertical stabilizer area in 1972, when the
designation was changed to the Model 1034.

Other experiments with CG effects, control surface location/response, cabin noise levels and
relationship of wing to engine and propeller were tested over the next two years before the program

These are some of the designs which never saw the showroom floor; there were dozens of others
that developed into production models, including the Cessna CH-1 helicopter, but that's another
whole strange story.

The Model 308 was an overgrown Bird Dog, 475 horsepower and a 47-ft. wing span, built for a military proposal which
eventually chose deHavilland Canada's Beaver.

The Model 620, the answer to an unasked question. Four 320 hp engines, pressurization and a price tag approaching
$400,000 at a time when you could buy surplus transports or new twins for one-tenth that amount.

The Baby Skymaster (Model 327) was a four-place twin which generated even less market interest than its big

The XMC--Experimental Magic Carpet-- a development model built in 1971 for testing advanced aerodynamics and
materials concepts.

Cessna's entrée into the helicopter market came from Wichita designer Charles Seibel. It was certified in 1959 and
produced through 1962 for both civil and

Cessna Experimental, prototype and miscellaneous production 1945-present

1949 305 (L-19 prototype)

1951 X-210
1951 308
1953 319
1953 310
1953 305A (civil L-19)
1954-62 CH-1 (helicopter)
1954 321 (OE-2 prototype)
1955 180
1956 620
1956 325 (L-19 crop duster)
1957 210 (Centurion)
1959 175 (Skylark)
1960 336 (Skymaster)
1960 185
1960 320 (Skyknight)
1961 205
1962 160
1962 411
1964 337 (Super Skymaster)
1964 188 (Agwagon)
1965 P411 (421 prototype)
1965 360 (402 prototype)
1966 330
1966 172J (177 Cardinal prototype)
1967 182M
1967 207
1967 327
1967 187
1968 414
1969 1008 (177RG prototype)
1969-70 500 (Citation I)
1970 340
1970 1014 (XMC)
1971 TU206
1971 T337G (P337 prototype)
1973 441
1974 404
1976 P210 (Pressurized Centurion)
1976 550 (Citation II)
1976 182RG

1977 402C
1977 303
1978 172RG
1978 425
1979 T303
1979 650 (Citation III)
1982 208 (Caravan)
1983 406
1987 560 (Citation V)