Cessna T-50 “Crane / Bobcat”
Archive Photos 1,2
Cessna T-50 “Crane” Mk.Ia” (C-FFGF) on display (9/22/2003) at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Mount Hope, Ontario, Canada (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 2003 Skytamer Images)
Cessna T-50 “Bobcat” (NC59188, s/n 3084, 1942) on display (10/10/2012) at the CAF Museum, Falcon Field Airport, Mesa, Arizona (Photo by AFIA)
The Cessna AT-17 “Bobcat” was a twin-engined advanced trainer aircraft designed and made in the United States, and used during World War II to bridge the gap between single-engine trainers and twin-engine combat aircraft. The AT-17 was powered by two Jacobs R-755-9 radial piston engines. The commercial version was the Model T-50, from which the AT-17 was developed.
Design and Development ³
The Cessna AT-17 was a military version of the commercial Cessna T-50 light transport. The Cessna Airplane Company first produced the wood and tubular steel, fabric-covered T-50 in 1939 for the civilian market, as a lightweight and low cost twin for personal use where larger aircraft such as the Beech 18 would be too expensive. A low-wing cantilever monoplane, it featured retractable main landing gear and wing trailing-edge flaps, both electrically actuated. The wing structure was built up of laminated spruce spar beams with spruce and plywood ribs. The fixed tailwheel is non-steerable and full-swivelling. The prototype T-50 made its maiden flight on 26 March 1939.
In 1940, the United States Army Air Corps ordered them under the designation AT-8 as multi-engine advanced trainers.
Operational History ³
Thirty-three Cessna AT-8's were built for the U.S. Army Air Corps, and production continued under the designation Cessna AT-17 reflecting a change in equipment and engine types. In 1942, the U.S Army Air Force adopted the “Bobcat” as a light personnel transport and those delivered after January 1, 1943 were designated UC-78 “Bobcat”. By the end of World War II, Cessna had produced more than 4,600 “Bobcat”s for the U.S. military, 67 of which were transferred to the United States Navy as JRC-1's. In addition, 822 “Bobcat”s had been produced for the Royal Canadian Air Force as “Crane” I's, many of which were used in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The aircraft did not last long in North American post-war military service. Few (if any) “Bobcat”s were in service with the United States Air Force when it was formed in September, 1947. Surviving military aircraft were declared obsolete in 1949.
Dubbed the Bamboo Bomber by the pilots who flew them, it was one of the aircraft featured in the popular television series Sky King of early to mid-50's. The aircraft was replaced in later episodes by the T-50's successor, the all-metal Cessna 310.
Post war, surplus AT-17's and UC-78's could be converted by CAA-approved kits to civilian standard aircraft allowing their certification under the T-50's original Type Certificate (ATC-722, issued 3-24-1940). They were used by small airlines, charter and “bush” operators and private pilots. Some were operated on floats. By the 1970's, the number of airworthy aircraft had dwindled as they were made obsolete by more modern types and by the maintenance required by their aging wood wing structures and fabric covering. Since then, several have been restored by antique airplane enthusiasts. In August 2009, FAA records show 378 T-50's, 10 AT-17's and 30 UC-78's are listed on the FAA registration database. However, just because aircraft are registered with the FAA does not mean they are airworthy.
In the post-war years, “Bobcat”s continued in military service with Brazil and the Nationalist Chinese.
Specifications (AT-17) ³