Cessna T-50 Crane
Twin-engine five-seat low-wing light transport/training aircraft, U.S.A.

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 Lt. Col. Marc Matthews, M.D.)]

Overview 2

  • Cessna AT-17/UC-78 “Bobcat”/T-50 “Crane”
  • Role: five-seat light transport
  • Manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company
  • First flight: 1939
  • Primary users: United States Army Air Forces; Royal Canadian Air Force; United States Navy
  • Number built: 5,400+

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 2

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 2

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-17s and UC-78s 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 1970s, 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-78s 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.

Variants 2

  • T-50: Cessna design number. Five-seat twin-engined commercial transport aircraft, fitted with Jacobs L-4MB radial piston engines.
  • AT-8: Military trainer version of the T-50 with two 295 hp (220-kW) Lycoming R-680-9 radial piston engines, 33 built.
  • AT-17: As the AT-8 but powered by 245 hp (183 kW) Jacobs R-775-9 (L-4) engines, 450 built some later converted to AT-17E.
  • AT-17A: As the AT-17 but with metal propellers and reduced weight, 223 built. 182 to Canada as “Crane” IAs and later conversion to AT-17Fs.
  • AT-17B: As the AT-17A but with equipment changes, 466 built. Subsequent aircraft were built as UC-78Bs.
  • AT-17C: As the AT-17A but different radio equipment, 60 built.
  • AT-17D: As the AT-C with equipment changes, 131 built.
  • AT-17E: AT-17 with gross weight limited to 5,300 lb (2,400 kg).
  • AT-17F: AT-17A with gross weight limited to 5,300 lb (2,400 kg).
  • AT-17G: AT-17B with gross weight limited to 5,300 lb (2,400 kg).
  • C-78: Military transport version for the United States Army Air Forces, redesignated UC-78 in 1943, 1354 built.
  • UC-78: C-78 redesignated in 1943; variable-pitch propellers.
  • UC-78A: 17 impressed civilian T-50's
  • UC-78B: Originally the AT-17B, wooden propellers and reduced weight, 1806 built.
  • UC-78C: Originally the AT-17D, same as UC-78B with equipment changes, 196 built and 131 AT-17Ds redesignated.
  • JRC-1: Navy light transport version of the UC-78 with two Jacobs R-775-9 engines, 67 delivered.
  • “Crane” I: Royal Canadian Air Force designation for T-50's with minor equipment changes, 640 delivered as light transports.
  • “Crane” 1A: 182 AT-17As delivered to Canada under lend-lease.

Operators 2

  • Brazil: Brazilian Air Force (operated 39 from 1943 - 1956)
  • Canada: Royal Canadian Air Force (operated 744 from 1941 - 1949); Queen Charlotte Airlines
  • Costa Rica: Air Force of Costa Rica (operated 1 in 1948)
  • Ethiopia: Ethiopian Air Force (operated 2 from 1946 - 1965)
  • France: French Air Force & French Navy (operated 8 from 1943 - 1951)
  • Guatemala: Guatemalan Air Force (received 1 in 1949)
  • Haiti: Haitian Air Force (operated 4 from 1943 - 1963)
  • Nicaragua: Nicaraguan Air Force (received 2 in 1947)
  • North Yemen: Yemeni Air Force (operated 3 from 1950 - 1958)
  • Republic of China: Republic of China Air Force (operated 15 from 1946 - 1950)
  • Peru: Peruvian Air Force (operated 9 from 1945 - 1958)
  • Poland: LOT Polish Airlines (operated 14 from 1946 - 1950)
  • United States: Civil Aeronautics Authority; Army Air Corps/United States Army Air Forces; United States Navy; Northern Consolidated Airlines; Wiggins Airways

Specifications (AT-17) 2

General Characteristics

  • Crew: 5
  • Length: 32 ft 9 in (9.98 m)
  • Wingspan: 41 ft 11 in (12.78 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 11 in (3.02 m)
  • Wing area: 295 ft2 (27.4 m2)
  • Empty weight: 3,500 lb (1,588 kg)
  • Gross weight: 5,700 lb (2,585 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,062 lb (2,750 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Jacobs R-755-9 seven-cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engine, 245 hp (183 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 169 kn; 314 km/h (195 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 152 kn; 282 km/h (175 mph)
  • Service ceiling: 22,000 ft (6,700 m)


  1. Shupek, John. Photos by John Shupek, Copyright © 2004 & 2012 Skytamer Images ( All Rights Reserved
  2. Matthews, Lt. Col. Marc, M.D. (USAF Ret.). Photos by Marc Matthews dated 10/10/2012
  3. Wikipedia, Cessna AT-17 Bobcat

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