In 1947, enthusiasm reigned supreme in the general aircraft industry. With the release of the bold new Cessna 195, the Wichita, Kan., aircraft maker gleefully announced the introduction of a “completely practical, personal and company airliner.” Other great American companies who stood to enjoy a new profit stream from personal aircraft joined in the celebration. Phillips Petroleum ran an advertising campaign wishing “success to you and the new Cessna 195 Businessliner.” At that time, it was as close to a cabin-class single as you could get. Cessna attempted to convince customers that these were “four- to five-place airliners, not light planes,” and worked hard to position the C-195 and its lower-powered sibling, the C-190, as business airplanes. The plan was to build and sell 300 to 400 of the new Businessliners a year.
Unfortunately, they missed the market by a long shot. The Beechcraft Bonanza was new to the market in 1947, and Piper brought out the Comanche as competition as well. A big radial engine and conventional gear was instantly nostalgic for the business market in the early 1950s. Beech and Piper chose to pursue tricycle retractable gear and flat engines, both of which made for smaller, cheaper and faster airplanes. The Bonanza always was more affordable to buy and operate than the Businessliner. Cessna built 1,094 of the C-190-series airplanes; Beech eventually made more than 10,000 Bonanzas. If you measure success by numbers, the Beech beat the Cessna, but it didn’t look quite as cool.