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And Then This Happened Aviation Breakthroughs/Oddities/Milestones: Cessna Single-Engine Evolution: 30 Years Of Magic

The progress of technology, materials and propulsion is only a small part of how over three decades Cessna evolved the concept of the small single-engine plane into a lineup of a dozen all-time classics.


The company Clyde Cessna founded in 1927, Cessna Aircraft, has been selling planes for 93 years now, but almost all of its single-engine magic was conjured up during a period that started in the early 1950s and effectively ended around 1968. During those 20-some-odd years, the world’s biggest little airplane company created a lineup of classic planes that fit the needs of just about every imaginable personal airplane flyer and a lot of commercial operators, as well. And along the way, there were very few missteps, and even some of those were failures of great ideas.

With that, let’s take a look at how a great company redefined the world of personal air transportation.

Cessna 195 Businessliner

Cessna 195 Businessliner

Cessna 195 Businessliner

After the war, Cessna designers correctly believed that a new, more modern consumer would demand new, more modern aircraft, and they did. To fulfill this need, Cessna created a new breed of airplane that still had one gear leg firmly stuck in the pre-war era. The 195 was a departure from the Airmaster in many ways. It featured all-metal design and a more powerful engine and kept the already-modern cantilever wing design. But the designers held on to as many features as they let go of. The 195 retained two main features from the Airmaster, those being the taildragger gear configuration and the radial engine. In essence, the designers at Cessna failed to be modern enough. Contrast the 195 with another light single produced across town in Wichita, the Beechcraft Bonanza, which was the first truly modern light plane. Unlike the 195, it featured a lower-horsepower opposed engine, sleek aerodynamics, a low wing and the same all-metal construction as the 195. Not that the 195 isn’t a great airplane. It is. But it was an evolutionary death in many ways, and to its credit, Cessna knew that. First flight: 1945. Number built: 1,180. Status: Out of production.

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