Which aircraft manufacturing company first reached the milestone of 100,000 aircraft manufactured? What company was most likely to do this? Boeing, perhaps? Mooney? Lockheed? Piper?
No. The company was Clyde’s.
Cessna was a Kansas farmer who was the first pilot to build and fly an airplane between the Mississippi River and the Rockies when he constructed a simple wood and fabric airplane. From this simple beginning, he went to Enid, OK and created his company in 1927 to build airplanes. He left Enid when the bankers there were too shortsighted to lend him money to expand his company. Cessna packed up and moved the company to Wichita, KS—their present location.
Clyde had a revolutionary idea for his time. He was going to abandon the idea that airplanes had to have two wings; instead, he went with the idea the airplane could be constructed and fly just as well and safely with only one cantilevered wing.
The Cessna Model A was the first plane the company produced in number using Clyde’s idea of a single, high wing, non-braced wing. The high wing design would go on to be the preferred design feature of most Cessna aircraft throughout time.
Throughout the following years, then decades, Cessna Aircraft made their mark on the world. The company produced some of the finest single-engine airplanes ever sold to the public. In 1948, the US Flight Instructors Association named the Cessna 140 as the “Outstanding Plane of the Year.” The big brother to the Cessna 140 was the four-seat Cessna 170.
As the company moved from the late ’40s and ’50s, the Cessna 140s and 170s gave way to the Cessna 150 and Cessna 172 lines. Cessna also produced these airplanes in large numbers and they were responsible for the aviation education and training of tens of thousands of pilots in the last half of the last century. Many of those pilots are now flying our nation’s airliners and military aircraft.
The company’s high performance single engine line includes the Cessna 180, the Cessna 182, the Cessna 185, and the Cessna 210. The 180 and the 185 are tailwheel airplanes and very popular with bush pilots who are flying them all over the world. The 230 horsepower Continental powers the 180 while the 185 airframe contains a 300 horsepower engine.
The Cessna 210 is a six-seat high performance, complex airplane also powered by a 300 hp engine. It is a very well performing airplane, which cruises at 190 knots and is still capable of slowing down well enough to land at less than 60 knots. With enough fuel to cruise comfortably out to 800 nm, this airplane is a great workhorse for many small companies and individuals.
In addition to their single-engine line, Cessna produced some of the best multi-engine reciprocating-engined aircraft on the market. These include the 310, 320, 340 402, and 421 models. Many consider the Cessna 310 as one of the prettiest and best performing light twins ever produced. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, the airplane actually became a TV star on the Sky King series.
Naturally, the company’s success with gasoline-powered airplanes led them into the turbine market. Today, Cessna Aircraft supplies corporate and private customers with jet airplanes capable of spanning the globe.
While the idea of jetting around the world in a Cessna Citation is interesting, I am definitely still a 170 kind of pilot.
© 2011 J. Clark