Tag Archives: Cessna Aircraft Company Inc.

24 February 1967

Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force (26 July 1933–24 February 1967)
Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force.

MEDAL OF HONOR

CAPTAIN HILLIARD A. WILBANKS

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1896, in the name of Congress, has awarded in the name of The Congress, the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to CAPTAIN HILLIARD A. WILBANKS, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

As a forward air controller near Dalat, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1967, Captain Wilbanks was pilot of an unarmed, light aircraft flying visual reconnaissance ahead of a South Vietnam Army Ranger Battalion. His intensive search revealed a well-concealed and numerically superior hostile force poised to ambush the advancing rangers. The Viet Cong, realizing that Captain Wilbanks’ discovery had compromised their position and ability to launch a surprise attack, immediately fired on the small aircraft with all available firepower. The enemy then began advancing against the exposed forward elements of the Ranger force which were pinned down by devastating fire. Captain Wilbanks recognized that close support aircraft could not arrive in time to enable the Rangers to withstand the advancing enemy onslaught. With full knowledge of the limitations of his unarmed, unarmored, light reconnaissance aircraft, and the great danger imposed by the enemy’s vast firepower, he unhesitatingly assumed a covering, close support role. Flying through a hail of withering fire at treetop level, Captain Wilbanks passed directly over the advancing enemy and inflicted many casualties by firing his rifle out of the side window of his aircraft. Despite increasingly intense anti-aircraft fire, Captain Wilbanks continued to completely disregard his own safety and made repeated low passes over the enemy to divert their fire away from the Rangers. His daring tactics successfully interrupted the enemy advance, allowing the Rangers to withdraw to safety from their perilous position. During his final courageous attack to protect the withdrawing forces, Captain Wilbanks was mortally wounded and his bullet-riddled aircraft crashed between the opposing forces. Captain Wilbanks’ magnificent action saved numerous friendly personnel from certain injury or death. His unparalleled concern for his fellowman and his extraordinary heroism were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

General Orders: GB-50, February 8, 1968

Action Date: 24-Feb-67

Service: Air Force Reserve

Rank: Captain

Company: 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron

Regiment: 21st Tactical Air Support Group

Division: Nha Trang Air Force Base, Vietnam

Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks' widow was present this Medal of Honor. It is on display at the Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Georgia.
Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks’ widow was presented this Medal of Honor. It is on display at the Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Georgia.

Hilliard Almond Wilbanks was born at Cornelia, Georgia, 26 July 1933. He was the first of four children of Travis O’Neal Wilbanks, a farm equipment salesman, and Ruby Lea Wilkinson Wilbanks. He attended Cornelia High School, graduating in 1950

On 8 August 1950, Wilbanks enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served as an air policeman. In 1954, Airman 1st Class Wilbanks was selected for Air Cadet–Officer Candidate School. He was a Distinguished Graduate, and on 15 June 1955, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and awarded his pilot’s wings.

He was then assigned as a flight instructor in the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star. Wilbanks was promoted to first lieutenant, 15 December 1956.

Also in 1956, Lieutenant Wilbanks married Miss Rosemary Arnold at Greenville, Mississippi. They would have four children.

Lieutenant Wilbanks attended the Maintenance Officer School at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, and was then assigned as a maintenance test pilot for the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre at Eielson Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska. He was promoted the rank of  captain in 1961.

Captain Wilbanks was next assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was a maintenance officer for the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

In 1966, Captain Wilbanks attended the Forward Air Controller school at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam in March 1966. He was assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron. He used the call sign, “Walt 51,” and flew 487 combat missions before his final flight, 24 February 1967.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Captain Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, United States Air Force Reserve, had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal with nineteen oak leaf clusters (twenty awards), the Air Force Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star (for service during the Korean War and Vietnam War), the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Air Force Reserve Medal. The Republic of Vietnam awarded him its Anh Dũng Bội Tinh (the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross) with silver star, and Chiến Dịch Bội Tinh (Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal).

Captain Wilbanks’ remains were recovered and returned to the United States. He was buried at the Fayette Cemetery, Fayette, Mississippi.

A Forward Air Controller Cessna O-1G Bird Dog, serial number 51-12824. This is the same type airplane as Captain Wilbanks’ O-1G, 51-5078. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Wilbank’s airplane was an O-1G Bird Dog, serial number 51-5078 (c/n 21983). It was manufactured as an L-19A by the Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc., at Wichita, Kansas, in 1951. The airplane was later upgraded to the O-1G configuration. It is a single-engine, tandem-seat light airplane which was developed from the company’s 4-place Model 170. The prototype, Cessna Model 305, N41694, made its first flight on 14 December 1949.

The O-1G is 25 feet, 9.5 inches (7.861 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 0 inches (10.973 meters), overall height in 3-point position of 9.1 feet (2.8 feet). The airplane has typical empty weight of 1,716 pounds (778 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and a maximum gross weight of 2,800 pounds (1,270 kilograms).

The O-1G Bird Dog was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.772 liter) Continental O-470-11 six-cylinder horizontally-opposed direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1. The O-470-11 was rated at 190 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., at Sea Level, and 213 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off (5 minute limit). 80/87 octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine had a dry weight of 391 pounds (177 kilograms). The airplane was equipped with a fixed pitch two-blade McCauley propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 6 inches (2.286 meters).

The O-1G had a maximum cruise speed of 85 knots (98 miles per hour/157 kilometers per hour), and never exceed speed (VNE ) of 165 knots (190 miles per hour/306 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 20,300 feet (6,187 meters).

Cessna built 3,431 Bird Dogs between 1949 and 1959. Only about 300 are believed to remain airworthy today.

A U.S. Air force )-1 Bird Dog Forward Air Controller rolls in on a target. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 September 1978, 16:02:07 UTC

PSA Flight 182, on fire after mid-air collision, 25 September 1978. (Hans Wendt, County of San Diego)

25 September 1978: At 09:02:07 a.m., local time, the worst aircraft accident in California history occurred when a Boeing 727-214 airliner, civil registration N533PS, operated by Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) as Flight 182, crashed at the intersection of Dwight Street and Nile Street in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, 4,830 meters (3.00 miles) northwest of Lindbergh Field (SAN), today known as San Diego International Airport.

Flight 182 was a regularly scheduled commercial airline flight from Sacramento, California to San Diego, with a stopover at Los Angeles. Captain James E. McFeron, a 17-year veteran of PSA, was in command. First Officer Robert E. Fox was the pilot flying the 727 on this leg. The Flight Engineer (also called the Second Officer) was Martin J. Wahne. Also in the cockpit, occupying the two “jump seats” were two off-duty PSA captains. Four flight attendants were on duty in the passenger cabin along with 126 passengers, which included 30 PSA employees.

In clear weather and early morning sunlight, the airliner was on an visual approach to Lindbergh. The 727 passed over the Mission Bay VORTAC (MZB), a navigation aid 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) northwest of the airport, and turned left to a heading of 090° to intercept the downwind leg of the approach.

Detail of current aeronautical chart of airspace around San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field.)
Detail of current aeronautical chart of airspace around San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field), center near bottom of image. Montgomery field is at the upper right.

Ahead of the 727, a single-engine light airplane, a Cessna 172, N7711G, with an instructor and student aboard, had made two practice ILS approaches to Runway 9 at Lindbergh and departed to the northwest, returning to its base at Montgomery Field (MYF), 6.4 miles (10.3 kilometers) north-northeast of SAN.

Approach Control called, Cessna 7711G, radar contact, maintain VFR at or below 3500 [1,067 meters], fly heading 070, vector (for) final approach course.” The pilot of the Cessna, David T. Boswell, acknowledged the east-north-easterly heading and the altitude restriction. About 15 seconds later, at 08:59:39, the controller informed the 727, “Additional traffic’s twelve o’clock, three miles, just north of the field, northeastbound, a Cessna One Seventy-Two climbing VFR out of one thousand four hundred.” [427 meters] At 08:59:50, First Officer Fox reported, Okay, we’ve got that other twelve.”

Radar tracks show that N7711G initially maintained the assigned heading but after about one minute, turned 20° right to 090°, the same heading as that of Flight 182.

At 09:00:23, Approach Control acknowledged Flight 182: “Okay, sir, maintain visual separation, contact Lindbergh Tower 133.3. Have a nice day, now!”

Flight 182 switched radio frequencies and Captain McFeron checked in with the tower: “Lindbergh, PSA 182. Downwind.” The Tower Controller responded, “PSA 182, Lindbergh Tower, traffic 12 o’clock, one mile, a Cessna.”

In the cockpit there was confusion about the reported conflicting traffic ahead. Captain McFeron asked, “Is that the one we’re looking at?” Flight Engineer Wahne replied, “Yeah—but I don’t see him now.” McFeron called the Tower, “Okay, we had it there a minute ago.” The Controller replied, “One Eighty-Two, roger.” The Captain continued, “I think he’s passed off to our right.”

Inside the cockpit, McFeron said, “He was right over there a minute ago.” Wahne agreed, “Yeah.”

Lindbergh Tower authorized Flight 182 to land, “PSA 182—cleared to land,” and McFeron acknowledged with, “PSA 182’s cleared to land.” He then asked the Flight Engineer, “Are we clear of that Cessna?” Wahne said, “Supposed to be!” McFeron responded, “I guess.” In the cockpit’s jump seat, one of the two off-duty captains said, “I hope!”

At 09:01:21, Captain McFeron stated, “Oh, yeah, before we turned downwind, I saw him about one o’clock, probably behind us now.”

First Officer Fox called for the wing flaps to be lowered and then at 09:01:31 he asked for the landing gear to be lowered. At 09:01:38, Fox said, There’s one underneath [pause] I was looking at that inbound there.” Flight 182 was now descending through 2,600 feet (793 meters).

At 09:01:47, the Flight 182’s Cockpit Voice Recorder picked up the sound of the collision.

The Boeing 727 struck the Cessna 172 from above and behind, destroying it. The airliner was heavily damaged and on fire. With the flight controls damaged, Flight 182 rolled and turned to the right. On a heading of approximately 200°, it crashed into residential neighborhood in a 300 mile per hour (483 kilometers per hour), 50° dive.

According to seismographs at the Museum of Natural History, San Diego, the impact occurred at 09:02:07 a.m., Pacific Daylight Savings Time (16:02:07 UTC).

The largest piece of the Cessna impacted six blocks away, near 32nd Street and Park Avenue.

PSA Flight 182, a Boeing 727-214, registration N533PS, shortly before impact, 0902 a.m., 25 September 1978.
PSA Flight 182, a Boeing 727-214, registration N533PS, shortly before impact, 0902 a.m., 25 September 1978. (Hans Wendt, County of San Diego)

All 135 persons aboard the 727, both persons on the Cessna, and seven persons on the ground were killed. Another nine persons on the ground were injured. Twenty-two homes in a four-block area were destroyed or damaged.

The last words of the flight deck personnel recorded by the Cockpit Voice Recorder were that of an unidentified voice saying, “Ma, I love you.”

Scene of the crash of Flight 182, 25 September 1978. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Scene of the crash of Flight 182, 25 September 1978. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Pilot in Command of Flight 182, Captain James E. McFeron, had been employed by Pacific Southwest Airlines since 1961. He held an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and was type-rated in both the Lockheed L-188 Electra and the Boeing 727. He had a total of 14,382 flight hours, with 10,482 hours in the Boeing 727.

First Officer Robert E. Fox, Jr., also held an ATP certificate. Of his 10,049 flight hours, 5,800 were in the 727. He had been with PSA for 9 years.

Flight Engineer Martin J. Wahne had worked for PSA for 11 years. He had 10,800 hours, with 6,587 hours in the Boeing 727.

The Pilot in Command of the Cessna was Gunnery Sergeant David Lee Boswell, U.S. Marine Corps, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. Gunnery Sergeant Boswell held Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates, with Airplane—Single– and Multi–Engine Land ratings. He was receiving instrument flight instruction to apply for an Instrument Rating. Boswell had 407 total flight hours, and had flown 61 hours in the previous 90 days.

The Instructor Pilot on board the Cessna was Martin B. Kazy, Jr., an employee of the aircraft owner, Gibbs Flight Center at Montgomery Field. He held Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates, with Airplane Single– and Multi–Engine Land, and Instrument–Airplane ratings. He had a total of 5,137 flight hours. Kazy had flown 347 hours in the previous 90 days.

Pacific Southwest Airlines' Boeing 727-214, N533PS, photographed at San Francisco International Airport, September 1975. (Edge to Edge Photography)
Pacific Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 727-214, N533PS, photographed at San Francisco International Airport, September 1974. (Edge to Edge Photography)

The aircraft operated as PSA Flight 182 was a Boeing 727–214, serial number 19688, which made its first flight 4 June 1968. At the time of the accident, the total time on the airframe (TTAF) was 24,088.3 hours. It had made 36,557 takeoffs and landings.

The Boeing 727–200 series was a stretched version of the original –100 model. It was designed to be operated by a flight crew of three, and could carry up to 189 passengers. The –200 was 153 feet, 2 inches (46.685 meters) long with a wingspan of 108 feet, 0 inches (32.918 meters) and overall height of 34 feet, 0 inches (10.363 meters). The empty weight was 98,400 pounds (44,633 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was 184,800 pounds (83,642 kilograms). The airliner was powered by three Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9 low-bypass axial-flow turbofan engines, rated at 14,500 pounds of thrust at Sea Level for takeoff (5-minute limit), and 12,600 pounds of thrust, maximum continuous power. This gave the 727–200 a maximum cruise speed of 0.9 Mach (610 miles per hour, or 982 kilometers per hour, at 30,000 feet/9,144 meters). Its service ceiling was 42,000 feet (12,802 meters), and the maximum range was 1,956 miles (3,148 kilometers).

1,832 727s were built by Boeing between 1963 and 1984. 1,245 of these were 727-200s.

This 1976 Cessna 172M is similar in appearance to Gibbs Flight Center's N7711G. (Skytamer)
This 1976 Cessna 172M is similar in appearance to Gibbs Flight Center’s N7711G. (Skytamer)

Cessna 172 N7711G was a 1975 Cessna 172M, serial number 17265788. It had 2,993 total flight hours on the airframe (TTAF). It was a single-engine, four-place light airplane with a high wing and fixed tricycle landing gear. 711G was painted white with “mustard” yellow trim. The 172M is 26 feet, 11 inches (8.201 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 0 inch (10.973 meters) and height of 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The empty weight is 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms) and gross weight is 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). It is powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 319.749-cubic-inch-displacement (5.240 liter) Lycoming O-320-E2D horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder direct-drive engine rated at 150 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The engine drives a two-bladed McCauley fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 3 inches (1.905 meters). The engine installed on N7711G engine had 3,086 total hours since new (TSN) and 879 hours since overhaul (TSO). The 172M has a cruise speed of 138 miles per hour (222 kilometers per hour) at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and a maximum speed of 142 miles per hour (229 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The airplane’s service ceiling is 13,100 feet (3,993 meters) and its maximum range is 875 miles (1,408 kilometers).

More than 43,000 Cessna 172s have been built, more than any other airplane type.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 September 1951

Actors Kirby Grant and Gloria Winters with a Cessna 310B, N5384A, the Songbird. (Photograph by Hal McAlpin)
Actors Kirby Grant and Gloria Winters with a Cessna 310B, N5384A, the Songbird. (Photograph by Hal McAlpin)

16 September 1951: On Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. (in most locations), the speakers of American television sets blared with the roar of a twin-engine airplane, while the announcer called, Out of the clear blue of the western sky comes. . . SKY KING! The television series “Sky King” debuted on the NBC Television Network.

“Schuyler King,” owner of the Flying Crown Ranch in the fictional town of Grover, Arizona, was portrayed by actor Kirby Grant. His niece, “Penny,” was played by actress Gloria Winters.¹ The television program (developed from an earlier radio series) was a juvenile action-adventure series set in the American Southwest. The lead character, Sky King, was a former naval aviator-turned-rancher who was frequently called on to deal with criminals and spies, and to rescue his niece, all while using his airplane, which he had named Songbird.

The first songbird was this Cessna T-50, N ( productions)
The first Songbird was this 1943 Cessna T-50, N67832. (Jack Chertoff Television Productions)

Several airplanes were used during the filming of the television series. Initially, “Uncle Sky’s” airplane was a twin-engine Cessna T-50, N67832, owned by Paul Mantz. This airplane had been built as a U.S. Army Air Corps UC-78B Bobcat 43-32179 (Cessna serial number 6117). In 1946 it was sold as surplus by the War Assets Administration and registered under Cessna’s T-50 type certificate. N67832 was last registered to an owner in Clinton, Missouri. The registration was cancelled 16 March 2018.

The best known Flying Crown Ranch airplane, though, was a 1958 Cessna 310B, serial number 35548. In the title sequence of later episodes, Songbird is clearly seen with FAA registration N5348A on the bottom of its left wing as it banks away from the camera plane.

After filming of the “Sky King” series came to an end in 1959, Cessna sold N5348A. On 4 August 1962, it crashed near Delano, California, and its pilot was killed.

Some sequences filmed from inside the Songbird show a partial N-number of “-635B” on the upper surface of the right wing. This airplane was probably Cessna 310B 35735, registered N6635B. It was destroyed when it crashed while on approach to Van Nuys Airport (VNY) at 11:49 a.m., 17 December 1969. All three persons on board were killed.

N5348A was painted white, yellow and gold. Cessna owned the airplane and it was usually flown by the manufacturer’s pilot. A fuselage which had been used for static testing was also provided by Cessna for use in closeup and interior cockpit scenes.

The Model 310 was a 5-place light twin. It was the first airplane built by Cessna to have retractable tricycle landing gear. It was also the first Cessna design to be tested in a wind tunnel. In 1958, the only year in which the 310B variant was produced, the list price for a new airplane was $59,950. The airplane’s fuselage was 26 feet, 3 inches (8.001 meters) long (27 feet, 0 inches/8.230 meters including the extended nose wheel). Its wingspan was 35 feet, 9 inches (10.897 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 8 inches (3.251 meters). Its empty weight was approximately 2,850 pounds (1,293 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 4,700 pounds (2,132 kilograms).

The Cessna 310B was powered by two air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.722 liters) Continental Motors O-470-M horizontally-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engines with a compression ratio of 7:1. They were rated at 240 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff (5-minute limit), using 91/96 octane aviation gasoline. The O-470-M weighed 410 pounds (186 kilograms). The engines drove two-bladed Hartzell full-feathering propellers with a diameter of 7 feet, 0 inches (2.134 meters).

The 310B had a maximum structural cruise speed (VNO) of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed (VNE) of 248 miles per hour (399 kilometers per hour). The light twin had a service ceiling of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) and range of 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers).

This still image from the television series, "Sky King", shows teh Songbird parked at "the Flying Crown Ranch", actually, a location near Apple Valley, California.
This still image from the television series, “Sky King,” shows the Songbird parked at the “Flying Crown Ranch”— a filming location in Apple Valley, California. (Jack Chertoff Television Productions)

According to an aerodynamicist who worked for Cessna at the time, the 51-gallon (193 liters) wing-tip-mounted fuel tanks were the main design feature of the 310. Company management insisted on them as a safety measure, even though they caused some handling difficulties and slowed the airplane by nearly 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour). In the early 310 models, the entire fuel load was carried in the tip tanks, with none in the wings. It was felt that keeping fuel as far from the passenger compartment was safer in the event of an accident.

The Model 310 was in production from 1954 to 1980. The 310B was produced only in 1958. A total of 6,321 of all variants were built.

The Songbird, Cessna 310B N5348A. (NASM)

¹ Gloria Winters was a friend of TDiA’s sister-in-law. I met her at a Christmas Party circa 1977. My back was turned to her and she was in an adjacent room, but I heard her voice, which was instantly recognizable. “It’s Penny!”

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 June 1955

Prototype Cessna 172 N41678, serial number 612. (Flying Magazine, December 1955, Volume 57, Number 6, at Page 22)

12 June 1955:  On Sunday morning, 12 June 1955, Cessna Aircraft Company test pilot Emil Brown (“Fritz”) Feutz, took off from Cessna Aircraft Field (CEA), southeast of Wichita, Kansas, with the new prototype Model 172, N41678, and flew west to a grass runway near Kingman, Kansas, approximately 48 miles (78 kilometers) to the west. Also on board was an observer, D.G. Underwood. The airplane was stored in a small hangar. Feutz conducted the flight and certification testing at Kingman.

This color photograph of the prototype Cessna 172, N41678, was featured in a 1956 sales brochure. (Cessna Airplane Co. via cessna.org)
A prototype Cessna 170C, this is 170B serial number 609, N37892. (Cessna Aircraft Co.)

N41678, serial number 612, was originally a prototype for the Model 170C “tail-dragger.” It featured new, straight tail surfaces, in place of the classic rounded style. The airplane was then modified with tricycle-configuration landing gear. With the airplane in a horizontal attitude, the pilot had better visibility while on the ground. Taxiing, takeoff and landing were much easier. Flight testing showed that the increased drag slowed the 172 by about 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) when compared to the 170.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (predecessor to the Federal Aviation Administration) approved the airplane’s type certificate, 3A12, on 4 November 1955.

The Cessna 172 was an immediate success, with 1,174 being produced in 1956. Total production of the original model was 3,808, before production changed to the Model 172A in 1960. During the 1960s, Cessna began marketing the airplane with the name Skyhawk.

The 172 was in production from 1956 until 1986, when product liability lawsuits made the cost of the airplane unaffordable. Production resumed in 1996 and continues today. More than 44,000 have been built in at least 24 variants by Cessna and its licensee, Reims Aviation Industries, in France. This is greater than any other aircraft type, and only the Lockheed C-130 Hercules has been in production longer.

N41678, the first Cessna 172. (Cessna Aircraft Co.)

The Cessna 172 is a single-engine, four-place, high-wing, all-metal light airplane with fixed tricycle landing gear. The first production airplane was serial number 28000, registered N5000A. (This airplane is currently registered to an owner in Quincy, Illinois.) The list price in 1956 was $8,995.

Dimensions of the first Cessna 172 have been elusive. The current production model, the 172S Skyhawk, is 27 feet, 2 inches (8.280 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 1 inch (10.998 meters) and height of 8 feet, 11 inches (2.718 meters). The wing is externally braced and has a 1° 30′ angle of incidence at the root, with 3° negative twist. The dihedral is 1° 44′. The total wing area is 174 square feet (16.17 square meters).

Certified in the Normal Category, the original Model 172 had an empty weight of 1,290 pounds (585 kilograms), and gross weight of 2,200 pounds (998 kilograms). It was also certified in the Utility Category as a 2-place airplane, with a maximum gross weight reduced to 1,950 pounds (885 kilograms). The Model 172S Skyhawk has a standard empty weight of 1,663 pounds (754 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 2,550 pounds (1,157 kilograms).

Continental O-300 (Flying Magazine)

The Cessna 172 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 301.370 cubic inch (4.939 liter) Continental O-300-A ¹ six-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, overhead valve engine. It has two valves per cylinder, a compression ratio of 7.0:1, and is rated at 145 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. using 80/87-octane aviation gasoline. The O-300-A is a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine which turns a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, metal propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 4 inches (1.930 meters). It is  2 feet, 1115/32 inches (0.9009 meters) long, 2 feet, 7½ inches (0.800 meters) wide and 2 feet, 313/32 inches (0.6961 meters) high. This engine weighs 268 pounds (121.6 kilograms), dry.

The Cessna 172S has a Maximum Structural Cruising Speed (VNO) of 126 knots (145 miles per hour/233 kilometers per hour), and the Never Exceed speed (VNE) is 160 knots (184 miles per hour/296 kilometers per hour).

There are two 28.0-gallon (106.0 liter) fuel tanks in the wings, with 53.0 gallons (200.6 liters) usable. The airplane has a maximum range at 75% power and 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) is 518 nautical miles (596 statute miles/959 kilometers).

The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).

A very early production Cessna 172, serial number 28008, registered N5008A. (Cessna Aircraft Co./Ed Coates Collection)

Emil Brown Feutz was born at Wichita, Kansas, 1 July 1923. He was the son of Wallace Frederic Feutz and Lelah Mae Brown Feutz. He attended the Missouri Military Academy, a private college preparatory school at Mexico, Missouri.

Emil Brown Feutz. (The 1942 Savitar)

In 1941, “Buddie” Feutz entered the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, as an engineering student. He was a member of the Sigma Nu (ΣΝ) fraternity.

Feutz was a member of the Class of 1945, but World War II interrupted his college plans. He enlisted in the United States Army at Jefferson Barracks, south of St. Louis, Missouri, on 25 January 1943. U.S. Army records say that was 6 feet, 0 inches (1.828 meters) tall and weighed 143 pounds (65 kilograms).

On 18 September 1949, Emil Feutz married Miss Dorothy Jean Estep, who was also at the University of Missouri, and an employee of LIFE Magazine. They would have four children.

Following the war, Feutz returned to the University of Missouri. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Engine Club. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.) in 1952.

E.B. “Fritz” Feutz. (SETP)

Fritz Feutz worked as an aerodynamicist and flight test engineer for the Beech Aircraft Corporation, 1950 to 1953. He flew as a test pilot for Cessna from 1953 until 1957, then went to the McDonnell Aircraft Company at St. Louis, Missouri. In 1961, Feutz founded his own company, Testair, Inc., also in St. Louis. He was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Emil Brown Feutz died at his home in Columbia, Missouri, 1 September 2013, at the age of 90 years. He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery, Mexico, Missouri.

The new Cessna 172 was featured on the cover of the December 1955 issue of FLYING. (Ziff-Davis Publications)

¹ “0-300-A is similar to C145-2 except parts material and ignition component substitutions.”TYPE CERTIFICATE DATA SHEET NO. E-253

NOTE: TDiA reader steve.c told us about this 25-minute video from WQEC TV’s “Illinois Stories,” featuring the beautifully restored N5000A, the first production Cessna 172:

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 April 2006

Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., with the Victor Black Edition Continental engine overhauled by Victor Aviation of Palo Alto, California.
Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., with the Victor Black Edition Continental IO-470-E engine installed in his Cessna 210A, N6579X. The engine was overhauled by Victor Aviation of Palo Alto, California. (Victor Aviation)

19 April 2006: Former experimental test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., was enroute from Prattville, Alabama, to Manassas, Virginia. Scott Crossfield¹ was flying his personal Cessna 210A, N6579X. The Cessna was cruising at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), under the control of the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC).

During the flight, he encountered a Level 6 thunderstorm.

Scott Crossfield requested to deviate from his planned course to avoid the severe turbulence. Atlanta Center authorized his request and he began to turn. Approximately 30 seconds later, at 11:10 a.m., radar contact was lost near Ludville, Georgia. The last indication was that the Cessna was descending through 5,500 feet (1,676 meters).

The wreckage of N6579X was located the following day by a Civil Air Patrol search team, 3.3 nautical miles (6.1 kilometers) northwest of Ludville at an elevation of 1,269 feet (386.8 meters) above Sea Level. [N. 34° 30.767′, W. 84° 39.492′] The airplane had descended through the forest canopy nearly vertically and created a crater approximately 4½ feet (1.4 meters) deep and 6 feet (1.8 meters) across. Albert Scott Crossfield’s body was inside.

Scott Crossfield’s 1962 Cessna 210A Centurion, photographed at Santa Monica Airport, California, 26 September 1999. (AirNikon Collection, Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona via airliners.net)

N6579X was a Cessna Model 210A, serial number 21057579, built in 1960 by the Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc., of Wichita Kansas. It was a six-place, single-engine, high-wing monoplane with external struts to brace the wings, and retractable, tricycle landing gear. The airplane was certified for instrument flight by a single pilot. At the time of the crash, N6579X had been flown 4,987.4 hours, total time since new (TTSN).

The Cessna 210A was 28 feet, 2 inches (8.585 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 6 inches (11.125 meters) and overall height of 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 1,839 pounds (834.2 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 2,900 pounds (1,315.4 kilograms). It had a fuel capacity of 65 gallons (246 liters), with 10 gallons (37.9 liters) unusable, and 12 quarts of engine oil (11.4 liters).

N6579X was powered by an air-cooled, fuel-injected, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.722 liters) Teledyne Continental IO-470-E horizontally-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 8.6:1. The engine was rated at 260 horsepower at 2,625 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 100LL aviation gasoline. It weighed 429 pounds (195 kilograms). This engine, serial number 77583-0-E, was original to the airplane and accumulated 4,987.4 hours, total time since new (TTSN). It had been overhauled by Victor Aviation, Palo Alto, California, 1,259.8 hours prior to the accident (TSO). A three-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) was installed in 2005.

The Cessna Model 210A has a maximum structural cruise speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers), and maximum speed (Vne) of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). Maneuvering speed, which should be used in turbulent conditions, is 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour). The 210A has a maximum rate of climb of 1,300 feet per minutes (6.6  meters per second) and service ceiling of 20,700 feet (6,309 meters). Its maximum range is 1,284 miles (2,066 kilometers).

Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., aeronautical engineer and test pilot, 1921-2006. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., was born 2 October 1921 at Berkeley, California. He was the second of three children of Albert Scott Crossfield, a chemist who was employed as the superintendant of the Union Oil Company refinery in Wilmington, California, and Lucia M. Dwyer Crossfield.

When he was five years old, young “Scotty” contracted pneumonia. He was comatose for a while and was not expected to survive, but after several weeks he began to recover. A year later, he again became seriously ill, this time with rheumatic fever. He was confined to total bed rest for four months, and continued to require extensive bed rest until he was about ten years old. It was during this time that he became interested in aviation.

Scott Crossfield attended Boistfort Consolidated School, southwest of Chehalis, Washington, graduating in 1939, and then studied engineering at the University of Washington until taking a job at Boeing in late 1941. During this time, Scotty learned to fly in the Civilian Aviation Training Program.

The week following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, Scott Crossfield enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Corps. After numerous delays, he joined the United States Navy on 21 February 1942, and resigned from the Air Corps. He began aviation cadet training at NAS Sand Point, near Seattle, and then was sent to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. In December 1942, he graduated, received his gold Naval Aviator wings and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Naval Reserve.

Ensign Crossfield was assigned to NAS Kingsville as an advanced bombing and gunnery instructor. He was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), 1 March 1944. He continued as a gunnery instructor for two years before being transferred to Air Group 51 in the Hawaiian Islands, which was preparing for the invasion of Japan. He was promoted to Lieutenant, 1 August 1945, while serving aboard the Independence-class light aircraft carrier USS Langley (CVL-27). With the end of World War II, though, the Navy was cutting back. Lieutenant Crossfield was released from active duty 31 December 1945.

In April 1943 at Corpus Christi, Texas, Ensign A. Scott Crossfield married Miss Alice Virginia Knoph of Seattle. They would have five children.

Following the War, Scotty returned to the University of Washington to complete his degree. He took a part time job operating the University’s wind tunnel. At the same time, he remained in the Naval Reserve, assigned to VF-74, a fighter squadron which flew both the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Chance Vought F4U Corsair out of NAS Sand Point, back where his naval career began.

Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair, Bu. No. 82034, assigned to Fighter Squadron 74 (VF-74). (United States Navy)

Crossfield graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in June 1949, and a master’s degree in 1950.

In 1950 Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as a research test pilot at the High-Speed Flight Station, Edwards Air Force Base, California. He flew the Republic YF-84, F-84F Thunderstreak, and North American Aviation F-86 Sabre. Crossfield made 25 flights in the delta-winged Convair XF-92A, which he described as “the worst flying airplane built in modern times.” He also flew the Northrop X-4 and Bell X-5. He made 17 flights conducting stability tests in the Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak. Scotty made 65 flights in the North American Aviation F-100A Super Sabre, including a test series which discovered a fatal flaw which led to the death of North American’s chief test pilot, George S. Welch.

NACA Research Test Pilot Albert Scott Crossfield in the cockpit of the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket after exceeding Mach 2, 20 November 1953. (NASA)

Crossfield is known as a rocketplane pilot. He made 10 flights in the Bell X-1, and 89 in the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. He became the first pilot to exceed Mach 2 when he flew the Skyrocket to Mach 2.005, 20 November 1953.

Scott Crossfield discusses the X-15 with North American Aviation engineers Edmond R. Cokeley and Charles H. Feltz. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

Crossfield flew for NACA for approximately five years. During that time, approximately 500 flights were made at Edwards by NACA test pilots. Scott Crossfield flew 181 of them.

Scott Crossfield left NACA in 1956 to join North American Aviation, Inc., as chief engineering test pilot for the X-15 project. Between 8 June 1959 and 6 December 1960, he made fourteen flights in the X-15. He reached a maximum speed of Mach 2.97 and altitude of 88,116 feet (26,858 meters). Once the contractor’s flight tests were completed and the rocketplane turned over to the U.S. Air Force and NACA, the customers’ test pilots, Joe Walker and Major Robert M. White, took over.

Albert Scott Crossfield made 114 flights in rocket-powered aircraft, more than any other pilot.

After completing his work on the X-15, Crossfield followed Harrison (“Stormy”) Storms, who had been the Chief Engineer of North American’s Los Angeles Division (where the X-15 was built) to the Space and Information Systems Division in Downey, California, where he worked in quality assurance, reliability engineering and systems testing for the Apollo Command and Service Modules and the Saturn S-II second stage.

Crossfield left North American at the end of 1966, becoming Vice President for Technological Development for Eastern Air Lines. In this position, he flew acceptance tests for new Boeing 720 and 727 airliners at Boeing in Seattle.

In The X-15 Rocket Plane, author Michelle Evans quoted Crossfield as to why he had not entered NASA’s space program as an astronaut:

     One question that pressed was, with his love of flight and the early responsibility of going into space with the X-15, why would Scott not apply to the NASA astronaut office? He explained, “[Dr.] Randy Lovelace and General [Donald] Flickinger were on the selection board. They took me to supper one night and asked me not to put in for astronaut. I asked them, ‘Why  not?’ and they said, ‘Well, we’re friends of yours. We don’t want to have to turn you down.’ I asked, ‘Why would you have to turn me down?’ and they said, ‘You’re too independent.’ “

The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space, by Michelle, Evans, University of Nebraska Press, 2013, Chapter 1 at Page 33.

The remains of Albert Scott Crossfield are interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Scott Crossfield is in the cockpit of X-15 56-6670, under the right wing of NB-52A 52-003. (NASA)

¹ “Scott Crossfield” is the family name, going back for several generations.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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