Cessna's Saviour-The Airmaster

By Willie Bodenstein

The great depression of the 1930s early 1930s forced many aircraft manufactures to close their doors whilst others were facing liquidation. One of the company's was Cessna.

Fortunately for the Clyde Cessna, the founder of the company, his nephew Dwane Wallace, who had recently qualified as an aeronautical engineer had joined the essentially defunct company. Wallace was instrumental in getting the company to build more modern aircraft. that would revitalise Cessna.


Cessna C-165. Photo Willie Bodenstein

Wallace started work on the Airmaster in 1930 and had its first flight as the C-34 in June 1934. The C-34 was of conventional design for the time and incorporates characteristics that were borrowed from previous models of Cessna Aircraft. The fuselage is steel tubing with wooden stringers and formers and covered with fabric. The high mounted full cantilever wing structure is composed entirely of wood whilst the tail surfaces are covered with plywood.

Although all Airmasters appear to be visually similar the original C-34 evolved as the years went by. The C-37 had a wider cabin, improved landing gear and electric flaps. The C-38 a taller vertical tail, curved main gear legs and a landing flap under the fuselage and power was from a 145 hp (108 kW) Warner Super Scarab engine.


1936 Cessna C-34 Airmaster. Photo By RuthAS / commons.wikimedia.org

It was clear by the time the final versions were available that war was imminent and only 80 of the C-145 and C165 versions were built. The only difference between the two and the earlier versions was an increase in fuselage length. The C165 was powered by an upgraded 165 hp (123 kW) Warner engine.

The USA's entry on 7 December 1941 put an end to the Airmaster production line. The Airmaster's 30's-era technology of welded tubular steel fuselage, fabric covering, extensive fitted woodwork and wooden wing did not really lent itself to mass production. It did however lead to the 195, Cessna's last radial after which the company focused on all-aluminium monocoque aircraft with strut-braced high-wing with horizontally opposed engines.


Cessna C-165. Photo Cessna wikiwand

Wallace's design is generally credited with the revitalising Cessna and saving it from liquidation. Marketed as the "World's Most Efficient Airplane" the Airmaster of which 228 were build sold well for it time. It had a reputation for efficiency and speed and was regarded a stable platform and won several aerial competitions and Trophy Races.



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