By: Norm Goyer
Cessna has built some outstanding private aircraft, often far ahead of their times. For instance, one of their very first aircraft was a cantilever wing Phantom, which was the prototype of their popular Cessna Model “A”. To demonstrate how strong the all-wood wing was Clyde Cessna had some of his employees stand on the wing for a publicity photograph. Cessna prided itself in fast efficient aircraft and even participated in the National Air Races with a highly competitive mid-wing racer. The last version of this aircraft even had a retractable landing gear. The Model A was followed by what many called the “Cessna Saver.” The C-34 Airmaster was a masterpiece of design. It had a 145 hp radial engine which was tightly cowled for efficient cooling. The landing gear legs had an interesting bend near the top which gave the gear the proper geometry for the tail dragger landing gear. Cessna was having money problems, it was the era of the great depression, but by introducing the highly attractive and efficient Airmaster series sales started picking up and Cessna survived.
The C-34 had a decent sales record for the tight money period. Cessna Marketing sold the Airmaster as the “World’s Most Efficient Airplane” because of its success in air races and other competitions. Because of its reputation for efficiency and speed, C-34s were used as aerial photography platforms. This type of photography needs a super stable platform and the Airmaster was rock steady. The Airmasters converted at the Cessna factory for use as camera planes had a port in the floor through to the bottom skin. This provided a downward camera platform in the lower front fuselage. The camera plane versions also had an oxygen bottle rack for high altitude photography.
Cessna also further developed the C-34 into the C-37 and C-38. The new versions had wing-mounted flaps on the C-37 and a belly-mounted drag flap on the C-38. They also had wider fuselages, wider landing gear, and shock absorbing rubber engine mounts. These models were built with the 145 HP Warner Super Scarab engine.
The last Airmasters developed were the C-145 and C-165. These differed in that the C-38’s belly flap was discontinued and the split wing flaps restored. To improve the stability even more, the fuselage was also lengthened. Difference between the two models was the engine horsepower, with the C-165 getting the new more powerful 165 HP Warner engine.
All Cessna Airmasters seem to all look alike. One has to look for belly drag flap vs. wing flaps, and the location of the bumps on the cowling. The larger 165 engine cowls have bumps located further to the rear than the Warner 145 hp models. The Airmaster C-34’s have narrower landing gear than the later models.
Only 180 Airmasters were built before being discontinued for World War II. After the war, Cessna upgraded the basic design by building the all metal much larger Cessna 190 and 195 models. The 190s had a Continental 245-hp engine and was a bit underpowered. Then Cessna dug into their surplus parts department and found racks of Jacobs 245 hp engines that had been used on the Cessna T-50 Bobcat. This combo proved to be much better. Later models had Jacobs 275-hp, 300-hp and 330 hp engine. The 195 with the 300 Jacob was the ultimate winner. The military bought a bunch of these for use as the L-126 in Korea.
Cessna still had a love affair with the cantilever wings and brought out both the Cessna C-177 Cardinal and the Cessna 210 Centurion. All Cardinals had cantilever wings, while only later models of the C-210 were strutless. Currently no high wing Cessna being manufactured has a cantilever wing or a retractable landing gear. Cessna purchased the rights to the Lancair fixed gear four passenger plastic speedster a few years ago.
- Length: 24 ft 8 in
- Wingspan: 34 ft 2 in
- Height: 7 ft 9 in
- Airfoil: Clark Y
- Empty weight: 1380 lb
- Loaded weight: 2350 lb
- Useful load: 970 lb
- Powerplant: Warner Super Scarab, 145 hp