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U.S. Civil Aircraft Vol. 1

US Civil Aircraft Vol. 1

by Joseph Juptner

A.T.C. #65

This slender and vivacious looking little lady, that is pictured here, was an airplane that created quite a stir among the flying folk in flying circles about the mid-west, when it was first introduced as a prototype in the latter part of 1927. It was one of the very first light commercial airplanes to make practical use of the internally braced wing, and the first to offer a high performance without the sacrifice of comfort or utility, on a minimum of power. Nearly a year later, in a slightly modified version, it became the first certificated model of the very popular and certainly quite famous "Cessna Cantilever Monoplane" series. In it's basic form, it was a trim 3-4 place fully enclosed high wing monoplane using a one-piece full cantilever wing; a configuration calculated to keep parasitic resistance, rigging, and maintenance, down to a bare minimum. Mainly because of the lack of suitable American engines in this power range, or perhaps because of Cessna's familiarity with the type; it was powered with a 10 cylinder "Anzani" engine. The "Anzani" (French) was a 10 cylinder air-cooled "two row radial" engine of 120 h.p., an engine that was quite easily available in this country but not always too popular, more than likely due to it's messy and somewhat cranky habits. Still... Clyde V. Cessna, fondly known as the "old master", managed to get a performance far above average, even with this combination. The high performance, utility, and efficiency, of Cessna's "cantilever monoplanes" has been well established, and has been well known to a good many throughout the years; it is not even surprising that this basic configuration with only slight changes and some occasional refinement, had stood the test of service and public taste for some twenty-five years!

The Cessna "Model AA" powered with the 120 h.p. Anzani engine, as pictured here; received its approval for a type certificate number in August of 1928 and according to factory records, some 117 airplanes of this type were built. Besides this "Anzani" powered version of the basic Model A, it was also offered with the 9 cylinder Siemens-Halske engine (German) of 125 h.p. as the model AS, with the 7 cylinder "Comet" engine of 130 h.p. as the AC, with the 7 cylinder "Floco" (Axelson) of 115-150 h.p. as the AF, and with the 9 cylinder Wright J5 engine as the BW. For a descriptive discussion on these various versions of the basic "A series", see chapters for Grp. 2 approvals numbered 2-7 and 2-8 which will follow.

These models were more or less an experiment to find a suitable replacement for the "Anzani" engine, but these models failed to do this and were short-lived. All were soon replaced in production schedules by the "Cessna AW" which became the standard production model through most of 1929. The Model AW was basically typical in most all respects except that it was powered with the spunky little 7 cyl. Warner "Scarab" engine of 110 h.p. This version allowed for the seating of four people in neat but rather chummy quarters, with a performance on 110 horsepower that has never been equalled. For a discussion of this model, see chapter for A.T.C. #72 in this volume. The real "wildcat" of this series was the model "BW", which was a sportsman's version of the "A" that was powered with the 220 h.p. Wright J5 engine. It was capable of a terrific performance that could best be described as absolutely sensational.

Not particularly acceptable as is, the "Anzani" engines installed in the Model AA version, were modified and throughly reconditioned by Cessna to the point where they were quite reliable and had none of the objectionable characteristics of the original French "Anzani", which were best described by the words of one as "that awful contraption"! The "Cessna Cantilever Monoplanes" were manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Co. at Wichita, Kansas with the inimitable Clyde V. Cessna as it's president and chief engineer.

Clyde V. Cessna's aeronautical activities date back to 1911, when he built his first airplane and also taught himself how to fly it. This first model was more or less a copy of the French "Bleriot" monoplane, but his second airplane, which was built in 1912 and is pictured here, was quite an improvement and offered much better performance and flight characteristics. He flew it quite frequently at aerial exhibitions. Always a staunch advocate for the monoplane type, Cessna had already built some 15 airplanes of his own design prior to 1925 when he joined forces with Walter Beech and Lloyd Stearman to help form "Travel Air". As time went on, there was evidence of frequent bickering between Cessna and Beech on the relative merits of the monoplane versus the biplane! This eventually caused a break between them, and Clyde Cessna elected to go out on his own again. Victor Roos, joined forces with Cessna in August of 1927 to form the Cessna-Roos Aircraft Co. at Wichita, Kansas. Shortly after, Roos pulled out for other interests, and Clyde Cessna formed the Cessna Aircraft Co. at Wichita, Kansas in Dec. of 1927. Their first models were known as the "A series" and were built on through 1929.

Listed below are specifications and performance data for the "Anzani" powered "Cessna" model AA; wing span 40', chord at root 86", chord at tip 58", (M.A.C. 66'), wing area 224 sq. ft., airfoil "Cessna" (Mod. M-12), length 24'9", height 7'2", empty wt. 1250, useful load 720, payload 340, gross wt. (as 3 place) 1970 lb., max. speed 120, cruise 102, land 40, climb 720, ceiling 10,000 ft., gas cap. 35 gal., oil 4.5 gal., range 450 miles. Price at the factory was $5750 with "Hamilton" wood propeller, later the price was raised to $6300 with wood prop and $6500 with metal prop. The "Anzani" engine as modified and completely rebuilt by Cessna, cost $2167 less propeller. The following figures are for the latest version of the model "AA", all measurements remained the same, only changes were; empty wt. 1304, useful load 956, payload 510, gross wt. (as 4 place) 2260 lb., max. speed 120, cruise 102, land 45, climb 670, ceiling 9,500 ft., gas cap. 40 gal., oil 4.5 gal., range 500+ miles.

The fuselage framework was built up of welded chrome-moly steel tubing, lightly faired to shape and fabric covered. The wing framework was built up of laminated spruce spars and spruce and mahagony plywood built-up ribs, also fabric covered. The full cantilever wing was built up in one continuous piece and was tapered in plan-form and section, it was bolted directly on top of the fuselage. The forward occupants used the front spar as a head-rest. The landing gear was built up of welded chrome-moly steel tubing streamlined in section, and was of a novel split-axle type using two spools of rubber shockcord to snub the taxiing and landing loads. The tail-skid was also rubber shock-cord sprung. Wheel brakes were avaiIable on later models. The adjustable stabilizer was fastened to rotate at the front spar and negative or positive adjustments were made by a novel screw-type jack permitting compensations for load variations while in flight. There were two fuel tanks of 20 gallons each, on either side of the fuselage in the wing's center section.


Fig. 218. The 1928 Cessna "Model AA", powered with 10 cyl. Anzani engine of 120 h.p. This design was so excellent that it remained the basis for Cessna aircraft development in tbe next 25 years!

Fig. 219. Prototype for Cessna "A" series, built by Cessna-Roos Aircraft Co. in 1927.

Fig. 220. Clyde V. Cessna and his second airplane, built by him in 1912.