Cessna T-50 Bobcat “Bamboo Bomber”

T-50 Bobcat

Cessna T-50 Bobcat “Bamboo Bomber”

The Cessna T-50 Bobcat was a light twin engine commercial transport derived from the Cessna AT-17 Bobcat an advanced trainer aircraft designed and manufactured in the United States by Cessna Aircraft Company, and used during World War II to bridge the gap between single engine trainers and twin-engine combat aircraft. The AT-17 was powered by two Jacobs R-755-9 radial piston engines. The commercial version T-50, was a variation it’s military version AT-17.

The Cessna Airplane Company first produced the wood and tubular steel, fabric-covered T-50 in 1939 for the civilian market, as a lightweight and low cost twin for personal use where larger aircraft such as the Beech 18 would be too expensive. A low-wing cantilever monoplane, it featured retractable main landing gear and wing trailing-edge flaps, both electrically actuated. The wing structure was built up of laminated spruce spar beams with spruce and plywood ribs. The fixed tailwheel is non-steerable and full-swivelling. The prototype T-50 made its maiden flight in March 1939.

In 1940, the United States Army Air Corps ordered them under the designation AT-8 as multi-engine advanced trainers.

Thirty-three AT-8s were built for the U.S. Army Air Corps, and production continued under the designation AT-17 reflecting a change in equipment and engine types. In 1942, the U.S Army Air Force the successor to the Air Corps from June 1941 adopted the Bobcat as a light personnel transport and those delivered after January 1, 1943 were designated UC-78s.

By the end of World War II, Cessna had produced more than 4,600 Bobcats for the U.S. military, 67 of which were transferred to the United States Navy as JRC-1s. In addition, 822 Bobcats had been produced for the Royal Canadian Air Force as Crane Is, many of which were used in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The aircraft did not last long in North American post-war military service. Few Bobcats were in service with the United States Air Force when it was formed in September, 1947.

The pilots who flew the T-50 Bobcat dubbed the “Bamboo Bomber”. The T-50 Bobcat was made famous because it was the first aircraft flown by Kirby Grant and featured in the popular late 1940s and 50s television series “Sky King” that ran in reruns well into the mid-60s. The aircraft was replaced in later episodes by the T-50’s successor, the all-metal Cessna 310. Both aircraft were known by the name “Songbird” but the C-310 was able to retain the moniker until this day.

Post war, surplus AT-17s and UC-78s could be converted by CAA-approved kits to civilian standard aircraft allowing their certification under the T-50s original Type Certificate (ATC- 722, issued 3-24-1940).

They were used by small airlines, charter and “bush” operators and private pilots. Some were operated on floats. By the 1970s, the number of airworthy aircraft had dwindled as they were made obsolete by more modern types and by the maintenance required by their aging wood wing structures and fabric covering.

Since then, several have been restored by antique airplane enthusiasts. In August 2009, FAA records show 378 T-50s, 10 AT-17s and 30 UC-78s are listed on the FAA registration database. However, just because aircraft are registered with the FAA does not mean they are airworthy.


In the post-war years, Bobcats continued in military service with Brazil and the Nationalist Chinese.

General characteristics: The T-50 carries 5 passengers, has a Length: 32 ft 9 in (9.98 m), Wingspan: 41 ft 11 in (12.78 m), Height: 9 ft 11 in (3.02 m), Wing area: 295 sq ft (27.4 m2), Empty weight: 3,500 lb (1,588 kg), Gross weight: 5,700 lb (2,585 kg), Max takeoff weight: 6,062 lb (2,750 kg),

Powerplant: 2 × Jacobs R-755-9 seven-cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engine, 245 hp (183 kW) each

Performance: Maximum speed: 169 kn; 314 km/h (195 mph), Cruise speed: 152 kn; 282 km/h (175 mph), Service ceiling: 22,000 ft (6,700 m).



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