Friday, April 18, 2008

The Way We Were ::: 1940 ::: CANADA

THE YEARS leading up to WW II were rough for Cessna.

To offset this, Dwane Wallace, then president of Cessna, took a gamble and decided to design an aircraft for the military market.

The T-50 Cessna Bobcat, a light twin-engine transport, was designed in 1938 and test flown by the “Dwane” himself on March 26th, 1939. Success! It flew admirably and without a hitch.

Dwane (spelled without the “y”) decided it was now or never. He went on a huge marketing and lobbying campaign to sell the Bobcat to everybody and anybody. But the US Congress wasn’t budging, money was tight (especially for military spending) and no orders came in for his Cessna Bobcat.

Finally, in May 1940, there was a breakthrough.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced 50, 000 aircraft would be produced for the British war effort!

Two months later in July, Cessna was awarded a contract to build 33 Bobcats for the US Army. Not bad. Still, not good considering the money that had already been invested in the production of this aircraft.

Let the nailbiting begin.

But wait… there was another summertime knock on Cessna’s door.

This time it was the RCAF.

Well, the RCAF evaluated the Bobcat and found that it met their desperate and timely wartime requirements. Bobcat construction foremost minimized the use of steel and aluminum. Additionally, the aircraft was simple to maintain and also cheap to operate. Cessna had, as well, already positioned itself for large-scale aircraft production in the event it actually got some military orders!

Good news for the RCAF.

There was only one problem.

The RCAF needed 180 Bobcats, not just 33.

Dwane was floored by the generous order. Some say he babbled nonsensically for days.

Large-scale production was no longer needed, but rather grand—scale just to meet the RCAF's needs!

The RCAF order was the largest order Cessna had ever received. And, of course, Canada wanted their aircraft immediately!

So Dwane had two military orders on the books, but didn’t have the operational facilities or the capital to complete the enormous building task!!

However, signed contracts from big “players” like these were good as gold in those days, and with financing quickly put in place, Cessna was able to go on a two month construction blitz to expand their operational facility to 80, 000 square feet!

The photo above is of an RCAF Crane, which became the Canadian designated name for the Cessna Bobcat. The inset photo, found on e-Bay recently, shows the 1940 Cessna ad, as it appeared in colour, but not original magazine size which then was 11” x 16”. Canadian Bobcats are depicted flying in formation, and in the RCAF’s BCATP colour scheme.

The Cessna ad byline read, “Cessna, the World’s Most Efficient Airplane!”

The RCAF eventually bought 822 Cranes from Cessna.

SKY KING was a 50s TV series that initially starred a Cessna Bobcat.

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