“Bamboo Bomber” T-50 Cessna

In 1939 the Cessna Airplane Company produced a light twin engined airplane designated the T-50 “Bobcat” (sometimes known as the “Bamboo Bomber”) because of the wood wing structure. I remember it as the airplane that “Sky King” flew on TV; it was one of my favorite shows as a kid!
It was the lightweight, low cost, wood and tube framed, fabric covered, personal use multi-engined aircraft alternative to the heavier and more expensive Beech 18. It featured a cantilevered low-wing with electrically actuated retractable main landing gear and trailing-edge wing flaps, and (yes) laminated spruce spar beams with spruce and plywood ribbed wing structures. The fixed tailwheel is non-steerable but full-swivelling. The prototype T-50 made its maiden flight on March 26, 1939.
Shortly after its initial production World War II began and the airplane was pressed into duty as a light trainer and transport for the military.
Military variants were designated as follows:
United States Army Air Corps: AT-8; Military trainer version of the T-50 with two 295 hp (220-kW) Lycoming R-680-9 radial piston engines.
United States Army Air Corps: AT-17 AT-17A-G; AT-8 powered by 245 hp (183 kW) Jacobs R-775-9 (L-4) engines, gross wt. 5300 lbs (2,400 kg).
United States Army Air Forces: C-78 and UC-78; Military transport version for the United States Army variable-pitch propellers.
United States Navy : JRC-1; Navy light transport version of the UC-78 with two Jacobs R-775-9 engines.
Royal Canadian Air Force: Crane and Crane 1A; Royal Canadian Air Force designation for T-50s with minor equipment changes, delivered as light transports.
Although the Bobcats had many nicknames during the course of their service, (Bobcat, Bamboo Bomber, Useless 78, The Wichita Wobbler, Brasshat, Double Breasted Cub, Boxkite, Rhapsody in Glue, San Jaoquin Beaufighter), by the end of World War II Cessna had produced more than 4,600 Bobcats for the U.S. military and 822 Bobcats for the Royal Canadian Air Force as Crane 1′s; they certainly played an important role for the military.

After the war, surplus AT-17′s and UC-78′s could be converted by CAA-approved kits to their original T-50 civilian Type Certificate and saw further use by small airlines, charter and “bush” operators, and private pilots. Slowly the number of airworthy aircraft have dwindled to a point that only a handful are in operation today. There are only 378 T-50′s, 10 AT-17′s and 30 UC-78′s listed in the FAA registration database but as to how many are still airworthy is unknown.

Cessna “Bamboo Bomber” Cessna T-50 Characteristics

• Crew and Passengers: 5; (2 pilots, 3 passengers)
• Length: 32 ft 9 in (9.98 m)
• Wingspan: 41 ft 11 in (12.78 m)
• Height: 9 ft 11 in (3.02 m)
• 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
• Fuel capacity: 160 gal (606 L)


• Maximum speed: 169 kts; 314 km/h (195 mph)
• Stall speed: 55 kts; (63 mph, 102 km/h)
• Cruise speed: 152 kt; 282 km/h (175 mph)
• Range: 750 miles; (1207 km)
• Service ceiling: 22,000 ft (6,700 m)
• Rate of climb: 1,200 ft/min; (6.1 m/sec)
• Total Produced: 5,400+
• Cost: $31,000