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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Cessna T-50 Bobcat

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

The Bobcat was designed to be a low-cost alternative to the Beech 18, built using a wood and tubular steel frame, and covered with fabric. Aimed initially at private flyers, only a small number had been built before, in 1940, the Royal Canadian Air Force placed a large order for Lycoming-powered Bobcats to use as multi-engine trainers. Later the same year, the US Army Air Corps placed its first order for the type, contracting for 33 aircraft under the designation AT-8, also for use as advanced trainers. Follow-on orders for were placed by both Canada (where the type was used widely as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) and the United States before, in 1943, the Army Air Force re-roled the Bobcat as a light transport aircraft. Despite being produced in huge numbers, the “Bamboo Bomber,” as it was known to pilots, had only limited utility after World War II, and quickly became obsolete. 58 are known to survive, with additional 18 examples of unknown status still current on the FAA register.

First flight: 26 Mar 39 (c/n 1000, NX20784)

Production: 5,399, at Wichita, KS

First delivery: 1939

Last delivery: 1943

Variants: T-50 - light transport aircraft powered by 2 Jacobs L4MB radials, with seating for 5 passengers (40 built, of which 15 were impressed into US Army Air Force as UC-78A);

AT-8 - military training version of the T-50, powered by Lycoming R-680-9 radials (673 built, 640 of which were supplied to the Royal Canadian Air Force under the designation Crane I);

AT-17 - AT-8 powered by Jacobs R-775s (450 built);

AT-17A - lower weight version of AT-17 with metal propellers (223 built, of which 182 were supplied under Lend-Lease as Crane IA);

AT-17B - AT-17A with detail equipment changes, including a return to wooden propellers (466 built);

AT-17C - AT-17A with changes to radio equipment (60 built);

AT-17D - AT-17C with detail equipment changes (131 built);

C-78 (later re-designated UC-78) - AT-17 optimised for light transport, powered by Jacobs R-755s (1,004 built, including 67 diverted to the US Navy under the designation JRC-1);

UC-78B – AT-17A optimised for light transport (2,156 built);

UC-78C - UC-78B with detail equipment changes (196 built).

Cessna Bobcat survivors
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