For once I am not going to give you some news or analysis about jet fighters, as I want to pay tribute to an amazing aircraft manufacturer, who never even held a pilot licence. He built aircrafts that have changed the world. This is all about Cessna! Clyde Cessna died in 1954 at age 74 after spending most of his life in the aviation business. He never held a pilot’s license and had a rudimentary education, but he was driven to succeed in whatever he turned his hand to and he was a genius when it came to flying machines. Until 191 1, Cessna sold cars in Enid, Oklahoma, but he was fascinated by the story of Louis Blériotis flight across the English Channel in 1909. At the age of 31 he built a copy of Blériot’s Type X1 that he called Silverwing. On the plain near Jet, Oklahoma, he taught himself to fly, suffering many accidents in the process. His perseverance was rewarded in December 1911 when he made a successful 5-mile flight near Enid that included turns and a safe landing. Cessna now enjoyed a period of exhibition flying, but during the years 1912 to 1915 he built several monoplanes, and discovered that what he really wanted to do was manufacture and sell aircraft of his own design.
In 1916, Cessna took over a vacant building in Wichita, Kansas, and built a new aircraft for the 1917 season. He also established a flight school, but the U.S. intervention in WW1 brought his enterprise to an end and he became a farmer for a few years. His interest in aeronautics never waned, however, and he flew a Laird Swallow during the early 1920s. In 1924, Cessna was approached by Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech, who were planning to start a new business to be known as the Travel Air Manufacturing Company and wanted Cessna to join them. In return for his agreement, he was named president. Travel Air produced several excellent aircraft in the next two years, but in 1927 Cessna broke away to form the Cessna Aircraft Company. Between 1927 and 1929, the company marketed a succession of four- and six-seat monoplanes, but the Wall Street collapse in 1929 brought Cessna the prospect of bankruptcy, and in 1931 the board of Cessna Aircraft voted to oust Clyde Cessna and close the factory. Undaunted, he rented facilities in the abandoned Travel Air complex and created the C.V. Cessna Aircraft Co., which specialized in building racing aircraft. In 1933, however, Cessna was dealt another blow when his close friend Roy Liggett died in the crash of the CR-2 racer. A grief-stricken Cessna withdrew from aviation and retreated to his farm. In 1934, Cessna’s nephew Dwane Wallace wrested control of the defunct Cessna Aircraft Company from the stockholders and introduced the Cessna C-34 monoplane. Clyde agreed to participate in the new venture only as a figurehead. The C-34 was a success and was named the world’s most efficient light aircraft. Wallace guided the company through the 19305 and oversaw the development of the T-50, which became the Cessna Bobcat of VVVVII. With the end of the war, a boom was forecast in the U.S. private aviation industry. It proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy - for a While. In 1946, there Was a bustle of activity, With the impressive total of over 31,000 light planes built. The overproduction was serious, however, and a rash of failures and mergers followed a collapse in demand. By 1948, total industry production was down to little more than 7,000. At this low volume of production it was impossible to keep prices down and the idea of private flying for everyone faded. The “Big Three” survivors of the postwar mayhem were Cessna, Beech and Piper. Wallace introduced the classic taildragger Cessna I. Model 190/ 195, and launched the Model 120/ 140, founding a line that would grow to dominate the light aircraft market and become a familiar sight at flying clubs the world over. The growth of the Big Three was marked by their continually improving products. Cessna rolled on through higher and higher model numbers - 150, 170 (1948 base price $5,400), 172 Skyhawk, 175 Skylark, 180, 182, and 185 Skylane.
In May 1972 the success of these machines was evidenced when Cessna became the first manufacturer to exceed a total production of 100,000 aircraft. In the 1980s the light aircraft industry went rapidly downhill, and one particularly significant reason for the decline in the United States was the problem of product liability. Insurance became a necessity, markedly increasing production costs. By the late 1980s, the effects of litigation had helped to almost double the price of each aircraft built. Independent operation became difficult for even large companies to sustain, and Cessna was made a subsidiary of General Dynamics in 1985, at the same time suspending single-engine production “until the product liability laws are reformed” In 1992 Cessna changed allegiance again when it was bought by Textron. Some relief came in 1994 when the General Aviation Revitalization Act came into effect in the U.S., establishing an 18-year statute of repose against makers of general aviation aircraft and parts. Cessna announced its return, and by the late 1990s the company’s popular high-Wing single-engine models were back in production. The Cessna 172 Skyhawk was among those that reappeared, suitably updated but still recognizable as the descendant of the original 172 manufactured almost 50 years before. It was one of the most successful aircraft designs ever conceived; by the end of the century over 37,000 individuals of the Skyhawk family had been built. This extraordinary achievement ref1ects the dominance of both Cessna and the United States generally in the field of general aviation. Some 80 percent of the World’s general aviation aircraft are in the U.S., and Cessna has built a total of more than 180,000 aircraft of all models. It has been estimated that perhaps half of the aircraft being flown in the world are from a Cessna factory.