Globally, the light airplane world has been dominated by three names since the 1930s — Beech, Cessna and Piper. Our blog is going to feature some of these fabulous types, beginning with Cessna. Clyde V. Cessna built his first airplane in Kansas in 1911. In 1927 he, Walter Beech and Lloyd Stearman formed the Travel Air company. However, Beech and Cessna disagreed too much in design philosophy, Beech being a biplane man, Cessna favouring the monoplane. So they went their separate ways.
Cessna’s great lineage began with its first production design, the 1928 Model AA, an attractive high wing cantilever (strutless) monoplane of which more than 100 were turned out. To this day, Cessna leads in mass production of single-engine sport, training and utility planes. In the case of the Cessna 172 introduced in 1956, production exceeds 43,000. This makes the “172” the world’s most widely-produced 4-seat personal and club plane.
The only interruptions at Wichita-based Cessna have been the Great Depression, when it closed its doors from 1931-34; WWII, when it focused on the twin-engine T-50 for military use (5400 built); and 1986 – 94, when the company was obliged to cease manufacturing light planes due to a flood of frivolous lawsuits (the “product liability” era). In 1985 Cessna was acquired by General Dynamics. Since 1992 it has been under the Textron corporate umbrella, which has proven to be controversial. In the 2000s Textron moved some light plane production to China and laid off thousands of American workers.
The Cessna 150
The much-loved 2-seat Cessna 150 first flew in September 1957. Powered by a 100-hp Continental O-200-A, nearly 24,000 were built by the time the “150” was superseded in 1977. Its replacement was the Cessna 152, of which some 7600 were made by the time production ended in 1985. There are hundreds of Canadian-registered Cessna 150s and 152s. Most are stock machines but, as the years have passed, others have been individually modified by their owners. Such a “150” is Richard Hulina’s C-FRFT.
Based in Sioux Lookout, Richard operates Slate Falls Airways, flying the Turbo Otter, Beaver and Cessna 206. ‘RFT is “Richard’s Fun Toy”. Describing it to me this week, he explained how ‘RFT had rolled off the line in Wichita on October 31, 1969. Registered N5918G, it was sold to Virgin Islands Airmotive Corp. at Christiansted, St. Croix, for US$19,697.76, and delivered on January 17, 1970. In 1973 it moved to Skyway Flight Center in St. Croix. Now began a long series of migrations, first to Florida, then to owners in such states as Delaware (1985), Wyoming (1998), Wisconsin (2001), Kentucky (2002) and Alaska (2004). All along, as is typical with any Cessna, N5918G held a decent resale value. When, for example, J.D. Stutesman of Wisconsin bought it in 2001, he paid US$18,062.20.
Along the way N5918G underwent a few mods, the most dramatic being when it went from being a standard tri-gear “150” to a tail-dragger in 1981. This was done under a Custom Aircraft Technologies STC (supplementary type certificate). In 2006 Rich Hulina heard that N5918G was for sale in Alaska. He made an offer to owner Fred Wallis, a deal was made, and in October a ferry pilot delivered N5918G directly to Sioux Lookout.
As time permitted, Rich and his staff worked on the “150” in the Slate Falls hangar. Custom mods installed included a 150-hp Lycoming O-320 (Del-Air STC), a Horton STOL kit (new leading edge and “conical cambered” wingtips) giving improved take-off performance and low-speed control; Micro Aerodynamics vortex generators; and 29″ Alaskan Bushwheels. A set of Aero Ski M2000 skis also was acquired. C-FRFT finally got airborne again on February 15, 2008. As it is today, ‘RFT cruises at a comfy 110 mph and stalls at 42.
In these photos provided by Rich, ‘RFT is shown being “resurrected” in the hangar at Sioux Lookout, then on its tundra tires and skis. Rich himself appears in one of the winter shots. During its 40 year pilgrimage from Wichita to St. Croix, Alaska and Sioux Lookout, the beautiful little aerial gem has logged just over 6650 flying hours.