Airmaster is the plane that rescued the Cessna
Aircraft Company from oblivion in the 1930's.
Clyde Cessna was a self-taught and well known early
barnstormer, racer, and designer of aircraft, and he
had gone into business during the 20's building
aircraft professionally. Some early examples
of his work include the Cessna AW. Clyde
Cessna was also involved in the Travel Air company,
which is where a number of early aviation pioneers
got their start (including Walter Beech and Lloyd
Unfortunately during the early years of the Great
Depression the Cessna Aircraft Company essentially
went out of business, along with most of the rest of
the aviation industry. By the mid-thirties the
economy was picking up again and Dwane Wallace, a
newly minted aeronautical engineer and Clyde
Cessna's nephew, decided to build airplanes.
He designed the first Airmaster and it first flew in
1934. It was therefore designated a C-34.
Further, Wallace persuaded Clyde Cessna to resurrect
the remains of the Cessna Aircraft Company and
Wallace arranged funding to put the C-34 into
borrows some design characteristics of the earlier
Cessna airplanes, including a high mounted full
cantilever wing structure, and a narrow band of
cabin windows. Together these give the plane a
rather Art-Deco streamlined appearance. Wing
construction is all wood, and the fuselage is steel
tubing with wooden stringers and formers. The
tail surfaces are wooden covered with plywood.
Airmaster sold reasonably well for the time period,
and was sold as the "World's Most Efficient
Airplane" after winning several aerial competitions
and Trophy Races.
addition to their reputation for efficiency and
speed, Airmasters were used as aerial photography
platforms because of their stability in the air.
The aircraft that I own was originally a photo
plane, having been converted by the Cessna factory
to have a camera port in the floor and bottom of the
aircraft, downward viewing windows in the lower
front fuselage, and a built-in oxygen bottle rack.
Airmaster models developed from the C-34 into the
C-37 and C-38. Improvements included
wing-mounted flaps on the C-37 and a belly-mounted
drag flap on the C-38, wider fuselages, wider
landing gear, and rubber engine mounts. These
models were built with the 145 HP Warner Super
iteration of the Airmaster was the C-145 and C-165.
On these models the C-38's belly flap was dropped
and the wing split flaps put back, and the fuselage
was lengthened. The difference between the two
models was the engine horsepower, with the C-165
getting an upgraded 165 HP Warner engine.
All of the
Airmasters appear to be visually similar. Cues
for differentiating the aircraft include the belly
drag flap vs. wing flaps, and the location of the
bumps on the cowling. C-165s have bumps
located further to the rear of the cowling than the
Warner 145 hp models. C-34's have narrower
landing gear than the later models.
brought an end to the Airmaster line. All
together about 180 Airmasters were built.
Their classic lines were carried forward by Cessna
into the post-war era with the Cessna 195, a much
enlarged and all-aluminium cruiser. Even
before the 195 was built, though, it too was a
throwback design, for by the end of WWII Cessna had
hit upon the formula that was to make Cessna the
most prolific manufacturer of light airplanes in the
Airmaster's 30's-era technology of welded tubular
steel fuselage, fabric covering, extensive fitted
woodwork and wooden wing, and somewhat finicky
radial engine were all too expensive, slow to
produce, and difficult to maintain. Instead
the company focused on all-aluminium construction,
side-by-side seating, sturdy strut-braced high-wing
configuration, monocoque fuselage construction,
simple flat spring steel landing gear, and highly
reliable horizontally opposed engines. This
combination was first seen in the Cessna 120, and it
was rapidly developed into the Cessna 140, 170, and
ultimately into the utilitarian but incredibly
successful 152, 172, and 182.