The Cessna Skymaster is a United States twin-engine civil utility aircraft built in a push-pull configuration. Its engines are mounted in the nose and rear of its pod-style fuselage. Twin booms extend aft of the wings to the vertical stabilizers, with the rear engine between them. The horizontal stabilizer is aft of the pusher propeller, mounted between and connecting the two booms The combined tractor and pusher engines produce 'centerline' thrust and a unique sound.
In February 1965 Cessna introduced the model 337 Super Skymaster. The model was larger, had more powerful engines, retractable landing gear, and a dorsal air scoop for the rear engine ("Super" was subsequently dropped from the name). In 1966 the turbocharged T337 was introduced, and in 1973 the pressurized P337G entered production.
Cessna built 2993 Skymasters of all variants, including 513 military O-2 versions. Production in America ended in 1982 but S continued with Reims in France with the FTB337 STOL and the military FTMA Milirole. Production totalled 94 units.
The Skymaster handles differently from a conventional twin-engine aircraft, primarily in that it will not yaw into the dead engine if one engine fails. Without the issue of differential thrust inherent to conventional (engine-on-wing) twins, engine failure on takeoff will not produce yaw from the runway direction. With no one-engine-out minimum controllable speed(Vmc), in-flight control at any flying speed with an engine inoperative is not as critical as can be. Nevertheless, the Skymaster requires a multi-engine-rating, although many countries issue a special "centerline thrust rating" for Skymaster and other like-configurated aircraft.
Ground handling requires certain attention and procedures. The rear engine tends to overheat and can quit while taxiing on very hot days. There have been accidents when pilots, unaware of the shutdown, have attempted take-off on the nose engine alone, even though the single-engine take-off roll exceeded the particular runway length. FAA Airworthiness Directive 77-08-05 prohibits single engine take-offs and requires the installation of a placard with words that say "DO NOT INITIATE SINGLE ENGINE TAKEOFF".
The Skymaster produces a unique sound: a combination sound of its rear propeller slicing through turbulent air from the front prop and over the airframe, while its nose propeller addresses undisturbed air.
From 1976 until the middle 1990s, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection used O-2 variants of the 337 Skymaster as tactical aircraft during firefighting operations. These were replaced with North American OV-10 Broncos, starting in 1993.
Brothers to the Rescue
From 1991 until 2001 the Cuban exile group Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue) used Skymasters, among other aircraft, to fly search and rescue missions over the Florida Straits looking for rafters attempting to cross the Straits to defect from Cuba and, when they found them, dropped life-saving supplies to them. Rescues were coordinated with the US Coast Guard, who worked closely with the group. They chose Skymasters because their high wing offered better visibility of the waters below, were reliable and easy to fly for long duration missions (average 7 hours), and they added a margin of safety with twin engine centerline thrust. In 1996, two of the Brothers to the Rescue Skymasters were shot down by the Cuban Air Force (FAC) over international waters. Both aircraft were downed by a MiG-29, while a second jet fighter, a MiG-23 orbited nearby.
Aircraft type clubs
The Cessna Skymaster series is supported by a number of Aircraft Type Clubs, including the Skymaster Owners and Pilots Association and the Cessna Pilots Association.
Published - July 2009
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