Aircraft Type
Military Aircraft


At the start of the Second World War, the RCAF began looking for a newer twin-engine flying trainer for its training programs. They decided on the Cessna T-50, a commercial five seat aircraft built in the Wichita, Kansas by Cessna. The T-50 was a small, inexpensive, 2 engine passenger/cargo aircraft which first flew in March 1939. Having 2 pilots, 3 canvas sling seats in the back, and only a baggage door, it would appear to be lacking in both respects for military use. It was nonetheless used to teach pilots how to fly multi-engine aircraft. The US Air Force named their T-50's the Bobcat, while the RCAF referred to their aircraft as the Crane.

The T-50 was traditional in construction of mid-30's aircraft with hand welded steel tubes arranged in triangles for a fuselage, wooden formers and stringers to give shape, and covered in cotton fabric. The solid one-piece elevator and rudder were made of welded tubes. The fin and horizontal stabilizer were wood. The wing was a one-piece assembly with wooden spars and ribs. The plane had a fabric covering. This construction made it relatively inexpensive. 

It was powered by Jacobs L-4MB engines, of 755 cubic inches and 245 nominal horsepower, giving a cruising speed of 282 km/h (175 mph). 

In September 1940, the RCAF ordered 180 Cessna Cranes with the first to arrive in November 1940. 

The United States Air Force ordered 4600 aircraft, and the RCAF ordered 822 aircraft, ensuring Cessna's success as an aircraft manufacturing company. 

Cessna Cranes were used across Canada in Service Flying Training Schools (SFTS) and in southern Alberta at Lincoln Park, Calgary, Claresholm, and Vulcan. 

As with many aircraft used by the BCATP, there was a large surplus of Crane aircraft following war’s end and many were struck off as Crown Assets. They were often sold for as little as $25 to famers who would park them in fields, to be used as chicken coops or sold off as scrap. This is an important part of Western Canadian aviation history that is often overlooked.

A Cessna Crane. Image: Canada Aviation and Space Museum. 


According to collections records, our Crane's fuselage, wing, empennages, and other parts were recovered in Bow Island, Alberta in 1982, having sat outside for a considerable time. They have since been stored inside.

Our fuselage sits behind the DC-3 in the tent. General cleanup is being done at present, replacing window frames, formers and stringers, and showing the tubular triangular construction. The tail empennages may be added later. The single piece wooded cantilever wing sits in the northwest corner of the tent. 


  • Our Crane sits disassembled in the Tent Hangar – explaining that this is what the “skeleton” of an aircraft looks like.
  • Cranes were known as “Bamboo Bombers” or "Wichita Wobblers" because of their wooden construction. They were never used to drop ordinance by the RCAF.
  • Cranes featured a continuous cantilevered wind design made of spruce and covered in fabric. Cessna claimed this allowed easy maintenance and repair.
  • The United States were not at war at the time the RCAF ordered their Cessna Cranes and thus could not deliver war supplies to foreign countries. American crews would fly the aircraft to the Canadian border, then the planes would be pushed across the border and the Canadian crews would fly the aircraft to their destinations. 


  • Wingspan of 12.78 metres (41ft 9in)
  • Height of 3.02 metres (9ft 11in)
  • Length of 9.98 metres (38ft 9in)
  • Maximum speed of 314 km/h (195 mph) and a cruising speed of 282 km/h (175 mph)
  • Empty weight of 3,500 lm (1,599 kg)

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