HISTORY OF THE CRANE
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.