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Online Exclusive: Cessna 195 Businessliner: Flying First ClassOnline Exclusive: Cessna 195 Businessliner: Flying First Class

Echoing a pilot's command of business aviationEchoing a pilot's command of business aviation

By 5:30 p.m. on a September evening, the late summer heat had melted away like a belle leaving a ball.

Spec Sheet

1948 Cessna 195
Current market value: $90,000
Price as new in 1948: $16,635
Powerplant Jacobs R755-A2, 300 hp @ 2,200 rpm
Recommended TBO 1,200 hr
Propeller Hamilton Standard, constant speed, 2-blade, 93-in dia
Length 27 ft 10 in
Height 8 ft 4 in
Wingspan 36 ft 2 in
Wing area 218.13 sq ft
Wing loading 15.36 lb/sq ft
Power loading 11.12 lb/hp
Seats 4
Empty weight, as tested 2,346 lb
Useful load, as tested 1,004 lb
Payload w/full fuel, as tested 548 lb
Max takeoff weight 3,350 lb
Fuel capacity, std 76 gal
456 lb
Oil capacity 5 gal
Baggage capacity 220 lb
Takeoff distance, ground roll 760 ft
Takeoff distance over 50-ft obstacle 1,690 ft
Max demonstrated crosswind component 12 kt
Rate of climb, sea level 1,200 fpm
Max level speed, 10,000 ft 168 mph
Cruise speed/endurance w/45-min rsv, std fuel (fuel consumption), 8,000 ft
@ maximum cruise 171 mph/3.7 hr/550 nm (16.8 gph)
Service ceiling 18,300 ft
Landing distance over 50-ft obstacle 725 ft
Landing distance, ground roll 1,655 ft
Limiting and Recommended Airspeeds
V X (best angle of climb) 75 mph
V Y (best rate of climb) 104 mph
V A (design maneuvering) 125 mph
V FE (max flap extended) 130 mph
V NO (max structural cruising) 178 mph
V NE (never exceed) 200 mph
V S1 (stall, clean) 64 mph
V SO (stall, in landing configuration) 63 mph

By 5:30 p.m. on a September evening, the late summer heat had melted away like a belle leaving a ball. From our vantage point in the grass on the side of the runway, a gathering of pilots watched as Mort Brown eased into the takeoff roll in a polished silver-and-blue Cessna 195—a little slowly at first, then with the old confidence rising to the top, borne of thousands of hours in that model’s left seat.

Of the 866 Cessna 195s and the 233 190s launched on first flights from Cessna’s factory runways, Brown flew the initial production flight tests on about 850 serial numbers. That includes the first production flight test on a 195, in NC41690, on July 15, 1947.

Sixty years, two months, and one week later, on September 22, 2007, no less than 64 Cessna 195s and 190s had flown into Lloyd Stearman Field, in Benton, Kansas, to celebrate the airplane’s sixtieth anniversary—and Cessna’s eightieth—at The International Cessna 195 Club’s annual fly-in. The event gave Brown, then 99 years old, the opportunity to take the controls of a 195 once more. He flew a standard test profile with precision, with the memory in his bones and a smile on his face. After returning, when asked which airplane model was his favorite, Brown gave an affectionate tap to the underside of the wing and said, “This one.”

Travel back in time to what could be a headline today: Sixty years ago, the Cessna 195 Businessliner arrived on the market with a mission to transform business travel and personal aviation. Solid, stately, comfortable, and reasonably fast, the 195 promised its owners—men of moderate means and growing ambitions—to make possible burgeoning interstate commerce on a small business scale.

Its powerful radial engine inspired passion; its lines spoke of quiet class, and its design pointed firmly to the era’s modernist flair. Flying it required a measure of skill, but the 195 was no prima donna; it simply asked for competence and confidence—those trademarks of success.

The 195: the airplane of choice for Dwane Wallace, president of Cessna from 1936 to 1964 (chairman through 1975) and nephew to Clyde Cessna, company founder. It is also the airplane of choice for Mort Brown, from when he flew the first 190 prototype test flight in 1944 through three more decades of flying just-born Cessnas. And today, it is an airplane of choice for Cessna’s current president, chairman, and chief executive officer, Jack Pelton, who owns and flies Wallace’s personal 195, N2196C.

The production line, which Cessna retooled for 190 and 195 manufacturing in December 1946, ran until demand for the model faded in 1954. But more than five decades later, the Businessliner endures.

A cross-country thoroughbred

Coyle Schwab is the current president of The International Cessna 195 Club and a 21-year owner of N3457V, a 1948-model 195. He’s flown 57V extensively across the country and around the Midwest—it’s a traveling airplane, and he uses it as such. Over the years, he’s made upgrades to the panel to support instrument flight, although a few legacy instruments remain—and that represents well the range of 195s flying today. Although many have been upgraded to meet modern needs, a handful have been restored to classic status, and these rightly draw admiring stares at fly-ins all over the country.

One aspect of the 195 that is frequently changed is the engine. Schwab has transformed his airplane twice, moving up the ranks from the seven-cylinder, 245-horsepower Jacobs R755-9 (L-4MB) in the airplane when he bought it, to the 275-horsepower Jacobs R755-B2, and then back to the 300-horsepower Jacobs R755-A2 model originally installed on his airplane. There are also conversions out there that mate a 350-horsepower turbocharged version of the Jacobs engine, or even a 450-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior, with the airframe (called the “196”). If that’s still not enough variety, the airplane’s type certificate allows the installation of a 330-horsepower Jacobs R-915 (L-6MB) normally aspirated engine. With each change, Schwab’s seen improved performance—and a new set of quirks. You need to have in your heart a love for machines that display near-human qualities to appreciate—and live happily with—any of these engines.

Schwab’s most recent engine change took place in 2006, at Butterfly Aviation in Goodland, Kansas, with the installation of the overhauled 300-horsepower Jake from Radial Engines Ltd., of Guthrie, Oklahoma. The process wasn’t without its trials, as the engine had sat for seven years following its last overhaul. Prior to installation on Schwab’s airplane, and on the first test flight, Butterfly discovered an oil feed bearing had failed, evidenced by high oil temperature. Radial Engines fixed it despite the long time delay. After it was installed, the engine developed an oil leak during Schwab’s first 30 hours of flight (“just enough to put oil on the windshield and discolor the pretty, natural aluminum cylinder heads as it baked on,” Schwab recalls). The problem was traced to an improper thrust cone, the conical washer that fits on the rear of the exposed portion of the crankshaft. Butterfly replaced the cone, and the leak was repaired.

To try out the airplane, it felt natural to plan a cross-country trip to test its status as the aerial vehicle of choice for the 1950s businessman (always a dapper man, complete with black wool fedora, if you believe the ads). So Schwab and I picked a midsummer flight plan that took us from DuPage Airport, outside of Chicago, where he bases the airplane, to Barron Aviation, a family-operated maintenance facility with a thriving 195 restoration business on a private grass strip in eastern Missouri.

The engine produces a subtle beat—periodically a cylinder goes lean and you feel the stumble more than hear it. Schwab pointed it out to me before I could put my finger on what made up the engine’s signature rhythm. Every once in a while it beats loud enough to get your attention, but don’t let this unnerve you—that engine has hummed along for some time now and will continue to do so as long as it’s cared for and fed the five gallons of oil that it needs to fill its generous sump. The low cruise rpm (1,800 to 2,000 rpm, depending on the operator’s preference) creates a relatively quiet ride.

As for time between overhauls (TBO) on the engines, there’s nothing official. The Army called for a first inspection at 600 hours for the engines in the LC(126 (the military version of the 195) that extended the engine’s life by 300 hours. A second inspection at 900 hours gave the engine another 300 hours—hence today’s owners consider 1,200 hours a good ballpark TBO. Schwab notes that many owners complete a progressive top overhaul starting at 600 hours, replacing each cylinder as its compression wanes. “In the last couple of years, Air Repair [the engine’s type certificate holder] has certified stainless steel exhaust valve seats, replacing the original bronze seats,” says Schwab. “Along with Radial Engines Ltd., they forecast extended cylinder life as a result. Erosion of the bronze seats were often the cause of exhaust valve leaks.”

Father and son team of John and Mike Barron operate Barron Aviation, and they attract 195s and their variants for every kind of maintenance from routine annuals to risen-from-the-grave restorations. After a smooth touchdown on the grass at Barron, we spent the day hanging out in the maintenance hangar and drinking it all in. We watched a nearly completed fuselage leave its specialized jig in one corner of the large commercial hangar; concurrently, a set of wings was in progress in the wing jigs in the other corner.

Pilots can appear to be a strange breed in the fascination we find reading through accident reports and picking through twisted aluminum—I thought of this as Mike took us over to what he calls his treasure chest, an outbuilding filled with the carcasses of wrecked or neglected 195 fuselages and assemblies. Through the inevitable spider webs and dust we did see treasures—what looks like junk to the casual observer takes on the sheen of platinum when viewed through the eyes of the classic aircraft owner.

Vive la différence

Differences between models of 190s and 195s abound—the models were launched concurrently and shared a production line, but the 190s were produced with a lower-powered but smoother-running 240-horsepower, seven-cylinder Continental W670-23—making each Businessliner you find on the line today feel like a hand-crafted original.

Like most airplanes with more than a handful of years in production, several updates to the design were made along the way. These include changes to the horizontal stabilizer (including its position on the empennage), to the stall strips, to the cowlings, to the yokes—some aircraft have a throw-over yoke though most have dual controls—and to the fairings and spinners.

And then there’s the crosswind gear installed on certain 195s. Produced by Goodyear and conceived to take the sting out of landings (“practically eliminates the hazard of a ground loop,” according to the literature), the crosswind gear casters in the direction of the landing roll, allowing the airplane to roll out in nearly the same crab in which it lands, with the nose pointed into the wind. Does it take some getting used to? Mike had recently flown a 195A with the gear installed that had been brought into the shop, and he commented that, yes, it feels “freaky,” but it does work.

Other important updates to look for, which occurred after the airplane went out of production, include replacement of the magnesium aileron brackets for aluminum ones. Cracking and general deterioration of the magnesium brackets render the airplane unsafe eventually, so make sure this important switch is made. Another example: A good pre-buy checks the “toilet seat” bulkhead in the empennage (where the tailwheel attaches to the airframe) for cracks.

Dwane’s airplane—now Jack’s

An interesting exercise contrasts Pelton’s airplane with Schwab’s. The differences between models of the same airplane reveal themselves—beyond the polished silver and blue of 96C versus the sunny white and yellow of 57V.

Pelton discovered the airplane at the Mid-America Air Museum in Liberal, Kansas. Velma Wallace, Dwane’s widow, had loaned the airplane to the museum following her husband’s death. Mrs. Wallace saw the opportunity to return the airplane to the skies, so she sold it to Pelton. The classic re-achieved airworthy status in February 2007.

A 1954 195B, 96C has the later-model horizontal stabilizer and longer-span flaps—and the 275-horsepower Jacobs R755-B2 engine, with a longer Hamilton Standard “seaplane” prop. Wallace had updated the airplane’s front office with more modern yokes and the addition of a full stack of King Silver Crown radios and a loran receiver. Pelton restored the 195 yokes, replaced the spinner with a Cessna original version, and installed wheel pants—to which he ascribes a four-mph increase in cruise speed. He plans further improvements to the panel over time.

“The greatest thrill of flying the airplane is two things,” says Pelton. “One, the raw nostalgia you get out of its graceful lines and throaty roar. It puts you in an era I dream of. Just look at the advertisements from the day and you’ll see what I mean. Life was simple, adventurous, elegant. Second, the challenge of mastering the airplane’s flying characteristics and the real performance it has to offer.”

Pelton and his wife, Rose, flew the airplane to EAA AirVenture in 2007—and won a Bronze Lindy for the initial restoration. The award was particularly poignant to Pelton, as Wallace had won a similar award with the airplane at Oshkosh in 1983. The two decals sit side by side on the cabin window.

Flying it

With endorsements from the likes of Pelton, Brown, and Schwab, I had to get a taste of the airplane outside the realm of cross-country flight. So Scott Hartwig, a 195 owner and willing instructor, took me up for maneuvers and a couple of landings at DuPage.

Takeoff is an event, as you might expect with your hands on the yoke of a big-radial taildragger. Once the tail is up, positive control ensues, and you’re soon rising above the pavement seated in first class. Visibility instantly improves from a crescent around the cowl to that from a conning tower. The curved windshield extends into the wing roots to help you see any traffic overhead and into the turn.

True to its era and wing planform, the 195 rolls with a languorous ease—though it’s far from ponderous once you’ve initiated a turn. Coupling ailerons with rudder is easy—the rudder is pretty effective. Pitch is reasonably light. Overall, it looks like a heavier airplane than its handling qualities suggest.

Slow flight comes easily, although we kept it to a minimum in deference to the warm July day and the reduced cooling at high angles of attack. It’s not hard to push oil temps into the 200-plus range in hot weather. Debate continues as to whether a change in spinner helps with cooling. The “floating spinner,” an original Cessna option, is deemed better for cooling by some than the blunt-nosed Montgomery spinner, which some argue deflects air outside of the air intake. Butterfly Aviation also offers a longer, pointed spinner purported not only to cool better but also to reduce drag.

Stalls break normally in response to imperfect coordination—I never seem to have a problem testing this feature on an airplane—and recovery is straightforward. It’s a big, powerful airplane that doesn’t do anything unnatural. Maybe that’s why Brown, the consummate test pilot, liked it so much—that honesty.

Landings follow the airplane’s nose (unless the airplane has the crosswind gear): Because of the curve to the cowl and the pilot’s location behind and to one side of it, it’s easy to point the airplane at an angle to the desired direction—and you need to watch for this on takeoff and particularly on landing. A good checkout shows you where to look and how to get used to a picture that appears cockeyed at first. Hartwig bravely helped me negotiate my first 195 landing without any choice words. Schwab relates that it took him 10 hours to check out initially and 25 to feel fairly comfortable with the airplane—pretty typical numbers.

A fly-in event

The gathering of 195s at Stearman Field last September lined Runway 17/35 wingtip to wingtip for half a mile with all years and flavors of 190 and 195, much to the delight of organizers Marvin-Eddie and Stephanie Huckins, the Peltons, Dwayne and Julie Clemens, Schwab, and at least 180 members of the 195 club. Bill Milton, of the 195 Factory, presented a popular—and extremely detailed—maintenance seminar, using the last 195 off the production line, N195DE, owned by Oliver Coolidge and flown in from New Hampshire, as a model.

Schwab related that never before—even in the midst of production—had so many airworthy 195s collected in one location. It made for the classiest fly-in this side of 1955—and proof that, yes, the Businessliner endures.

E-mail the author at [email protected].

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