The LC-126

Here’s another excerpt from the in-work second edition of Cessna Warbirds, this time a portion of Chapter 4. Cessna delivered 83 model C-195s to the Air Force, Army, and Army National Guard in three variants: LC-126A, LC-126B, and LC-126C.

What follows is the opening portion of that story:

The LC-126

As the Allied juggernaut steamed across Europe and the Pacific, bringing World War II to a close, Cessna began developing a new line of single-engine airplanes to fill what management optimistically foresaw as a burgeoning post-war market for “family cars of the air.” The Model 120/140 line was already in work in 1944 as was initial planning for the 170. And yet, the pre-war popularity of the Airmaster series (arguably one of the best-looking, high-wing taildraggers) led management to authorize an updated version—the model 190 that would retain the basic Airmaster lines but provide more interior room. The new aircraft design capitalized on recent technological developments: constant-speed propellers, Wittman spring-steel landing gear, control wheels rather than sticks, and a semi-monocoque metal fuselage (a design wherein the outer skin carries the majority of the stress).

As in the Airmasters, the 190’s full-depth, steel-tube front wing spar, in the fuselage carry-through section, would have protruded into the cabin’s headroom such that the pilot and front seat passenger risked banging their heads on it and the rear seat passengers could not see around it. To correct the problem on the prototype, Cessna engineers designed a new spar made from aluminum bar stock and secured with bolts and stress plates, overdesigned to 150% of required strength to preclude problems due to the brittleness of the bar stock.

First flight of the fabric-skinned prototype 190 occurred on December 7, 1944, using a 225-horsepower Jacobs engine borrowed from the AT-17 line. The second prototype, a five-place all-metal model 195, received a 300-horsepower Jacobs engine and flew for the first time on October 15, 1945. Several problems cropped up during flight testing:

  • Directional over-control due to the large vertical tail and rudder (corrected by adding a dorsal fin);
  • Tendency for the tailwheel to shimmy (corrected with a new tailwheel fork);
  • Tendency to drop a wing at the stall (corrected by adding inboard stall strips);
  • Inadequate cabin heat (corrected by installing a gas-fired combustion heater under the rear seat with intake and exhaust tubing that required hand trimming and fitting for each aircraft); and
  • Some oil cooling problems.

Development of both the 190 and 195 models continued in parallel. The model 190 eventually incorporated the 240-horsepower Continental W-670-23 radial engine. The 195 could be ordered with one of three Jacobs radial engines: the 245-horsepower R-755-9 (customer furnished only), the 275-horsepower R-755-B2, and the more popular 300-horsepower R-755-A2.

Although the Continental engine on the 190 proved smoother, it lacked the power of the bigger Jacobs. The Jacobs engines tended to run rough and leak oil…leading to nicknames like “shaky Jake” and “bleeding Jake.” In the 3,350 pound 195, most buyers opted for the bigger 300 horsepower engine with its improved climb rate. Production of the 195 started in July 1947, the 190 in October of the same year. Cessna designated both models Businessliners—the 190 seating four and the 195 seating five.

Uneven distribution of the fuel-air mixture to the seven cylinders in the Jacobs engine created the idiosyncratic “Jacobs cough.” Cessna reworked the carburetor’s butterfly valve, but the stubborn problem persisted when operated at higher altitudes with reduced throttle settings and a fully leaned mixture. The “cough” typically occurred just once, if the throttle and mixture settings remained unchanged, but nonetheless proved an attention-getter for both pilot and passengers.

The 195 with the 300 horsepower Jacobs engine was designated the Model 195, those with the 245 horsepower engine the Model 195A. When it arrived on the market in 1947, Cessna dubbed it the “Cadillac of the Air”—the biggest and fastest civilian single-engine airplane available. The big radial engine provided a macho appeal and a distinctive roar on arrival and departure…but also complicated visibility when taxiing. Early in the production run, Cessna had to recall the Model 195s to replace a batch of bad pistons that had led to engine seizures.

US Army LC-126A in flight.US Army LC-126A overflying Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 1958
(US Army Aviation Museum photo)

In 1949, the US Army requested that the Air Force purchase 15 Cessna 195s “off the shelf” for an Army evaluation of the aircraft’s suitability for light-cargo, search and rescue, and liaison duties. The aircraft proved both rugged and dependable and able to haul full loads from unimproved airstrips. The Army assigned these original 15 aircraft the LC-126A designation.

NOTE: This presents only a portion of Cessna military history and the more than 12,000 aircraft Cessna has delivered to armed forces around the world. Chapter 4 includes a fascinating story, with color photos, titled “Arctic Exploration Air Force Style.”

Copyright ©2013 Walter P. Shiel. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “The LC-126

  1. Walt… Very well done. I hope you will consider adding information on the Coast Guard and Air Force versions of the 126. I am particularly interested in the Air Force search and rescue version used in Alaska. It had unique markings and was used on wheels, floats and skis. Any suggestions on where I might find more detailed info on the Air Force version? Thanks for the good work!….. Jack McLellan

    • Thanks, Jack. Like I said, this is just an excerpt from the chapter, in no way the entire chapter that will be included in the book. In fact, the first edition of Cessna Warbirds included much more about the LC-126.

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