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A Cessna lady of the night — an O-2 Skymaster walkaround

6 June 2011

A Cessna lady of the night  — an O-2 Skymaster walkaround

30º 27′ 55″ N / 86º 33′ 26″ W

Cessna O-2 Skymaster at the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum — photo by Joe May

Rear aspect of the Skymaster — photo by Joe May

Dressed for the night with a lethal pair of earrings, the O-2 — photo by Joe May

During the Vietnam War the U.S. Air Force quickly realized a need to upgrade from the O-1 Bird Dog for Forward Air Control (FAC) missions, especially the need for twin engines since much of the mission time would be within range of small arms fire as well as anti-aircraft artillery (AAA). Cessna was able to essentially convert their civilian Cessna 337 Skymaster to meet the military’s need. Its tandem twin engine made for better behaved handling if an engine were to lose power or quit entirely since there would be no yaw into the dead engine — making such a situation on take off more survivable. The Skymaster’s twin booms are also distinctive as is the high wing. Climb was best on one engine by 80 feet per minute (~24m per minute) if it was the rear engine which was operative. The front engine, however, was tasked with powering the hydraulics so in a front engine-out situation the pilot would not retract the landing gear. A lot for a pilot to think about with diminishing air speed and lack of altitude — so it would be a blessing to not also be tasked with rapidly dialing in the rudder trim while wrestling with the ailerons as can be the case with wing mounted twin engines.

The O-2 front engine and pilot entry — photo by Joe May

The critical engine, the rear one, of the Skymaster — photo by Joe May

The O-2 Skymaster in these photos is exhibited on  the grounds of the Air Force Armament Museum. She is dressed up in black as she served during many of her nocturnal missions during the Vietnam War scouting the Ho Ch Min Trail. Each wing is equipped with bomblet dispensers, each fitted with a housing for the firing mechanism which simply detonated a charge that drove a piston rearward, forcing the bomblets out of the tubes.

Closer view of the SUU-14A bomblet dispenser — photo by Joe May

The Skymaster was designed to carry four passengers in comfort so the military version had a capacious cabin for the single pilot and a multitude of radio gear. The FAC pilot has need to contact command centers, strike aircraft, as well as ground units so many radios were needed. Two hard points, one midway under each wing, could carry ordinance which varied from 2.75 inch (~70mm) rockets to 7.62mm gun pods to the SUU-14A (bomblet dispenser).

Pilot entry door to the O-2, note the additional windows for enhanced visibility — photo by Joe May

A post about my visit to the Air Force Armament Museum has been published and to easily find it simply place the name into the search window and select ENTER 🙂


Air Force Armament Museum

Air Operations Vietnam

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Dale Alfredson permalink
    2 December 2014 23:56

    Why is there a spinner on the front prop and not on the rear?

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      4 December 2014 03:10

      I think it’s a simple matter of where streamlining is needed–required on the front engine and not on the rear engine.

      • Dale Alfredson permalink
        4 December 2014 05:58

        As I recall it, proper Cessna O 2a’s (manufactured as such) did not have spinners. ( see photos in Wikipedia) so streamlining was of no interest to the military. Cessna 337’s taken from the civilian production line and used by the military had spinners on both engines. First time I’ve seen one half and half

      • travelforaircraft permalink*
        4 December 2014 18:39

        Observations trump speculation every time. I think the aerodynamics I spoke of are pertinent so maybe having a spinner in the back is an aesthetic choice? Maybe it’s one of balance?


  1. A Cessna lady of the night — an O-2 Skymaster walkaround (via Travel for Aircraft) « Calgary Recreational and Ultralight Flying Club (CRUFC)

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