Util­ity Warbird: Cessna’s LC-126

Flight Journal - - CONTENTS - By Budd Davis­son

Here’s a ques­tion for Flight Jour­nal read­ers: How many are fa­mil­iar with the Korean War–era Cessna LC-126? Let’s have a show of hands. Hmm. Not many. If we re­phrased that ques­tion as “How many are fa­mil­iar with the Cessna 195?” we’d see lots of hands. This is in­ter­est­ing con­sid­er­ing that they are the same air­plane—sort of. The LC-126 is a 195 wear­ing fa­tigues, but be­ing mil­i­tary, it is still very much its own air­plane.

As the Korean War got un­der­way, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force (USAF), while su­per busy fight­ing bad guys in quilted cov­er­alls in the snow, still had other parts of the world to look af­ter. And they were in need of a util­ity air­plane that could op­er­ate in a lot of dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments while car­ry­ing a good load at a de­cent speed. They didn’t have to look far be­cause the Cessna 195 Busi­nessliner had all the at­tributes they were look­ing for.

In­tro­duced in 1947, the Cessna 195 is viewed to­day as a mar­velous anachro­nism: It was pro­duced long af­ter flat motors had al­most to­tally over­taken round ones (Twin Beeches, not­with­stand­ing). Hav­ing a round mo­tor up front and a tail­wheel out back hear­kened back to the golden age just prior to World War II. Only its amaz­ingly grace­ful lines, how­ever, came from that pe­riod. Its air­frame ben­e­fited from avi­a­tion’s huge struc­tural de­sign leap for­ward that was forced upon it dur­ing WW II. Ev­ery­thing about the air­plane was state-of-the-art alu­minum de­sign in­clud­ing its

strut­less, can­tilevered wings. Roughly 500 of the 1,180 195s pro­duced are still fly­ing.

With its spa­cious cabin (two widely sep­a­rated front seats and three across in the back) and a wideopen­ing door cou­pled with its abil­ity to hang Ja­cobs motors up front that could go as high as 300hp, the 195 was prac­ti­cally made for mil­i­tary duty: a go-any­where, carry-any­thing, cover-ground-quickly aerial deuce-and-a-half truck.

Us­ing the 195 as a ba­sis, the mil­i­tary came up with an in­creas­ing list of mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make sure the air­plane, no mat­ter where it was po­si­tioned or what task it was given, was equipped to ac­com­plish it.

John Bar­ron, of Bar­ron Avi­a­tion in Perry, Mis­souri, is con­sid­ered the pur­veyor of all things 195. His fam­ily’s LC-126C is the sub­ject of this Gallery.

Bar­ron says, “Dur­ing the Korean War pe­riod, there were a to­tal of 83 LC-126 air­craft pro­duced. Fif­teen LC-126A mod­els were pur­chased by the mil­i­tary in 1949 and de­liv­ered in 1950. Five LC-126B mod­els were pur­chased in 1951, and 63 LC-126C mod­els were pur­chased in 1952. These air­planes were used for a large va­ri­ety of ‘work­horse’ du­ties and train­ing. Each air­craft was de­liv­ered to the mil­i­tary with Edo 3430 floats and skis in ad­di­tion to the stan­dard land­ing gear. The orig­i­nal skis sup­plied with the air­planes didn’t have suf­fi­cient ‘floata­tion’ for the 8-foot-deep snows en­coun­tered in the Arc­tic re­gions and had to be en­larged.

“The ‘A’ mod­els were very much stan­dard Cessna 195 mod­els, with a left-side emer­gency es­cape door added, sin­gle-side ex­tended bag­gage com­part­ment,

The mil­i­tary came up with an in­creas­ing list of mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make sure the air­plane, no mat­ter where it was po­si­tioned or what task it was given, was equipped to ac­com­plish it.

float at­tach kit, ex­te­rior steps and grab han­dles for wing top ac­cess, spec­i­fied ra­dio gear, jet­ti­son­able main cabin door, aux­il­iary ver­ti­cal sea­plane fins, and air­craft lift rings.

“The ‘B’ model was the same ex­cept for the ad­di­tion of a heater cover over the top of the heater in the cabin, Goodyear cross­wind gear, and ra­dio equip­ment.

“The LC-126C mod­els were the most mod­i­fied of all, with all the pre­vi­ously men­tioned items plus ac­com­mo­da­tions for sin­gle- or dual-stretcher in­stal­la­tions and an ex­tended cabin/bag­gage area with a large cargo door. It had a dual-light tail cone (white and yel­low), para­chute-pack seats, and snap-on cush­ioned up­hol­stery with snap-over seat cov­ers. Along with that came the lift rings, zinc chro­mate primer in­side and out, and the sea­plane (es­cape) door on the left side of the fuse­lage.

“The air­craft worked well on floats but was not a strong per­former when get­ting ‘un­stuck’ from the wa­ter. There is not enough aileron to ‘walk’ it out, so most com­monly, it’s abruptly ro­tated at 50 to 60mph, then ac­cel­er­ated in ground ef­fect be­fore climb­ing out. The air­plane is also re­puted to have an ex­tremely high ro­ta­tion rate in a spin with floats—some­thing I don’t plan on try­ing.”

Some of the most ex­cit­ing non­com­bat mil­i­tary avi­a­tion sto­ries come out of the USAF 10th Air Res­cue Group based in Alaska, which flew the LC-126 through the 1950s and into the ’60s. There, the enemy was the weather, the dis­tances, and the to­pog­ra­phy. Con­sid­er­ing the chal­lenges, it’s a mir­a­cle any LC-126 has sur­vived.

Far left: Only the C model LC-126 had dual lights.Left: The fixed fins were at­tached to give ad­di­tional ver­ti­cal fin area to make up for the for­ward area of floats (when at­tached).

Left and above: The read­ily iden­ti­fi­able Air Res­cue mark­ings are in­tended to make the air­plane highly vis­i­ble in any en­vi­ron­ment.

The left-side door was avail­able from the fac­tory only on 195s equipped for floats, where it was use­ful for dock­ing. On the LC-126, it was also an emer­gen­cyegress hatch.

Top: The lines of the 195/LC-126 are Art Deco de­sign at its best. This air­craft was re­stored by Bar­ron Avi­a­tion, the na­tion’s 195 ex­perts. Left: All LC-126s had a right-side cargo hatch, but the LC-126C’s was larger and could ac­com­mo­date two lit­ter cases with the back seat re­moved. Above: The air­craft seated three in the back seat and two up front.

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