When Clyde Cessna retired to a life back on the farm, control of his company was left to a board of
directors. In 1934, Clyde’s nephews Dwayne and Dwight Wallace approached him with the idea of taking
back control of the company. Dwayne had been working for Cessna’s competitor Walter Beech doing
engineering analysis on biplanes including the Beech Model 17 "Staggerwing" biplane, one of the more advanced aircraft of its time. His brother Dwight was a successful attorney. Together they toured thecountry to meet and persuade investors that they should run the company.
At a shareholders’ meeting on January 10, 1934, after promising investor that they would take little or
no salary, the Wallace brothers gained control of Cessna Aircraft Company. Dwayne became plant
manager and engineer, Dwight treasurer and secretary, and their uncle Clyde would serve as a
figurehead president. Dwayne Wallace would oversee Cessna for the next four decades and lead it to
become the world’s foremost producer of light aircraft.
Cessna During the Great Depression
The Great Depression years were challenging for Cessna Aircraft Company, but under the leadership of
Dwayne Wallace the company survived. During this early period prize money from trophy racing helped
keep the company solvent, and so exhibition flying and racing were part of Wallace’s duties. Cessna
aircraft gained notoriety on the race circuit. The Cessna C-34 won the Detroit News Trophy for the
“World’s Most Efficient Airplane” after winning a series of long-distance races designed to test an
aircraft’s horsepower-to-speed performance. The notoriety helped the company stay afloat. In 1936,
Cessna sold 33 C-34s.
In 1938, Wallace began development of a new lightweight twin-engine aircraft, the Cessna T-50 Bobcat.
Though he had no license and no formal training on a twin-engine aircraft, Wallace became the test pilot
for the new plane.
In 1940, foreseeing a growing civilian market at home and the potential for a military market in Europe,
Wallace invested in a large new factory. This would prove to be a turning point for Cessna Aircraft
Cessna During World War II
Before the United States entered World War II, Wallace secured contracts to supply the Royal Canadian
Airforce with modified Cessna T-50s for light transport and pilot training. By the end of the War, Cessna
had provided Canada with 822 T-50s (known as the Crane by the Canadians) and over 4,600 to the U.S.
military. The fact that the T-50, which became known as the Bamboo Bomber, was built using wood
construction and little “strategic materials” (i.e. aluminum and steel) was an important reason for the
high number of orders. Cessna grew from 200 employees to over 2,000 in the first year of the Bobcat
In addition to building over 5,000 Bobcats during the War, Cessna secured contracts to build and
assemble other companies’ aircraft and parts. It made money assembling the Waco CG-4A combat
glider, but it was the contracts for the manufacture of sections of advanced all-metal aircraft (such as
engine cowls for the Douglas A-26 and tails for the Boeing B-29) that would really help Cessna Aircraft
Company in the long-run.
After the War, Cessna returned to the private aircraft market with a huge advantage over its
competitors – the knowledge and means to build all-metal light aircraft. Wallace quickly came out with
an all-metal replacement for the T-50, the Cessna Model 190 and 195. The 190 and 195 were equipped
with a “spring-steel” type landing gear that would become one of the hallmarks of the Cessna single
engine aircraft. A simple one-piece curved bar that arced through the fuselage meant less maintenance
and drag and could withstand amazing amounts of abuse.
Strut-Wing Design and Becoming Number One
Wallace understood that the real post-war market lay in small, inexpensive personal planes. Cessna
came out with the 120 and 140 which were all-aluminum 2-seaters aimed at this market. The aluminum
construction would keep maintenance costs lower. The 120/140 introduced another hallmark of the
Cessna single engine aircraft: wing struts. These simple struts brace the wings and allow for a smaller
wing spar. This meant more headroom in the cockpit. The plane’s popularity would allow Cessna to take
the title of “#1 Lightplane Maker” from Piper.
Cessna stretched the cockpit for the Cessna 170, which quickly dominated the market for four-seaters.
The Cessna 180 was introduced as a heavier, more powerful complement to the 170. The next model,
the 172 introduced tricycle landing gear as well as a rear cockpit window.
The Cessna 172 Skyhawk was first flown in 1955 and has become the most successful aircraft in history
(judging by longevity and popularity). More than 44,000 have been built and the aircraft is still in
OBX Airplanes Fleet of Cessna Aircraft
OBX Airplanes is proud to own a fleet of Cessna aircraft. We offer Private Pilot’s License training in the
Cessna 150 and Instrument Rating in the Cessna 150 and Cessna 172. We offer Complex Endorsement,
Commercial and Flight Instructor training in our beautiful Cessna 177RG Cardinal. We also have the
ultimate high-performance, complex aircraft and cross-country machine: our Cessna 182RG.
In addition to flight training, OBX Airplanes offers Air Tours in our fleet of Cessnas. A large group can
even take to the sky at the same time in multiple Cessna aircraft. Check out our Cessna Air Tours
to book an amazing Outer Banks Adventure.