Cessna C 337 „Push-Pull“

Push „Bull“

At first glance, the Cessna 337 Skymaster looks pretty inconspicuous in Hangar-7 because of its size in comparison with a B-25 or DC-6B. That impression changes in an instant as soon as its two engines are started up. Then even someone who knows nothing about airplanes will notice that this has to be a truly special piece of machinery.

Sigi Angerer, chief pilot of the Flying Bulls and self-confessed plane geek, raises his eyebrows when asked about the most striking feature ofthe Skymaster and grins: “Amazingly loud. No, bloody loud”. Mind you: To Sigi, starting up the 18-cylinder radial engine of a DC-6B sounds like a symphony.
This characteristic of the Cessna is due to its rather unusual design, which is based on the centerline thrust system, as it is called. The fuselage of the high-wing airplane was designed as a pod. An engine with a pull action is mounted on its nose, and an engine with a push propeller is mounted on its rear. Thisdesign is also what gave the Cessna its affectionate nickname of the “push-pull” airplane. The layout of the two Continental engines, one behind the other, each with a capacity of 210 HP, has the advantage, compared with the classic layout on the bearing surfaces, that the failure of one engine does not cause any torque around the main axis, and the aircraft can still be easily controlled. The disadvantage? The air that is speeded up by the front propeller hits the rear one at high speed – and generates almost supersonic noise levels. Which may be one of the reasons why almost no other manufacturer dared to try out this actually very intelligent design.
The six-seater was produced between 1963 and 1982 in a number of civilian and military versions, with the total production number reaching 2,993. The military version for the US Air Force was named the O-2. “O” stood for Observer, as one of the uses of the 337 was on reconnaissance flights in the Vietnam war. Today, safari organizers still make use of the glazed door. The Skymaster is the ultimate example of the bush aircraft, as Hans Pallaske, its pilot for the Flying Bulls, emphasizes. “The plane is light and, thanks to its performance, it can be started and landed in the tiniest space.” The model owned by the Flying Bulls dates from 1969 and was sold after production by the plant in Wichita, USA to Chile in South America. The aircraft with the current registration number N991DM was owned by a number of amateur pilots, and then spent almost 15 years in a garage before being brought back to life in 2007. It took almost four years to restore it, and you can see this in every detail of the plane today. The three-bladed propeller and a stall kit that allows even slower flight speed are just two of the countless modifications. “It is in much better condition today than it was when it was produced in 1969. The instrumentation is pure high-tech, and the interior is really comfortable”, says Pallaske. And, referring to the small noisy weakness of the pushpull design, he adds with a smile: “The new interior insulation is absolutely first-class!”

Factbox

Name: C 337 "push-pull" N991DM
Manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company, USA
S/N: 337-1177
Wingspan: 11,6 m
Length: 9,1 m
Height: 2,8 m
MTOW: 1.996 kg
Max. speed: 195 kts
Cruising speed: 155 kts
Range: 1.200 km
Power plant:  Continental 10-360 CB 
Power: 210 HP
Service ceiling: 19.500 ft
Year of construction: 1969
Seats: 1 pilot / 3 passengers (Option 5 Pax)
Info/Specials: The combined tractor and pusher engines produce centerline thrust and a unique sound.

Sigi Angerer's Logbook

Not an ordinary working day

I‘ve crossed the Atlantic more than a hundred times without incident, and so I‘ve never said anything much about it. That day in November started a little differently. The place: KPVC/Provincetown, Massachusetts/ USA – an unmonitored air field – that‘s to say, there‘s no-one there! No tower, no fire service – just a gas station attendant. The landing strip, surround by the forest, is just long enough for our three-engine Falcon. In the starting direction, slightly offset to the right, an aisle in the forest – maybe I could just ....

When you take off, you always have to allow for a possible engine failure, and then KPVC is a little short – hence the aisle in the forest! Our passenger was late, and I could just make out the aisle in the forest in the dusk. In response to my question over the radio about take-off – “no flight plan”. I had my copy of it. But because the air field didn‘t have a team, I had to get out, go into the gas station attendant‘s office and phone the flight plan through.

An Atlantic flight plan is miserably long – with Innsbruck as the destination. In the mean time, it was dark, so I reboarded – and couldn‘t see the aisle in the forest any more. But there was an east wind, that can help me a bit across the trees in an emergency. So we start up in the dark, 5 clicks with the microphone switch on the runway lights. Everything goes OK, we‘re off as high as the houses over the trees. I‘m barely through the start-up checklist, when I hear a scream from behind: “We‘re on fire”! I radio through that we want to stick to our height and direction, hand over the plane to the autopilot – the co-pilot keeps an eye on it. I move at incredible speed out of my seat. The design of the folding table in the cabin is pretty stupid. There is a tiny slit between the table and the turbine wall, and sometimes paper or other stuff falls inside. This time, it was a burning cigarette, and the paper was there already. In any case, a little airplane had turned into a great cloud of smoke. I thought, well, a fire extinguisher isn‘t a good idea, we‘ll have to land again. So I picked up a liter bottle of mineral water, and after three bottles, the fire had gone out. I climbed back into the pilot‘s seat and completed the rest of the Atlantic crossing uneventfully.

Sigi Angerer
Head pilot of The Flying Bulls

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