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T-41 Mescalero by Walt Shiel
Few realize the extent of the rich military history behind the 50-year-old Cessna 172 and its military cousin the T-41. Now, for the first time anywhere, this rich history is captured in print, complete with stories and photographs from around the world. Far more than just a listing of models and quantities sold to the 70 military operators of the ubiquitous Cessna 172, "T-41 Mescalero" includes training and operational tales of derring-do from military pilots around the world.
"Walt Shiel, Jan Forsgren and Mike Little have covered the story of the T-41 Mescalero, and other military 172s, in a wide-reaching and exciting way that paves new ground for the pilot, the aviation buff, and the historian. This volume contains personal stories, vivid descriptions, and more than a little humor -- but it also provides specifications and serials that have never previously been assembled in one place." --from the Foreword by Robert F. Dorr (author of Air Combat)
In 2006, the ubiquitous Cessna Model 172 Skyhawk turned 50, with a seldom-heralded military record almost as long. Now, for the first time, the Skyhawk's military history is revealed in all its depth and breadth, covering its use by the armed forces of 54 countries. Cessna delivered 867 T-41 Mescaleros (the military version of the 172) in four distinct models to countries around the world -- plus another 158 off-the-shelf 172s, with many still serving into the 21st century. T-41 Mescalero captures this extensive history in print, complete with stories and photographs from around the world.
The roster of countries whose armed force fly, or have flown, the 172 reads like a list of United Nations members -- from the US to Latin America's Venezuela, Africa's Angola to Asia's Vietnam, and Europe's Austria to the Middle East's United Arab Emirates. T-41s and military 172s have spanned the globe to provide outstanding and cost-effective service for almost five decades.
More Cessna 172s have been produced than any other aircraft model in history. Doubtless more pilots have had their initial aviation indoctrination in the Cessna 172 than in any other aircraft. Wth new 172s still rolling off the assembly lines, its remarkable story will continue. With many armed forces still operating 172s and T-41s, its military story is far from closed.
Filled with operational stories, little-known applications, and 194 photos (80% in full color), T-41 Mescalero explains how, why, and when this stalwart Cessna has fulfilled its varied military roles!
Although jets began replacing prop aircraft in the US Air Force (USAF) inventory in the late 1940s, the service continued using propeller-driven trainers for basic and primary pilot training until April 1961. Beginning in 1954, would-be Air Force pilots received 30 flying hours in the Beech T-34 Mentor and 100 hours in the North American T-28 Trojan before moving on to the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer. In 1960, USAF replaced the T-28 with the twin-jet Cessna T-37 Tweet in a syllabus that included 27 T-37 flying hours and 105 T-33 flying hours.
By 1961, the T-37 had proven itself as a primary trainer, prompting USAF to experiment with an "all through jet " training syllabus. With the T-37 so easy and cheap to fly and an all-jet USAF inventory expected soon, propeller-driven trainers seemed anachronistic. The first all-jet pilot training classes received 132 flying hours in the T-37 before transitioning to the T-33 (and later the supersonic Northrop T-38 Talon trainer).
As with so many seemingly well-thought-out plans, reality intervened. Operating costs for the T-37, despite its small turbojets, proved excessive for the entry-level pilot screening role. Students unable to overcome physiological deficiencies (e.g., active airsickness, claustrophobia and fear of flying), incapable of attaining the required proficiency in the syllabus-allotted time, or merely unsuited for the regimentation of military flying used up a lot of expensive resources before elimination from training.
After only three years of the all-jet training experiment, USAF's Air Training Command (ATC) began shopping for a piston-engine trainer for the flight screening role. ATC decided the new trainers should be flown and maintained by civilian flight schools under government contracts, similar to the civilian contract aviation cadet and primary flight schools operated from World War II into the late 1950s. In fact, civilian contractors originally operated the command's T-37s.
In 1960, Cessna proposed re-equipping the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), USAF's official auxiliary, with a combination of Model 150s and 172s and even prepared a new 172 with a special CAP paint scheme for demonstrations. Although not accepted, the proposal probably helped position Cessna for the unforeseen new flight screening contract.
In 1964, USAF published the requirements for a commercial off -the-shelf civilian trainer with a fixed-pitch propeller for simplicity. Piper, Beech and Cessna all responded to the USAF Request for Proposals — Cessna offering the Model 182, a standard 172 and a 180-horsepower 172. Piper offered three Cherokee variants, and Beech offered two models. Although all three of the Cessna models met the USAF requirements, Cessna provided a firm bid for only the basic 172 with the 145-horsepower Continental O-300-D engine and only the front seats installed, winning the contract at a unit fly-away price of $7,000.
USAF designated the new aircraft the T-41A, only later unofficially adopting the US Army's name for its T-41B aircraft — Mescalero. As USAF intended the T-41A for day VFR primary training, the instrument panel included only basic flight instruments (altimeter, airspeed indicator, vertical velocity indicator, heading indicator, turn and slip indicator and attitude indicator), a single VHF communication radio and a single VOR navigation receiver.
On 31 July 1964, USAF and Cessna signed a fixed price, $1.24 million contract for 170 T-41A aircraft (Models 172F and 172G).