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Usually hidden away behind the police helicopter hangar, our poor old Skymaster has over the years almost become part of the landscape. Relatively inconspicuous – an epithet not normally bestowed on one of Cessna’s oddest designs 😀 – it has pretty much become a fixture of the ECOS apron, taken for granted, as exciting as a tree (which it somewhat resembles in its green paint scheme). You get the impression that it’s as stable and permanent as the hangar it hides behind… right up until the moment it moves :).
Arriving at the field this morning for my simulator run, I threw a glance around the apron as I always do, checking to see what – if anything – was new. Expecting nothing really interesting – the field having opened only three days ago – I was taken off guard by a Skymaster parked out in the open, unobscured for the world to see, at the end of the ECOS apron. Briefly excited by the prospect of finally seeing a flying example, I soon spotted the familiar paint scheme… nevertheless, now that it was out in the open and away from its usual cluttered background, I thought I might as well get some photography done… 🙂
Not much of a sight, but nine years of standing around will do that. In its usual position blocking access to a new hangar being built on the ECOS apron, it had been temporarily moved here, for lack of a better solution. At least it got to stretch it legs a bit - and after nearly a decade finally have its tires pumped up 🙂
An interesting machine from any angle :). A French-built Reims F337F Super Skymaster, serial F337-0027/01337, D-ICEC (previously registered F-WLIQ) had been bought about 9 years ago by a commercial pilot and flown over from Germany. However - as I've been told - the pilot flared too late and struck the ground with the nose and right wingtip, bending the front prop and seizing the engine, as well as damaging the nose gear. Rearing up into the vertical, the rear engine continued to operate and push the nose into the ground until it was presumably starved of fuel by gravity. There were no injuries, but the aircraft was towed to the ECOS apron, presumably pending investigation. For some reason, it had stayed there ever since
The damaged right wingtip. Toying with the idea of getting this thing flying again, a couple of us made a cursory visual "look-see" inspection and from the outside at least the spar - the most important element of the wing - seems to be in good order. However, any serious work would have to see a detailed ultrasound, magnetic or radiographic inspection to check for internal stress
The front cowl had suffered as well, with the nose gear doors having been instantly sheared off. Note also the bent prop, which is now - given its age - a total write-off not worthy of repair
A slightly artsy B&W rear view. The normally aspirated Skymasters are powered by two 210 HP IO-360 engines usually driving two-blade constant speed props, set up to rotate in opposite directions to cancel out each other's adverse rotation effects. Because the rear prop rides in the turbulent airflow from the fuselage and central wing section, the Skymaster has a distinctive square-wave sound, in common with virtually all pusher props (inside it is less fun, because you now have two engines making noise in the cabin :)). D-ICEC's rear engine is - interestingly - relatively serviceable, as we had fired it up several times in the past, to keep it from seizing
Another artsy view of the left vertical stabilizer. Having a comparatively large stabilizer area as compared to most similarly sized aircraft, I'd wager a guess that the Skymaster was pretty stable around its vertical axis
A previous photo of D-ICEC in its usual, less-that-flattering surroundings. The hangar that had caused its temporary relocation is seen here in its early stages of assembly. For those of you wondering, during retraction the main gears would fold down and then backwards - like on Cessna singles - and stow in wells just below the exhaust. On some models, the wells were exposed (again like on many Cessna singles), but on the F model for one they were covered by doors that would only open during gear retraction of extension
View in full, unfortunately blending in well with its surroundings...
As mentioned in the photo comments, a couple of us had thought of restoring it – but despite the fact that many of its common engine and system components can easily be found, being used on other Cessna designs, there really is no economic case for any form of serious restoration. The structural checks alone would cost a fortune – the entire airframe having absorbed the forces of the impact – plus you’d need to overhaul two engines, two props, the entire landing gear system, repair the wing damage, repaint it, rebuild the cockpit (this having been cannibalized for instruments) re-certify it and so on and so forth… it would be easier to just by a “new” one… 🙂