Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unearthed: Photo of the Cessna ATPTB, the Prototype Pusher Citation

For the longest time, drawings and artist's depictions were the only visual evidence remaining of a mysterious Cessna prototype known as the ATPTB (Advanced TurboProp TestBed). But thanks to a member of, an actual photograph has been unearthed:

The aircraft was reportedly based on the Citation II (550) fuselage and wing, with a Citation 650 empennage and two PT6-66/3 pusher powerplants. The aircraft used custom propellers, geared in a counterrotating configuration.

A NASA report from 1994 states that the aircraft was flown to altitudes of 41,000 feet and .60 Mach. As one would expect from an aircraft with a high thrust line, the aircraft would pitch up when power was reduced, and would pitch down when power was increased.

The aircraft was used to gather data to be used in flight simulation. Various pilots with differing levels of experience flew both the real aircraft and a simulator replicating it. Their feedback was analyzed, presumably to further the development of flight simulation technology.

In keeping with Cessna's frustrating habit of destroying their experimental aircraft, there seems to be no remaining physical evidence of the ATPTB. One one think that a company that touts their long and extensive aviation heritage would be proud of their history, but their continued destruction of innovative prototypes and testbeds certainly indicates otherwise.

Indeed, when one considers how many creative and forward-thinking designs were produced from Cessna's design and engineering teams over the years (the 620, the XMC, the NGP, and the 327, to name just a few), one begins to understand the magnitude of Cessna's practices.

Had Cessna had the foresight to compile these designs into a museum collection, or at the very least render them unairworthy and donate them to a museum (receiving a sizable tax writeoff in exchange), we could all stroll through and enjoy the collection. Children, pilots, non-pilots, and aviation industry veterans alike could marvel at the creativity and innovation generated by the people of Cessna over the decades. Perhaps some would have become inspired to pursue careers in the aviation industry as a result.

But apparently, Cessna would rather their history be dumped into the scrap bin and forgotten about.

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