The Cessna Model 336 first flew in 1961 and went into production in 1963. The Model 337 which introduced retractable undercarriage and other design changes (cowl flaps, wider chord elevator, dorsal cooling intake) appeared in 1965. The military O-2A version was first flown in 1967, with the O-2B (psychological warfare model) and production aircraft following the same year. The O-2 has been operated by the USAF as an observation and FAC aircraft. In 1971 a pressurised version was produced, followed in 1975 by the upgraded Skymaster II.
The O-2 has not been operated by the RNZAF, but a number of RNZAF pilots flew FAC aircraft in Vietnam while on exchange to the USAF. An O-2A-CE (c/n 337M-0437), 69-7639 was donated to the RNZAF museum to commemorate this service. The aircraft did not serve in Vietnam, but was operated by the 182nd TASG (Peora AFB) and 4507th CANS (Shaw AFB) before being placed in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB.
In December 1996 I received the following communication regarding the aircraft's path to New Zealand from Col. Ed Sheeran (USAF, ret) who kindly allowed me to reproduce it here:
"In 1988, I visited Air Commodore (then Group Capt) Graeme Goldsmith when he was commanding officer at RNZAF Base Wigram. I was flying the C-141 on the mid-winter airdrop to McMurdo and South Pole Station at the time.
Graeme and I had flown together for a short period in SoViet--I was his instructor in FAC ops with the O-2A and he was the patient student of a very new IP! We both noted the lack of SEA memorabilia for the RNZAF pilots who flew as FACs. When I returned to Norton AFB in So California, I contacted a friend at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, looking for FAC stuff. He agreed to tag an O-2A at the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB for the Wigram Museum if I could work a way to get it there on one of the weekly Starlifter flights. I got it listed on Norton's "opportune airlift" list, but then lost track of it until Graeme called and said the O-2 had arrived at Wigram, sans tech data, decals, stencils, etc.
The restoration people have obviously compensated for that"
Skymasters appearing on the New Zealand civil register (as at 1 may 1999) include ZK-DFT, ZK-DSC (337G), ZK-FZA (T337G), ZK-KLB (337A), and ZK-TSH (T337G). Apart from the RNZAF museum model, no other military models have reached New Zealand, although ZK-DFT and ZK-FZA have been painted to represent O-2A.
Last Update:- 8 November, 2000
© 1997-2000 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved