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The Cessna 310 is a classic general aviation airplane. As Cessna's first twin after WWII, the 310 represented a big leap forward for the company transitioning from taildraggers to more modern designs. In its 27 year production run it went through many variations, giving a number of options for those wishing to own one now.
The 310 first flew on January 3, 1953 with deliveries starting in late 1954. They had 240 hp Continental O-470 engines. The sleek modern lines of the new twin were backed up by innovative features such as engine exhaust thrust augmenter tubes and the storage of all fuel in tip tanks in early models. In 1964, the engine exhaust was changed to flow under the wing instead of the augmenter tubes, which were considered to be noisy.
The first significant upgrade to the 310 series was the 310C in 1959, which introduced more powerful 260 hp Continental IO-470-D engines. In 1960 the 310D introduced the swept back tail. An extra cabin window was added with the 310F.
The 320 Skyknight was developed from the 310F, which featured turbocharged TSIO-470-B engines and a fourth cabin side-window. The Skyknight was in production between 1961 and 1969 (the 320E was named the Executive Skyknight), when it was replaced by the similar Turbo 310.
The 310G introduced the upswept 'stabilatip' tip tanks, while the 310K replaced the rear two windows with a single unit. Subsequent developments include the 310Q and turbocharged T310Q with redesigned rear cabin with a skylight window, and the final 310R and T310R, identifiable for their lengthened noses. Production ended in 1980.
The 310 is a good, stable IFR platform. It does have a reputation for Dutch roll for pilots inexperienced in its handling. Approach speeds are relatively high and power needs to be carried to compensate for poor glide performance.
The 310 is known for having fragile landing gear that need regular maintenance. Other issues include problems with the fuel system and a tendency for those with Continental 520's to suffer cracked cases. Early model with over the wing exhaust can have corrosion problems.
The Cessna 310 was a common charter aircraft for the many air taxi firms that sprang up in the general aviation boom that followed World War II. The advantages to the Cessna 310 over its contemporaries, such as the Piper Aztec, were its speed, operating costs and after market modifications such as the Robertson STOL kits which made it popular world wide for its bush flying characteristics.
Planes comparable to the Cessna 310 include the Raytheon (Beech) Baron, the Piper Seneca and some models of the Aero Commander.
In 1957, the US Air Force selected the Cessna 310 for service as a light utility aircraft for transport and administrative support. The USAF purchased 160 unmodified 310A aircraft with the designation L-27A and unofficially nicknamed ''Blue Canoe'', later changed to U-3A in 1962. An additional 36 upgraded 310 designated L-27B (later U-3B) were delivered in 1960-61; these aircraft were essentially military 310Fs and as such equipped with the more powerful engines and can be identified by their extra cabin windows, longer nose and swept vertical fin. A USAF study after one year of operational service found the U-3A had direct operating costs of less than $12 an hour.
Production aircraft powered by two Continental O-470-B engines, 547 built.
Military version of the 310 for the United States Air Force, designated L-27A and later U-3A, 160 built.
310 with new instrument panel, O-470-M engines and minor changes, 225 built.
310B with IO-470-D engines, increased take-off weight and minor changes, 259 built.
310C with swept vertical tail and minor detail changes, 268 built.
Military version of the 310F, designated the L-27B and later U-3B, 36 built.
310D with extra cabin window each side, pointed nose, new tip tank shape and other minor changes, 156 built.
310F with slimline tip tanks, six-seat cabin an increased take-off weight and detail changes, 156 built.
310G with increased take-off weight and enlarged cabin interior, 148 built.
310H with IO-470-U engines, baggage compartments in rear of engine nacelles and minor detail changes, 200 built.
310I with minor detailed changes, 200 built.
310J with long 'vista view' side windows, increased take-off weight and IO-470-V engines, 245 built.
310K with single-piece windshield, re-designed undercarriage, increased fuel capacity and minor changes, 207 built.
Revised designation for the 310E.
310L with revised instrument panel, optional fuel tanks in engine nacelles, IO-470-V-O engines and minor changes, 198 built.
310N with a shorter nose undercarriage leg, ventral fin, and optional turbocharged Continental TSIO-520-B engines, 240 built.
310P with take-off weight increased to and detailed changes, from the 401st aircraft fitted with a bulged rear cabin roof with rear view window, 1160 built.
310Q with three-bladed propellers, lengthened nose with baggage compartment, take-off weight and IO-520-M engines, 1332 built.
Original designation for the Cessna 320.
Enlarged version of the 310F with six seats, larger cabin and two turbocharged engines, 110 built.
320 with stabil-tip fuel tanks and minor changes, 47 built.
320A with nacelle baggage lockers and minor changes, 62 built.
320B with a longer cabin, optional seventh seat and minor changes, 73 built.
320D Executive Skyknight
320C with reshaped rear windows and TSIO-520-B engines, 130 built.
320E Executive Skyknight
320D with pointed nose, single piece windshield, modified undercarriage, increased take-off weight and minor changes, 110 built.
320F Executive Skyknight
320E with minor changes, 45 built.
United States military designation for the 310A, later changed to U-3A.
United States military designation for the 310E/310M, later changed to U-3B.
L-27A redesignated in 1963.
L-27B redesignated in 1963.
The aircraft is popular with air charter companies and small feeder airlines, and is operated by private individuals and companies.
Accidents and incidents
* On July 19, 1967, a Boeing 727 operating as Piedmont Airlines Flight 22 collided with a Cessna 310 at Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA, killing all 79 people on board both aircraft and 3 people on the ground.