In 1939, three years after Clyde Cessna retired, the Cessna T-50 made its first flight, becoming the company's first twin-engine airplane, and its first retractable undercarriage airplane. The prototype T-50 first flew on 26 March 1939,[1] and was issued Approved type Certificate 722 on 24 March 1940.[2]

The AT-8, AT-17, C-78, UC-78 and Crane were military versions of the commercial Cessna T-50 light transport. The Cessna Airplane Company first produced the wood and tubular steel, fabric-covered T-50 in 1939 for the civilian market, as a lightweight and lower cost twin for personal use where larger aircraft such as the Beechcraft Model 18 would be too expensive. A low-wing cantilever monoplane, it featured retractable main landing gear and trailing edge wing flaps, both electrically actuated via chain-driven screws. The retracted main landing gear left some of the wheels extended below the engine nacelle for emergency wheel-up landings. The wing structure was built around laminated spruce spar beams, truss-style spruce and plywood ribs, and plywood wing leading edges and wing tips. The fixed tailwheel is not steerable, but can be locked straight. The Curtiss Reed metal fixed-pitch propellers were soon replaced with Hamilton Standard 2B-20-213 hydraulically-actuated, constant-speed, non-featherable propellers. Power was provided by two 225 hp (168 kW) Jacobs L-4MB engines rated at 245 hp (183 kW) for takeoff. Production began in December 1939.[3]: 35–36, 45–46