August 10, 2022

Discover the oft-forgotten Cessna XMC

If the average aviation enthusiast were asked to name the very first swept-wing Cessna ever built, they would probably name one of the many Citation business jets. The Citation X, for example, had one of the most swept wings of any civilian aircraft, allowing later models to reach Mach 0.935. But in fact, the first Cessna to use a swept wing was this unique little plane, the Cessna XMC.

First flown in January 1971, only one XMC was built and it never went into mass production. Instead, it was intended to serve as a research aircraft, allowing the company to further explore various concepts, technologies and manufacturing technologies. Perhaps to remove any doubt regarding the purpose of the XMC, Cessna explained that the name was an acronym that stood for “eXperimental Magic Carpet”.

Looking at the stats, the XMC looked like a futuristic 150. It had the same 100hp Continental O-200 four-cylinder engine, weighed around 1,000 pounds, and had two seats. Even the wingspan was similar, only 6 inches shorter than the 150.

But as similar as the technical specs might have been, the two planes couldn’t have been more different… which was the whole point. The XMC’s engine was moved to the aft end of the fuselage, and the traditional tail was replaced with a twin-boom arrangement that resembled the much larger Skymaster twin. This resulted in a decidedly new look that deviated significantly from existing airframes.

This rare view of the XMC, in front of Cessna’s “Glass House” engineering center, highlights its small size; while the cabin was supposed to be significantly larger than the 150, the overall dimensions were very similar. [Photo: Textron Aviation, Inc.]

Because the powertrain was unchanged and the weight similar to the 150, Cessna did not expect the XMC to exhibit markedly different performance. Instead, the company used the aircraft to evaluate various manufacturing methods, such as metal bonding, to reduce the cost of aircraft production. A later modification of the XMC would see the introduction of a propeller fairing, intended to explore improvements in propeller efficiency and noise reduction.

Cessna’s interest in the XMC, however, extended beyond the technical aspects. In a 1971 popular science interview, Cessna President Del Raskom explained how one of the benefits of the thruster-thruster layout was ease of cabin access. He felt this was more difficult in a traditional tractor-propeller layout, and he praised the XMC’s wider, lower cab and relatively massive doors.

Asked about the swept wing, Raskom said she was chosen for her style and visibility. While visibility from the XMC’s cabin was undoubtedly fantastic, it’s possible sweeping was mostly a function of center of gravity. Many aircraft with rear-mounted engines struggle with a center of gravity that moves too far aft with an empty cabin, and the XMC’s wing sweep could actually have been used to position the tanks fuel further forward. This would have helped prevent the aircraft from tipping over on its tail with an empty cabin, as Rutan EZ models will if the nose gear is not retracted.

The XMC had the distinction of being the first Cessna to use a swept wing. [Photo: Textron Aviation, Inc.]

The XMC would continue to serve its purpose as a research vehicle and then disappear from public view altogether. Presumably scrapped, only a handful of photos remain. The photos you see here were recently located in the Textron Aviation Historical Archives and subsequently released for public viewing.

Today, photos are apparently all that remains. There is no record of any XMC models ever being mass-produced, no official company brochures appear to have been distributed, and detailed information on the aircraft is extremely sparse. Perhaps the only remaining artifact of the XMC is the tail number it once carried – N7174C – which is, to this day, available upon request from the FAA registry.