- Aircraft History, Specification and Information -
Cessna 320 Skyknight

The Cessna 310 is an American six-seat, low-wing, twin-engined monoplane that was produced by Cessna between 1954 and 1980. It was the first twin-engined aircraft that Cessna put into production after World War II.


The 310 first flew on January 3, 1953 with deliveries starting in late 1954. 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.

Typical of Cessna model naming conventions, a letter was added after the model number to identify changes to the original design over the years. The first significant upgrade to the 310 series was the 310C in 1959, which introduced more powerful 260 hp (194 kW) Continental IO-470-D engines. In 1960 the 310D featured swept back vertical tail surfaces. 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.

Over the years there were several modifications to the 310 to improve performance. Noted aircraft engineer Jack Riley produced 2 variants. The Riley Rocket 310 and the Riley Turbostream 310. Only seven of the latter modifications took place and the Riley Turbostream is perhaps the highest performance civilian piston light twin in existence. Riley replaced the standard Continental 310 hp (230 kW) engines with Lycoming TIO540 350 hp (261 kW) engines. These turbo-charged intercooled engines were installed with 3 blade Hartzell propellers in a counter-rotating configuration to further increase performance and single engine safety. At 5,400 lb (2,400 kg). gross weight the aircraft had a weight to power ratio of 7.71 lb (3.50 kg). per horsepower. This resulted in a cruising speed of 260 knots (480 km/h) at 18,000 feet (5,500 m) and a rate of climb 3,000FPM.

Operational history

Commercial applications
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. It could access short fields while at the same time carrying a large useful load of 2,000 lb (910 kg). or more at high speeds for a twin engine piston aircraft.

Other competitive planes to the Cessna 310 include the Raytheon (Beech) Baron, the Piper Seneca and arguably, some models of the Aero Commander.

As of 2006, many Cessna 310s are in operation in air taxi service world wide.

Military applications
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 260 hp (194 kW) 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.


  • Cessna 310
    Production aircraft powered by two 240 hp (180 kW) Continental O-470-B engines, 547 built.
  • Cessna 310A
    Military version of the 310 for the United States Air Force, designated L-27A and later U-3A, 160 built.
  • Cessna 310B
    310 with new instrument panel, O-470-M engines and minor changes, 225 built.
  • Cessna 310C
    310B with 260 hp (190 kW) IO-470-D engines, increased take-off weight and minor changes, 259 built.
  • Cessna 310D
    310C with swept vertical tail and minor detail changes, 268 built.
  • Cessna 310E
    Military version of the 310F, designated the L-27B and later U-3B, 36 built.
  • Cessna 310F
    310D with extra cabin window each side, pointed nose, new tip tank shape and other minor changes, 156 built.
  • Cessna 310G
    310F with slimline tip tanks, six-seat cabin an increased take-off weight and detail changes, 156 built.
  • Cessna 310H
    310G with increased take-off weight and enlarged cabin interior, 148 built.
  • Cessna 310I
    310H with IO-470-U engines, baggage compartments in rear of engine nacelles and minor detail changes, 200 built.
  • Cessna 310J
    310I with minor detailed changes, 200 built.
  • Cessna 310K
    310J with long 'vista view' side windows, increased take-off weight and IO-470-V engines, 245 built.
  • Cessna 310L
    310K with single-piece windshield, re-designed undercarriage, increased fuel capacity and minor changes, 207 built.
  • Cessna 310M
    Revised designation for the 310E.
  • Cessna 310N
    310L with revised instrument panel, optional fuel tanks in engine nacelles, IO-470-V-O engines and minor changes, 198 built.
  • Cessna 310P
    310N with a shorter nose undercarriage leg, ventral fin, and optional turbocharged Continental TSIO-520-B engines, 240 built.
  • Cessna 310Q
    310P with take-off weight increased to 5,300 lb (2,400 kg) and detailed changes, from the 401st aircraft fitted with a bulged rear cabin roof with rear view window, 1160 built.
  • Cessna 310R
    310Q with three-bladed propellers, lengthened nose with baggage compartment, 5,500 lb (2,500 kg) take-off weight and 285 hp (213 kW) IO-520-M engines, 1332 built.
  • Cessna 310S
    Original designation for the Cessna 320.
  • Cessna 320 Skyknight
    Enlarged version of the 310F with six seats, larger cabin and two turbocharged engines, 110 built.
  • Cessna 320A Skyknight
    320 with stabil-tip fuel tanks and minor changes, 47 built.
  • Cessna 320B Skyknight
    320A with nacelle baggage lockers and minor changes, 62 built.
  • Cessna 320C Skyknight
    320B with a longer cabin, optional seventh seat and minor changes, 73 built.
  • Cessna 320D Executive Skyknight
    320C with reshaped rear windows and 285 hp (213 kW) TSIO-520-B engines, 130 built.
  • Cessna 320E Executive Skyknight
    320D with pointed nose, single piece windshield, modified undercarriage, increased take-off weight and minor changes, 110 built.
  • Cessna 320F Executive Skyknight
    320E with minor changes, 45 built.
  • Cessna L-27A
    United States military designation for the 310A, later changed to U-3A.
  • Cessna L-27B
    United States military designation for the 310E/310M, later changed to U-3B.
  • Cessna U-3A
    L-27A redesignated in 1963.
  • Cessna U-3B
    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.

Military operators

Countries known to have operated the U-3/310 include:

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • France
  • Haiti
    Armed Forces of Haiti
  • Honduras
    Honduran Air Force
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Madagascar
  • Mexico
  • Paraguay
    Paraguayan Naval Aviation
    Paraguayan Army Aviation
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Trinidad and Tobago
    Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force
  • United States
    United States Air Force
    United States Navy
    United States Army
  • Venezuela
  • Uruguay
  • Zaire

Accidents and incidents

As of February 2010, the NTSB has recorded 1712 incidents for Cessna 310s since 12 January 1964.

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.

Specifications (1956 model 310)

General characteristics
Crew: one
Capacity: four passengers
Length: 27 ft 0 in (8.23 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
Height: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Empty weight: 2,850 lb (1,293 kg)
Gross weight: 4,600 lb (2,087 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × Continental O-470-B horizontally opposed piston engines, 240 hp (180 kW) each

Maximum speed: 220 mph (350 km/h; 190 kn)
Cruise speed: 205 mph (178 kn; 330 km/h)
Range: 1,000 mi (869 nmi; 1,609 km)
Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,096 m)
Rate of climb: 1,700 ft/min (8.6 m/s)

Notable appearances in media

The Cessna 310B, "Songbird", registration N5348A, was featured in many episodes of the popular TV show Sky King during the late 1950s.

Last updated September 25, 2010
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cessna 310".
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