the walt Disney Cessna 195 Display (1999)
In early 1999 Radial Engines, Ltd was contacted by Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) in Glendale, CA. It seems that WDI, which supplies all Disney theme parks with displays, wanted a radial engine display to go in one of their parks in Japan. We supplied them with a mock-up engine, some radial engine tools, some aircraft tires and a Beech 18 door.
Shortly after this project was finished we were again contacted by WDI, this time for a request for a much bigger project.
A new theme park was being built next door to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, and WDI was interested in having a Cessna 195 display built up as the centerpiece for the aviation portion of that park. We responded with a quotation, they accepted it, and we found ourselves off and running in the world of Mickey, Minnie, and Cessna 195 mock-ups.
The first step was to find a suitable aircraft to build up for them. After a short search we found a derelict C-195 in Ohio that had crashed on takeoff.
The gear box was destroyed, the firewall was caved in at the bottom, and the engine, propeller, and cowling were all mangled.
The airplane was just what we were looking for! It was purchased, put on a trailer, and hauled back to our facility in Oklahoma.
In order to meet Disney’s requirements that the aircraft have no fuel, hydraulic fluids or radium, and that it be readily approachable by the public (people friendly), much work was necessary. The airframe was stripped of its interior, paint, and instruments. A gearbox was fabricated from wood and installed to support the landing gear. The firewall was removed and much skin work was done to make the aircraft cosmetically attractive. A beautiful instrument panel was fabricated with a full complement of instruments, all non-functional.
We assembled a display engine detailed to look like one of our overhauled engines, but weighing only 233 lbs. (something must have been left out!) The interior of the fuselage skin was coated with two inches of spray foam to prevent oil canning in case park patrons leaned against the airframe. New interior upholstery and a new windshield were installed, and the airframe was painted with silver Imron. The project was now ready to be shipped to its new California home.
Once in California, Disney artists added red exterior trim paint and “aged” the aircraft with airbrushes.
In November of 2000 two Radial Engines Ltd employees went to Anaheim to assemble the airplane and give it the final touches. The Disney California Adventure theme park opened on February 8, 2001, and the Disney Cessna 195 began its long career as a much-photographed aviation attraction.
the walt Disney Cessna 195 Display redux (2022)
In mid 2022 Radial Engines, Ltd was again contacted by Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) in Glendale, CA. After 23 years of service at the Disney California Adventure theme park, the old Cessna 195 display was beginning to show signs of age.
Years of being watered nightly by the sprinkler system and the proximity of the aircraft to the Pacific Ocean had weakened its structure and the maintenance staff at Disney had found it necessary to install cables to hold the airplane’s landing gear and fuselage together in alignment. Now Walt Disney Imagineering was calling again, this time requesting a complete overhaul of the display.
Personnel from Radial Engines Ltd and West Coast Air Creations arrived in Anaheim on August 17, 2022. The disassembly of the aircraft had to be done from midnight until 4am in order to be out of the park before the day’s activity began. As soon as the landing gear support cables were cut the gear began to collapse and the fuselage began to twist.
Years of water and corrosion had done their damage. The airplane was loaded onto a flatbed trailer and taken to West Coast Air Creations’ facility at Flabob Airport.
Upon close inspection it was determined that the fuselage was not economically repairable so another unairworthy but otherwise cosmetically good C-195 fuselage was purchased from Butterfly Aviation and transported to Chino. For the next three and a half months work on the airframe proceeded at West Coast Air Creations while a new display engine was assembled at Radial Engines Ltd.
The completed engine was shipped west, the airplane was test assembled, and then disassembled. On the night of December 1, 2022 the restored airplane was moved to its original place at the Disney California Adventure, ready to be enjoyed again for many years to come.