In the early 1960s, seatbelts were not even standard equipment in automobiles but Cessna announced a new model based on safety. The conventional design of a multiengine airplane was to mount the engines out on the wings. In the event of a power loss, this produces asymmetrical thrust. In a light piston twin, this asymmetrical thrust condition has lead to a number of “loss of control” accidents. In an effort to overcome that, Cessna designed the Model 337 Skymaster with both engines on the fuselage—one in front and a pusher on the back. The tail was a twin boom that extended aft of the rear engines.
The design actually started out as the Model 336 in 1964, but Cessna only produced 195 in its one year of production. The 337 Skymaster entered production in 1965 and continued through 1980, when over 2,000 had been produced. An additional 513 were produced for the U.S. Air Force as O-2A Forward Air Controller aircraft.
Continental IO-360 engines with 210 hp (and 210 hp TSIO 360s for the turbocharged version) power the Skymaster. The Skymaster lacks the performance of a Baron, and are not as fuel efficient as some other light twins. The pressurized version will cruise at fairly high speeds, if you are willing to use supplemental oxygen. Load capacity is not anywhere near full seats and full fuel, but it is about 1,500 pounds. The Skymaster is known as a comfortable four-place twin.
In terms of safety—the reason for being of the Skymaster—it actually ranks in the middle of the pack of light twins in terms of accident rates and is in the lower half of light twins in the fatal engine-failure crashes. Some of those accidents occurred during takeoff, when the rear engine failed and the pilot did not notice the failure and continued the takeoff.
There are a number of modifications available for the Skymaster.