The U-3A is the military variant of the civilian Cessna Model 310. The 310 proved very successful in the civil market and was chosen by the Air Force in 1957 for use as a light utility transport. Initially called the L-25A approximately 160 were ordered in 1957 and 1958, a further 30 were ordered in 1960 with more powerful engines and called L-27B. The designation of these aircraft was changed in 1962 to U-3A and U-3B. The planes’ distinctive blue and white paint scheme led to the unofficial nickname “Blue Canoe.”
One of the more unusual uses for the U-3 was as a chase plane and trainer for the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance plane. The Cessna’s cockpit is at almost exactly the same height as that of the U-2 and with proper power settings the plane flies almost identically to the U-2 in the landing configuration. New U-2 pilots would perfect the very precise skills needed to safely land with an instructor in the U-3 before trying it in the single seat U-2.
100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, 1974
Pima Air & Space Museum