Measured by its longevity and popularity, the Cessna 172 is the most successful mass produced light aircraft in history. The first production models were delivered in 1956 and they are still in production.* More commonly known as the “Skyhawk”, this aircraft is a four seat, single-engine, high wing airplane.
Cessna 172 M Skyhawk – Performance Data
|Horsepower: 150||Gross Weight: 2300 lbs|
|Top Speed: 122 kts||Empty Weight: 1335 lbs|
|Cruise Speed: 115 kts||Fuel Capacity: 42 gal|
|Stall Speed (dirty): 44 kts||Range: 435 nm|
|Ground Roll: 865 ft||Ground Roll 520 ft|
|Over 50 ft obstacle: 1525 ft||Over 50 ft obstacle: 1250 ft|
|Rate Of Climb: 645 fpm|
|Ceiling: 13100 ft|
Cessna 172: Still Relevant
The first production models were delivered in 1957 and it is still in production in 2006; more than 35,000 have been built. The Skyhawk’s main competitors have been the popular Piper Cherokee, the Beechcraft Musketeer and Grumman Cheetah (both no longer in production), and, more recently, the Diamond Aircraft DA40 Star and the Symphony SA-160.
The early Cessna 172 had no rear window and featured a “square” fin design. Still, it was considered as a direct descendant of the Cessna 170 which used conventional (taildragger) landing gear instead of tricycle gear. Looking almost identical to the 170, the early 172 had the same straight aft fuselage and tall gear legs, but later versions incorporated revised landing gear, a lowered rear deck, and an aft window. Cessna advertised this added rear visibility as “Omnivision”. The final structural development, in the mid-1960s, was the sweptback tail still used today. The airframe has remained almost unchanged since then with updates to avionics and engines including, most recently, the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. The Skyhawk, however went through a series of developments in terms of aerofoil redesign, wider track undercarriage, increased fuel capacity options, reshaped windows and an optional higher standard “II” equipment package. High performance variants included the R172 Hawk XP, with a 195 hp engine, and the 172RG, with retracting undercarriage and a 180 hp Lycoming O-360 engine. Production models ran from the 172I of 1968 to the 172P of 1985.
The older Skyhawks shipped with a 145 horsepower (110 kW) engine; later planes shipped with engines up to 180 horsepower (135 kW), though 150 or 160 hp (110 or 120 kW) is more common. Cessna produced a retractable-gear version of the 172 named the Cutlass 172RG and also produced versions on floats. The 172RG also had a variable pitch, constant speed propeller and more powerful stock engine. The R172K Hawk XP was produced in the late 1970s, and featured a fuel injected Continental IO-360-k, derated to 195hp, driving a two bladed constant speed prop. This aircraft is capable of 131 knot cruise speed and performs similarly to the Cessna 182. The normal cruising speed for a fixed-gear 172 ranges from about 105 to 125 knots depending on the engine and vintage. ***
On October 4, 2007 Cessna announced its plan to build a diesel-powered Cessna 172 model starting in mid-2008. The planned engine was to be a Thielert Centurion 2.0, liquid-cooled, two-litre displacement, dual overhead cam, four-cylinder, in-line, turbo-diesel with full authority digital engine control. The engine produced 155 hp (116 kW) and burns Jet-A fuel. The engines were to be installed at the Cessna Skyhawk factory in Independence, Kansas under an STC. The new model was designated the 172 Skyhawk TD, indicating “Turbo Diesel”.****
The Cessna 172 aircraft may be modified via a wide array of Supplemental Type Certificates, including increased engine power and higher gross weights. Available STC engine modifications increase power to 180 to 210 hp (134 to 157 kW), add constant speed propellers, or allow the use of automobile gasoline. Other modifications include additional fuel tank capacity in the wing tips, add baggage compartment tanks, add wheel pants to reduce drag, or enhance landing and takeoff performance and safety with a STOL kit.
More recently, (July 2010) Cessna announced it was developing an electrically-powered 172 as a proof-of-concept in partnership with Bye Energy. George Bye, CEO of Bye Energy, said “This is an ambitious effort, but we are continuing to uncover additional efficiencies with electric-powered flight. We are grateful to Cessna for its continued collaboration and support.” Cessna CEO Jack Pelton stated that the project reflects “encouraging news for the future of mainstream general aviation.” Pelton pointed out “the electric power plant offers significant benefits, but there are significant challenges to get there.
The world’s most popular airplane, not surprisingly, has a great safety record. In its latest safety review, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation looked at all the Cessna 172 accidents that occurred from 1982 through 1988 — more than 1,600 of them. With 24,130 Skyhawks in the fleet, that’s a good record, but it is sobering to think that every year about 237 Skyhawks are involved in reportable accidents — that’s more than four per week. Happily, most of the accidents result in little or no injury to the occupants. In terms of overall accidents per 100 aircraft in the fleet and per 100,000 hours of flight, the 172 had a very slight edge over the comparative aircraft. But there are some significant differences in other areas. The Skyhawk has fewer serious accidents, which may be attributed to its almost universal use as a trainer. Instructional flying is proportionately much safer than personal flying. Pilots are less prone to fall victim to the high-risk accident areas when under an instructor’s supervision.