The Cessna 177 came as a development to the Cessna 172. A light, high-wing general aviation aircraft, it was produced in 1967, about the same time that the 172 was in production. The 177 Cardinal, on the other hand, was a deluxe version of the Cessna 177 aircraft. This was marketed at a higher price from the 172.

Engineers in Cessna had described as a “futuristic 1970’s successor to the Cessna 172.”* This aircraft then featured newer technology such as the cantilever wing and the laminar flow airfoil. The name “Cardinal” was given to the 177 when it had some upgrades installed in the aircraft.

It was not as successful as the company had projected, even with having features such as “a spacious cabin, a rear-fitted wing giving good visibility, an all-moving tailplane , and a high level of standard equipment.”** The sales volume of this model had not reached the number of sold units by its precedent, the 172. It just did not have the same climb-to-altitude capacity, and the cruise speed was less than that of the 172 even with the same sleek design. The company then perceived that the shortcoming of this specific model was that it did not have enough power. This was addressed by coming up with the 177A in the year 1969. They had equipped the aircraft with the 180 hp O-360-A engine, compared to the 150hp O-320-E engine that the 177 had previously.

By the 1970s, the 177B had come into production, this time having a new wing airfoil, a constant speed propeller, and other minor improvements. In 1978, an upgrade of the 177B had come about, with full IFR instrumentation.*** It also came with luxury leather upholstery, and a table for the rear passengers. This was then dubbed to be the Cardinal Classic.

The final aircraft in this line of planes is the 177RG. “RG” in this model stood for “retractable gear.” This was the offshoot of the competition spurred by Piper Cherokee Arrow and the Beechcraft Sierra. This plane was powered by a Lycoming IO-360 engine, which compensated the additional 300lb weight that was added to the aircraft. Overall, the design and additional engine power of this aircraft had increased its cruise speed to reach 146 knots. 1,543 177Rgs were built, and this was also produced by the Reims company in France as the Reims F177RG.

Both the 177B and the 177RG had ceased production in 1978, 10 years after the 177 was introduced. In the present day, the 177 line is still a popular choice for aircraft owners. This is mainly due to its reasonable performance for power, and better upwards visibility. It is even an excellent platform for aerial photography enthusiasts, given the absence of a wing support strut, and offering wider visibility.

Sources:
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_177
** http://www.pilotfriend.com/aircraft%20performance/Cessna/C177%20cardinal.htm
*** http://www.airliners.net/aircraft-data/stats.main?id=143