The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a four-seat, single-engine, high-wing fixed-wing aircraft made by the Cessna Aircraft Company. First flown in 1955 and still in production, more Cessna 172s have been built than any other aircraft.
Design and development
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. As of 2008, more than 43,000 had been built. The Skyhawk's main competitors have been the Beechcraft Musketeer and Grumman AA-5 series (neither in production), the Piper Cherokee, and, more recently, the Diamond DA40.
The Cessna 172 started life as a tricycle landing gear variant of the taildragger Cessna 170, with a basic level of standard equipment. In January 1955, the company had flown an improved variant of the Cessna 170, a Continental O-300-A-powered Cessna 170C with a larger elevator and more angular vertical tail. Although the variant was tested and certified, Cessna decided to modify it with a tricycle landing gear, and the modified Cessna 170C flew again on 12 June 1955. To reduce the time and cost of certification, the type was added to the Cessna 170 type certificate as the Model 172. Later, the 172 was given its own type certificate, 3A12. The 172 became an overnight sales success, and over 1,400 were built in 1956, its first full year of production.
Early 172s were similar in appearance to the 170s, with the same straight aft fuselage and tall gear legs, although the 172 had a straight vertical tail while the 170 had a rounded fin and rudder. Later 172 versions incorporated revised landing gear and the sweptback tail which is still in use today. The final aesthetic development, in the mid-1960s, was a lowered rear deck that allowed an aft window. Cessna advertised this added rear visibility as "Omni-Vision." This airframe configuration has remained almost unchanged since then, except for updates in avionics and engines, including the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit in 2005. Production had been halted in the mid-1980s, but was resumed in 1996 with the 160 hp (120 kW) Cessna 172R Skyhawk. This was supplemented in 1998 by the 180 hp (135 kW) Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP.
The Cessna 172 may be modified via a wide array of Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs), including increased engine power and higher gross weights. Available STC engine modifications increase power from 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, added baggage compartment tanks, added wheel pants to reduce drag, or enhanced landing and takeoff performance and safety with a STOL kit.
On December 4, 1958 Robert Timm and John Cook took off from McCarran Airfield in Las Vegas, NV in a newly-built Cessna 172, registration number N9172B. Sixty-four days, 22 hours, 19 minutes and 5 seconds later, they landed back at McCarran Airfield on February 4, 1959. The flight was part of a fund-raising effort for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund. Food and water were transferred by matching speeds with a chase car on a straight stretch of road in the desert, and hoisting the supplies aboard with a rope and bucket. Fuel was taken on by hoisting a hose from a fuel truck up to the aircraft, filling an auxiliary belly tank installed for the flight, pumping that fuel into the aircraft's regular tanks and then filling the belly tank again. The drivers steered while a second person matched speeds with the aircraft with his foot on the vehicle's accelerator pedal.
Engine oil was added by means of a tube from the cabin that was fitted to pass through the firewall. Only the pilot's seat was installed. The remaining space was used for a pad on which the relief pilot slept. The right cabin door was replaced with an easy-opening, accordion-type door to allow supplies and fuel to be hoisted aboard. Early in the flight, the engine-driven electric generator failed. A Champion wind-driven generator (turned by a small propeller) was hoisted aboard, taped to the wing support strut, and plugged into the cigarette lighter socket; it served as the aircraft's source of electricity for the rest of the flight. The pilots decided to end the marathon flight because with 1,558 hours of continuously running the engine during the record-setting flight, plus several hundred hours already on the engine beforehand (considerably in excess of its normal overhaul interval), the engine's power output had deteriorated to the point that they were barely able to climb away after refueling. The aircraft is on display in the passenger terminal at McCarran International Airport. Photos and details of the record flight can be seen in a small museum on the upper level of the baggage claim area. After the flight, Cook said: “Next time I feel in the mood to fly endurance, I'm going to lock myself in our garbage can with the vacuum cleaner running. That is, until my psychiatrist opens up for business in the morning.”
The basic 172 appeared in November 1955 as the 1956 model and remained in production until replaced by the 172A in early 1960. It was equipped with a Continental O-300 145 hp (108 kW) six-cylinder, air-cooled engine and had a maximum gross weight of 2,200 lb (998 kg). Introductory base price was US$8,995 and a total of 4,195 were constructed over the five years.
The 172B was introduced in late 1960 as the 1961 model and featured a shorter undercarriage, engine mounts lengthened three inches (76 mm), a reshaped cowling, and a pointed propeller spinner. For the first time, the "Skyhawk" name was applied to an available deluxe option package. This added optional equipment included full exterior paint to replace the standard partial paint stripes and standard avionics. The gross weight was increased to 2,250 lb (1,021 kg).
The 1962 model was the 172C. It brought to the line an optional autopilot and a key starter to replace the previous pull-starter. The seats were redesigned to be six-way adjustable. A child seat was made optional to allow two children to be carried in the baggage area. The 1962 price was US$9,895. A total of 889 172C models were produced.
1963 also saw the introduction of the 172D Powermatic. This was equipped with a Continental GO-300E producing 175 horsepower (130 kW) and a cruise speed 11 mph (18 km/h) faster than the standard 172D. In reality this was not a new model, but was a Cessna 175 Skylark that had been renamed for its last year of production. The Skylark had gained a reputation for poor engine reliability and the renaming of it as a 172 was a marketing attempt to regain sales through rebranding. The move was not a success and neither the 1963 Powermatic nor the Skylark were produced again after the 1963 model year.
The 172E was the 1964 model. The electrical fuses were replaced with circuit breakers. Gross weight was increased to 2,300 lb (1,043 kg) where it would stay until the 172P. The 172E also featured a re-designed instrument panel. 1,401 172Es were built that year as production continued to increase.
The 1965 model 172F introduced electrically operated flaps to replace the previous lever-operated system. It was built in France by Reims Cessna as the F172 until 1971. These models formed the basis for the U.S. Air Force's T-41A Mescalero primary trainer, which was used during the 1960s and early 1970s as initial flight screening aircraft in USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). Following their removal from the UPT program, some extant USAF T-41s were assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy for the cadet pilot indoctrination program, while others were distributed to Air Force aero clubs.
A total of 1,436 172Fs were completed.
The 1967 model 172H was the last Continental O-300 powered model. It also introduced a shorter-stroke nose gear oleo to reduce drag and improve the appearance of the aircraft in flight. A new cowling was used, introducing shock-mounts that transmitted lower noise-levels to the cockpit and reduced cowl cracking. The electric stall warning horn was replaced by a pneumatic one.
The 1968 model marked the beginning of the Lycoming powered 172s. The familiar 172 needed to be re-engined because Cessna had cancelled its contract with Continental for their venerable O-300 6-cyl engine of 145 hp (108 kW).
The "I" model was introduced with a Lycoming O-320-E2D engine of 150 hp (112 kW), an increase of 5 hp (3.7 kW) over the Continental powerplant. The increased power resulted in an increase in optimal cruise from 130 mph (209 km/h) TAS to 131 mph (211 km/h) TAS. There was no change in the sea level rate of climb at 645 ft (197 m) per minute.
The Cessna Company planned to drop the previous 172 configuration for the 1968 model year and replace it with a cantilever-wing/stabilator configuration that would be the 172J. However, as time for model introduction neared, those dealers who were aware of the change began applying pressure on the factory to continue the previous configuration. They felt the new model would be less usable as a trainer. Consequently, and at the last minute, the decision was made to continue the 172 in its original configuration. The planned 172J configuration would be introduced as a new model, the 177. The deluxe option would become the 177 Cardinal. The "J" designation was never publicly used.
The next model year was the 1969 "K" model. The 1969 172K had a redesigned vertical fin cap and reshaped rear windows. Optional long range 52 US gal (197 l) wing fuel tanks were offered. The rear windows were slightly enlarged by 16 square inches (103 cm2). The 1969 model sold for US$12,500 for the 172 and US$13,995 for the Skyhawk, with 1,170 made.
The 172L, sold during 1971 and 1972, replaced the main landing gear legs (which were originally flat spring steel) with tapered, tubular steel gear legs. The new gear had a width that was increased by 12 in (30 cm). The new tubular gear was lighter, but required aerodynamic fairings to maintain the same speed and climb performance as experienced with the flat steel design. The "L" also had a plastic fairing between the dorsal fin and vertical fin to introduce a greater family resemblance to the 182's vertical fin.
The 172M of 1973–76 gained a drooped wing leading edge for improved low speed handling. This was marketed as the "camber-lift" wing.
The 1974 172M was also the first to introduce the optional 'II' package which offered higher standard equipment, including a second nav/comm radio, an ADF and transponder. The baggage compartment was increased in size and nose-mounted dual landing lights were available as an option.
The 1975 model 172M sold for US$16,055 for the 172, US$17,890 for the Skyhawk and US$20,335 for the Skyhawk II.
In 1976, Cessna stopped marketing the aircraft as the 172 and began exclusively using the "Skyhawk" designation. This model year also saw a redesigned instrument panel to hold more avionics. Among other changes, the fuel and other small gauges are relocated to the left side for improved pilot readability compared with the earlier 172 panel designs. Total production of "M" models was 7306 over the four years it was manufactured.
The Skyhawk N, or Skyhawk/100 as Cessna termed it, was introduced for the 1977 model year. The "100" designation indicated that it was powered by a Lycoming O-320-H2AD, 160 horsepower (119 kW) engine designed to run on 100 octane fuel, whereas all previous engines used 80/87 fuel. Unfortunately, this engine proved troublesome and it was replaced by the similarly rated O-320-D2J to create the 1981 172P.
There was no "O" ("Oscar") model 172.
The 172P, or Skyhawk P, was introduced in 1981 to solve the reliability problems of the "N" engine. The Lycoming O-320-D2J was a great improvement.
The "P" model also saw the maximum flap deflection decreased from 40 degrees to 30 to allow a gross weight increase from 2,300 lb (1,043 kg) to 2,400 lb (1,089 kg). A wet wing was optional, with a capacity of 62 US gallons of fuel.
The price of a new Skyhawk P was US$33,950, with the Skyhawk P II costing US$37,810 and the Nav/Pac equipped Skyhawk P II selling for US$42,460.
In 1982, the "P" saw the landing lights moved from the nose to the wing to increase bulb life. The 1983 model added some minor sound-proofing improvements and thicker windows.
A second door latch pin was introduced in 1984.
Production of the "P" ended in 1986 and no more 172s were built for eleven years as legal liability rulings in the USA had pushed Cessna's insurance costs too high, resulting in dramatically increasing prices for new aircraft.
There were only 195 172s built in 1984, a rate of fewer than 4 per week.
- 172Q Cutlass
The 172Q was introduced in 1983 and given the name Cutlass to create an affiliation with the 172RG, although it was actually a 172P with a Lycoming O-360-A4N engine of 180 horsepower (134 kW). The aircraft had a gross weight of 2,550 lb (1,157 kg) and an optimal cruise speed of 122 knots (226 km/h) compared to the 172P's cruise speed of 120 knots (222 km/h) on 20 hp (15 kW) less. It had a useful load that was about 100 lb (45 kg) more than the Skyhawk P and a rate of climb that was actually 20 feet (6 m) per minute lower, due to the higher gross weight. Production ended after only three years when all 172 production stopped.
The Skyhawk R was introduced in 1996 and is powered by a derated Lycoming IO-360-L2A producing a maximum of 160 horsepower (120 kW) at just 2,400 rpm. This is the first Cessna 172 to have a factory fitted fuel-injected engine.
The 172R's maximum takeoff weight is 2,450 lb (1,111 kg). This model year introduced many improvements, including a new interior with soundproofing, an all new multi-level ventilation system, a standard four point intercom, contoured, energy absorbing, 26g front seats with vertical and reclining adjustments and inertia reel harnesses.
The Cessna 172S was introduced in 1998 and is powered by a Lycoming IO-360-L2A producing 180 horsepower (134 kW). The maximum engine rpm was increased from 2,400 rpm to 2,700 rpm resulting in a 20 hp (15 kW) increase over the "R" model. As a result, the maximum takeoff weight was increased to 2,550 lb (1,157 kg). This model is marketed under the name Skyhawk SP, although the Type Certification data sheet specifies it is a 172S.
As of 2009, only the S model is in production.
- Cessna 172RG Cutlass
Cessna introduced a retractable-gear version of the 172 in 1980 and named it the Cutlass 172RG.
The Cutlass featured a variable pitch, constant speed propeller and more powerful Lycoming O-360-F1A6 engine of 180 horsepower (130 kW). The 172RG sold for about US$19,000 more than the standard 172 of the same year and produced an optimal cruise speed of 140 knots (260 km/h), compared to 122 knots (226 km/h) for the contemporary 160 horsepower (120 kW) version.
The 172RG did not find wide acceptance in the personal aircraft market because of higher additional initial and operating cost accompanied by mediocre cruising speed, but was adopted by many flight schools since it met the specific requirements for "complex aircraft" experience necessary to obtain a Commercial Pilot certificate (the role for which it was intended), at relatively low cost. Between 1980 and 1984 1177 RGs were built, with a small number following before production ceased in 1985.
While numbered and marketed as a 172, the 172RG was actually certified on the Cessna 175 type certificate.
- Reims FR172J and Cessna R172K Hawk XP
The FR172J Reims Rocket was produced by Reims Aviation in France from the late 60s to the mid 70s. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce built, fuel-injected, Continental IO-360D 210 hp (160 kW) engine with a constant speed prop.
The Reims Rocket led to Cessna producing the R172K Hawk XP, a model available from 1977 to 1981 from both Wichita and Reims. This configuration featured a fuel injected, Continental IO-360K (later IO-360KB) derated to 195 hp (145 kW) with a two bladed, constant speed propeller. The Hawk XP was capable of a 131-knot (243 km/h) cruise speed.
Owners claimed that the increased performance of the "XP" didn't compensate for its increased purchase price and the higher operating costs associated with the larger engine. The aircraft was well-accepted for use on floats, however, as the standard 172 is not a strong floatplane, even with only two people on board, while the XP's extra power improves water take-off performance dramatically.
While numbered and marketed as 172s, the R172J and R172K models are actually certified on the Cessna 175 type certificate.
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 produces 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".
In early 2008, certification had been planned for the summer of 2008, and Cessna had forecast delivering about 125 TDs before the end of 2008. The TD was intended to sell for about US$15,000 more than the top of the line "SP" Skyhawk and $35,000 more than the "R". Early orders for the TD were strong, with most of the demand from flight schools and non-US operators. In April 2008, the 172TD's engine manufacturer, Thielert, filed for insolvency under German law, throwing the future of the aircraft into doubt. On May 1, 2008 Cessna announced they had cancelled all 2008 deliveries of the 172TD due to the insolvency of Thielert. The company stated: "At this point we have decided that we will not deliver 172TD aircraft during 2008, and we have informed our customers accordingly." Cessna has indicated they still wish to produce a diesel 172, as market demand is strong for this aircraft, with over 100 orders. Despite the issues at Thielert, Cessna indicated that they will proceed with the certification of the 172TD. The STC for the installation of the engine in the aircraft was completed in 2009, with Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH the holder of the certificate. Cessna does not currently offer this model, and it is not listed on the current type certificate.
- Electric-powered 172
In July 2010, Cessna announced it was developing an electrically powered 172 as a proof-of-concept in partnership with Bye Energy. In July 2011, Bye Energy, whose name had been changed to Beyond Aviation, announced the prototype had commenced taxi tests on 22 July 2011 and a first flight would follow soon.
- Crew: one
- Capacity: three passengers
- Length: 27 ft 2 in (8.28 m)
- Wingspan: 36 ft 1 in (11.00 m)
- Height: 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m)
- Wing area: 174 sq ft (16.2 m2)
- Aspect ratio: 7.32
- Airfoil: modified NACA 2412
- Empty weight: 1,691 lb (767 kg)
- Gross weight: 2,450 lb (1,111 kg)
- Fuel capacity: 56 US gallons (212 litres)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming IO-360-L2A four cylinder, horizontally opposed aircraft engine, 160 hp (120 kW)
- Propellers: 2-bladed metal
- Cruise speed: 122 kn (140 mph; 226 km/h)
- Stall speed: 47 kn (54 mph; 87 km/h) (power off, flaps down)
- Never exceed speed: 163 kn (188 mph; 302 km/h) (IAS)
- Range: 696 nmi (801 mi; 1,289 km) with 45 minute reserve, 55% Power, at 12,000 ft
- Service ceiling: 13,500 ft (4,100 m)
- Rate of climb: 721 ft/min (3.66 m/s)