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Cessna 172 Skyhawk


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Measured by its longevity and number produced, the Cessna 172 is the most successful mass produced light aircraft in history. First flown in 1955 and still in production, more than 43,000 Cessna 172s have been built.

Design and development

The Cessna 172 started life as a tricycle landing gear variant of the taildragger Cessna 170. 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. The modified Cessna 170C flew again on 12 June 1955. The 172 was originally added to the 170 type certificate to reduce time and costs of certification. Later the 172 was given its own type certificate. 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 170, 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. The final aesthetic development 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. Production was halted in the mid-1980s, but was resumed in 1996 with the 160 hp (120 kW) Cessna 172R Skyhawk and was supplemented in 1998 by the 180 hp (135 kW) Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP.

The Skyhawk's main competitors have been the Beechcraft Musketeer, the Grumman AA-5 series (neither in production), the Piper Cherokee and, more recently, the Diamond DA40.

Cessna 172 Type Certificate and Other Documents



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 six-cylinder, air-cooled engine and had a maximum gross weight of 2200 lb. Introductory base price was USD $8995 and a total of 4195 were constructed over the five years.


The 1960 model 172A introduced a swept back tail and rudder, as well as float fittings.


The 172B was introduced in late 1960 as the 1961 model and introduced 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 2250 lbs.


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 1963 172D model introduced the lower rear fuselage with wraparound Omni-Vision rear window and a one-piece windshield. New rudder and brake pedals were also added.

1963 also saw the introduction of the 172D Powermatic. This was equipped with a Continental GO-300E producing and a cruise speed 11 mph 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 2300 lbs where it would stay until the 172P. The 172E also featured a re-designed instrument panel.


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 US Air Force's T-41A Mescalero primary trainer.


The 1966 model year 172G introduced a more pointed spinner and sold for USD $12,450 in its basic 172 version and USD $13,300 in the upgraded Skyhawk version.


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 "I" model was introduced with a Lycoming O-320-E2D engine of 150 hp, an increase of 5 hp over the Continental powerplant. The increased power resulted in an increase in optimal cruise from 130 TAS to 131 TAS. There was no change in the sea level rate of climb at 645 feet per minute.

The 172I also introduced the first standard "T" instrument arrangement.


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 wing fuel tanks were offered. The rear windows were slightly enlarged.

The 1970 model was still called the 172K but sported fiberglass, downward-shaped, conical wing tips. Fully articulated seats were offered as well.


The 172L, sold during 1971 and 1972, replaced the main landing gear, which were originally flat spring steel with tapered, tubular steel gear legs. The new gear had a width that was increased by . 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.

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.


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, 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.

The 1977 "N" model 172 also introduced rudder trim as an option and standard "pre-selectable" flaps.

The 1978 model brought a 28-volt electrical system to replace the previous 14-volt system. Air conditioning was an option.

The 1979 model "N" increased the flap extension speed for the first 10 degrees to 115 kts. Larger wing tanks increased the optional fuel to 66 gal.

The "N" remained in production until 1980 when the 172P or Skyhawk P was introduced.


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 2300 to 2400 lbs. A wet wing was optional, with a capacity of 62 US gallons of fuel.

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.

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 hp. The aircraft had a gross weight of 2550 lbs and an optimal cruise speed of 122 compared to the "P"s cruise speed of 120 on 20 less horsepower. It had a useful load that was about 100 lbs more that the Skyhawk P and a rate of climb that was actually 20 feet 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 hp 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 2450 lbs. 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 hp. The maximum engine rpm was increased from 2,400 rpm to 2,700 rpm resulting in a 20 hp increase over the "R" model. As a result, the maximum takeoff weight was increased to 2550 lbs. This model is marketed under the name Skyhawk SP, although the Type Certification data sheet specifies it is a 172S.

The 172S is built primarily for the private owner-operator and is offered with the Garmin G1000 avionics package as standard equipment and leather seats.

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 hp. The 172RG sold for about USD $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 for the contemporary version.

The 172RG did not find wide acceptance in the personal aircraft market, but was adopted by many flight schools as a complex aircraft trainer. 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 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 with a two bladed, constant speed propeller. The Hawk XP was capable of a 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.

Future models


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 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".

Cessna had taken special measures to ensure that the Skyhawk TD would be only fueled with Jet-A and not misfueled with avgas . These included placards, key-shaped tank fillers that only accept jet fuel nozzles and a spring-loaded door activated with a jet-fuel nozzle. The aircraft was planned to be certified for Jet-A only and not automotive diesel.

The TD was to be equipped with only one engine control, referred to as a "power control", although it resembled the push-pull style throttle used in previous 172 models. The prototype has no carburetor heat or mixture control. The prototype is equipped with a constant speed MT propeller, but this is controlled automatically and there is no propeller rpm control.

The TD was designed to have the same gross weight as the "S" Skyhawk, , but at was intended to have less than the "S" model. Because it is turbonormalized the prototype's engine produces full power at all altitudes and actually puts out more power than the "R" and "S" models above , where the normally aspirated powerplant's output drops off.

To account for the fact that Jet-A has a higher density than avgas Cessna planned to reduce the tank capacity on the TD to 44.6 US gallon s, giving the aircraft a similar range to other models, due to the better efficiency of the diesel engine. The Thielert 2.0 is reported to burn 5.8 gal/hr at and 75% power. This compares to 8 gal/hr at the same power setting and altitude for the "R" model and 10 gal/hr for the "S" model Skyhawks.

Even with the reduced fuel tank capacity the full fuel payload of the TD will be compared to for the Cessna 172S and for the 172R.

Direct operating costs for the TD were forecast to be USD $96.39 per hour versus USD $101.81 for the higher powered "S" model. While the TD would burn less fuel per hour its engine replacement costs at 2400 hours, instead of overhaul, would almost make up for the difference, although these numbers will change as the price of fuel changes in future years.

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 USD $15,000 more than the top of the line "SP" Skyhawk and $35,000 more than the "R". Base price was initially advertised as USD $269,500 versus USD $254,500 for the "SP" or $234,500 for 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 that they had canceled 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, however, that they will proceed with the certification of the 172TD.

Cessna has indicated that they still wish to produce a diesel 172 as market demand is strong for this aircraft with over 100 orders.

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 . 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 Cessna 172 may be modified via a wide array of Supplemental Type Certificate s, including increased engine power and higher gross weights. Available STC engine modifications increase power to , add constant speed propellers, or allow the use of automobile gasoline . Other modifications include additional fuel tank capacity in the wing tip s, add baggage compartment tanks, add wheel pants to reduce drag, or enhance landing and takeoff performance and safety with a STOL kit.

Military operators

A variant of the 172, the T-41 Mescalero was used as a trainer with the United States Air Force and Army . In addition, the United States Border Patrol uses a fleet of 172s for aerial surveillance along the Mexican-American border. The 172 is also used by the Civil Air Patrol for search and rescue missions within the United States.

The Irish Air Corps uses the Reims version for aerial surveillance and monitoring of cash, prisoner & explosive escorts in addition to army co-operation and pilot training roles. The type is popular and successful in service despite some accidents. Air Corps examples are painted dark green and carry the service roundels. Most are not fitted with the distinctive wheel spats.

''For T-41 operators, see T-41 Mescalero ''

Notable flights

*On December 4, 1958 Robert Timm and John Cook took off from McCarran Airfield, Las Vegas, NV in 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, plugged into the cigarette lighter socket -- and served as the aircraft's source of electricity for the rest of the flight. The pilots decided to end the marathon-flight because, with over 1500 hours continuous running 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.

Accidents and incidents

*On October 23, 1964, David Box lead singer for The Crickets on their 1960 release version of "Peggy Sue Got Married " and "Don't Cha Know" and later a solo artist, was killed when the Cessna 172 he was aboard crashed in northwest Harris County, Texas while enroute to a performance. Box was the second lead vocalist for The Crickets to die in a plane crash after Buddy Holly .

*On August 31, 1969, Rocky Marciano was killed when the Cessna 172, that he was a passenger in, crashed on approach to an airfield outside Newton, Iowa .

* On September 25, 1978, a Cessna 172 collided with Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182 , a Boeing 727 . The two aircraft crashed over San Diego , California . There were a total of 144 fatalities: 2 in the Cessna 172, 135 on the PSA Flight 182 and 7 on the ground.

*In 1987, a rented Reims Cessna F172P, D-ECJB, was used by a German teenage pilot Mathias Rust to fly an unauthorized flight from Helsinki-Malmi Airport through Soviet airspace to land near the Red Square in Moscow , all without being intercepted by Soviet air defense .

*On April 9, 1990, Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 217 an Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia collided head-on with a Cessna 172 N99501 while en route from Gadsden Municipal Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport . The Cessna crashed, killing 2 occupants, but the Brasilia made a safe emergency landing.

* On January 5, 2002, high school student Charles J. Bishop stole a Cessna 172 and crashed it into the side of the Bank of America Tower in downtown Tampa, Florida , killing only himself and otherwise causing very little damage.

*On April 6, 2009, a Cessna 172N, C-GFJH, was stolen by a student from Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and entered United States airspace over Lake Superior . The plane was intercepted by NORAD F-16 s, followed and finally landed on Highway 60 in Ellsinore, Missouri after a seven hour flight. The student pilot, a Canadian citizen born in Turkey , Adam Dylan Leon, formerly known as Yavuz Berke, was suffering from depression and attempted to commit suicide by being shot down. Instead he was arrested shortly after landing. On November 3, 2009 he was sentenced to two years in a US federal prison after he pleaded guilty in August 2009 to all three charges that had been laid against him: interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, importation of a stolen aircraft, and illegal entry. College procedures at the time permitted students access to aircraft and the keys were routinely left in the aircraft.