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The Cessna 177 Cardinal is similar to Cessna's 172 Skyhawk that it was intended to replace. It was produced from 1968 to 1978.
The Cessna 177 was conceived in the mid-1960s when the engineers at Cessna were asked to create a "futuristic 1970s successor to the Cessna 172". The resulting aircraft featured newer technology such as a cantilever wing with a laminar flow airfoil.
The 1968 model 177 was introduced in late 1967 with a 150 hp (112 kW) engine. One of the design goals of this 172 replacement was to allow the pilot an unobstructed view when making a turn. In the 172 the pilot sits under the wing and when the wing is lowered to begin a turn that wing blocks the pilot's view of where the turn will lead to. The engineers resolved this problem by placing the pilot forward of the wing's leading edge, but that led to a too-far-forward center of gravity.
This problem was partially counteracted by the decision to use the significantly lighter Lycoming O-320 four-cylinder engine in place of the six-cylinder O-300 Continental used on the 172. The forward CG situation still existed even with the lighter engine, so a stabilator was chosen, to provide sufficient elevator control authority at low airspeeds.
The 177 design was intended to be a replacement for the 172, which was to be discontinued after introduction of the new aircraft. The new design was originally to be called the 172J (to follow the 1968 model 172I). However, as the time came to make the transition, there was considerable resistance to the replacement of the 172 from the company's Marketing Division. The 1969 172 jumped to the designator 172K -- there is no 172J.
Performance and Handling Problems
The stabilator of the 177 was not fully counterbalanced (only 75% counterweighted, to save about 4 pounds of weight). This, and the lighter stick forces required of a stabilator design, contributed to a phenomenon called pilot-induced oscillation (PIO), wherein the pilot, attempting to correct a nose-high or nose-low attitude with out-of-sync elevator inputs, exacerbates the undesirable attitude.
The NACA 65A015 airfoil used on the 177 was chosen for its laminar-flow characteristics. This airfoil has a much higher drag at low airspeeds than the NACA 2412 airfoil used on the 172. While 177 climb airspeeds are similar to the 172, the apparent angle of attack is flatter in the 177. Pilots not adhering to published 177 Vx and Vy airspeeds, instead climbing at the higher deck angle familiar from 172 experience, achieved both slower airspeeds and climb rates than the aircraft was capable of.
Soon after delivery to customers was commenced reported incidents of pilot-induced oscillation became so alarming that the factory initiated a priority program to eliminate the problem. The solution, which was provided to all aircraft already delivered at no cost, was known as Operation "Cardinal Rule" and included a series of 23 inspection, installation, and modification instructions.
This Service Letter, SE68-14, consisted of modifying the stabilator to install slots just behind the leading edge (to delay the onset of stabilator stall) and installing full counterbalance (11 pounds versus the original 7 pounds) on the stabilator to eliminate the PIO problem.
The ratio of the stabilator was also reduced, making it less sensitive to yoke movement, in order to preclude PIO.
Initial 177 Sales
Though the 177 initially sold well as factory-authorized dealers filled their previously-agreed upon marketing commitments, overall the sales did not meet company expectations.
Due to the reluctance on the part of the factory's Marketing Division, Cessna decided to continue production of the 172 for at least one more year, so that the relative market strengths of both aircraft could be better evaluated.
This decision to continue to produce the Cessna 172 meant that the 172 production line had to be reactivated and a last-minute decision about engines was needed. The long-term contract for Continental O-300 engines had been canceled and a large contract (5000 units) had been placed with Lycoming for O-320 engines. Fortunately, the O-320 could be installed in the 172 with few problems, so the 1968 Model 172I was offered with an increase of 5 horsepower (4 kW), alongside the new aircraft.
The new design was named the Cessna 177 and given the name "Cardinal" (when it was equipped with the optional-equipment package) at the last minute.
The 177, with its 150 hp (112 kW) powerplant, was considered "underpowered", even though it had more power than the 145 hp (108 kW) Cessna 172. The 177 did not climb as quickly as the 172I at the same indicated airspeed and its cruise speed was less than the 172I even with its apparently sleeker silhouette and the same engine installed.
Recognizing that the aircraft was underpowered, Cessna introduced the 177A in 1969. The revision featured a 180 hp (135 kW) version of the same four-cylinder Lycoming used in the 177, moving the design's price and role somewhere between that of the 172 and 182. The additional power improved cruise speed by 11 knots (20 km/h).
The 177A also included the fiberglass, downward-shaped, conical wing tips that had been introduced on the 172 of the same year.
1970 saw the introduction of the 177B, which had a new wing airfoil, a constant-speed propeller, and other minor improvements. The 177B weighed 145 lb (66 kg) more empty than the earlier 177, with maximum takeoff weight increased from 2,350 lb (1,067 kg) to 2,500 lb (1,135 kg). Despite these upgrades, the 177B was outsold by the 172, the airplane it was intended to replace.
The wing airfoil was obtained by fairing the front half of the cambered NACA 2415 shape onto the previous NACA 65A015 airfoil. This eliminated the laminar flow benefit of the 65-series airfoil (whose low-drag "bucket" at a low angle of attack had not been properly exploited in actual use), but gave a better lift-to-drag ratio at high angles of attack (i.e. during the climb), and softened the break at the stall.
In 1978, Cessna built a deluxe version of the 177B, the Cardinal Classic, with leather upholstery, a table for the rear passengers, and a 28-Volt electrical system.
The final aircraft in the 177 line was the retractable-gear 177RG Cardinal RG, which Cessna began producing in 1971 as a direct competitor to the Piper PA-28-200R Cherokee Arrow and Beechcraft Sierra. The RG has a 200 hp (150 kW) Lycoming IO-360 engine to offset the 300 lb (136 kg) increase in maximum weight, much of which was from the electrically-powered hydraulic gear mechanism.
The additional power and cleaner lines of the 177RG result in a cruise speed of 146 knots (270 km/h), 22 knots (41 km/h) faster than the 177B. 1,543 177RG's were delivered including those built in France by Reims, as the Reims F177RG.
Overall model sales
The 177 cost more than the 172. Due to the poor reputation of the early models, the Cardinal was consistently outsold by the Skyhawk despite the improvements made to the 177s built after 1971.
While not a commercial failure, the 177 was not a success by Cessna's standards. Both the 177B and 177RG ceased production in 1978, just ten years after the first 177 was introduced.
Today both the 177 and 177RG are considered desirable aircraft to own, mostly because of the large doors which offer easy entry, the aircraft's reasonable performance for the power, active owners groups and the aircraft's attractive looks.
The 177 offers much better upwards visibility than a 172 because of its steeply raked windshield and more aft-mounted wing. The absence of an obstructing wing support strut makes the aircraft an excellent platform for aerial photography.
Accidents and incidents
*On 11 April 1996, a Cessna 177B carrying 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, her certified flight instructor and her father, crashed after take-off from Cheyenne Airport in Cheyenne, Wyoming, killing all on board. Dubroff was attempting to set a cross-country record for young pilots, although her instructor was thought to have been at the controls at the time of the accident. No defect in the aircraft itself was found. The accident resulted in general public concern and new Federal legislation banning record attempts by non-holders of private pilot or higher certificates.
The original source for this article was the Wikipedia Cessna 177 article.