This week’s plane of the week is the Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
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, more Cessna 172s have been built than any other aircraft. As of 2015, Cessna has built more than 43,000 units.
The Cessna 172 is based closely on the Cessna 170. The only major change was the conversion from taildragger landing gear to tricycle landing gear. Beyond that, it was pretty much the same. There were 19 variants, with the current one being the 172S. The changes ranged from adding a rear window and changing the shape of the tail to a new engine to landing gear shrouds. There was a diesel version built in 2014, which will be produced as the Skyhawk 172 JT-D in 2016.
In 1955, you could buy a base-model Skyhawk for $8,995. Due to the price of inflation and the cost of the extra gizmos Cessna keeps adding, the price is now just under $400,000 for a brand new Skyhawk. $8,995 in 1955’s money is $79,106 in today’s money, so obviously a basic Skyhawk has improved immensely.
Production of the Skyhawk and all other piston-powered Cessnas was stopped in 1986 with the Purchase of Cessna by General Dynamics. The company cited product liability as the cause. In 1992, Textron bought Cessna and, after the passing of the General Aviation Revitalization Act in 1994, resumed production of the Cessna 172, 182, and 208, all of which are still in production today.
Other than its incredible popularity, amazing versatility, and ridiculously high production numbers, the Cessna 172 is a remarkably average plane. It doesn’t drop bombs or shoot bullets. It wasn’t sold in J.C. Penney’s. It can’t take telescopes to orbit or fly through enemy airspace undetected. It wasn’t the first or the weirdest or the fastest or the most expensive. It was just an everyday plane doing an everyday job. But that’s what makes it special. Not its incredible popularity, amazing versatility, or ridiculously high production numbers. It’s special because it’s just ordinary. A plane doesn’t have to be fancy to be the best.
Note: there was no “172O” model, perhaps because that would be easily confused with “1720”. There is no Cessna 1720, either, but no need to make people think there is, I suppose.
Next week: Speaking of stealth…