The Cessna 172 has become a household name, particularly in the aviation community. Since it’s inception in the mid-1950’s, the 172 quickly earned it’s stripes in becoming the most produced aircraft in history. These days, almost all qualified pilots started their flying career on the humble 172, and many continue to fly them. Paired with it’s affordability and great training features, it’s no wonder the Cessna 172 is such a popular airplane.
The Cessna 172, called the Skyhawk, is by far the most common training aircraft at flight schools all over the world. A well-balanced airplane with qualities that translate well to other aircraft, it’s a solid choice for student pilots. Several factors have contributed to the popularity of this stable and reliable flying machine.
The Skyhawk: Most Produced Aircraft Ever
The Cessna 172 holds the title of “Most Produced Aircraft Ever,” with over 44,000 airframes built since 1955. The other most common training airplane, the Piper PA-28 series, is a distant second at 32,000, and the Skyhawk’s little sisters, the 150 and 152 Commuter two-seaters, come in at 31,500 combined. The Skyhawk’s big sister, the 182 Skylane, sits in fourth at 23,000
Making Learning to Fly Easier
The 172 is regularly cited as a ‘ridiculously easy’ plane to fly. Some instructors suggest that they will solo some students in as little as just 5 hours of training. In saying this, flying the plane is the easy part. The most challenging part of operating a 172 is dealing with contingencies and learning the aviation regulations of your region. As they differ between countries, this is usually the biggest hurdle in learning how to be a Cessna pilot.
The primary unique points of flying a 172 is familiarizing with the control panel and the yoke (steering wheel) position. The yoke on the modern 172’s are quite low, which allows for improved visibility. Focusing on the sensitivity of the individual aircraft is important, and being able to maintain a safe angle during take-off. An unsafe angle can lead to a stall/spin situation, which can be quite dangerous.
Cessna also developed the 150 and 152 as two-seat versions of the Skyhawk, mainly intended for flight training, and also for those people who didn’t need to carry a family for transportation. This version became known as the Commuter. The 182 Skylane is a beefed-up 172, meant more for carrying four adults on a business trip rather than a family on a vacation. The higher horsepower and heavier controls of the 182 make it not quite as popular as the 172 is with flight schools and aircraft rental companies. The 182 is not quite as popular amongst student pilots.
Another feature of the Cessna line which makes them so popular is the high-wing design, with the wings placed on top of the fuselage instead of under it, like on Pipers. With the wings above, entry into and exit from the cockpit is much easier than having to climb up onto the wing. Also, the doors can be bigger, further aiding egress.
A flight school’s favorite ability of the Skyhawk, and Cessnas in general is it can recover from a spin on its own, a testament to its stability. Flight instructors in Cessnas tell their students that if the students find themselves inadvertently in a spin and they forget what to do, simply let go of the controls and calmly count to three. That is all the time needed for the built-in aerodynamic stability to take effect and bring the airplane to straight and level.
When training in a Cessna, you are participating in a significant part of aviation history. The skills you learn in this stable aircraft will assist you as you move on to airplanes which are more automated, larger, and more difficult to control.