History of Cessna
His name is synonymous with light aircraft. Clyde Cessna, one of aviation’s adventurous pioneers, started flying in 1911 and began building planes soon after. The first was a tiny monoplane that he named “Silver Wings.” Throughout the early teens, he built and crashed a number of aircraft that were either modifications of other designs or designs of his own. He had minor success during this time as a manufacturer and as a pilot, putting on demonstrations at public gatherings for 50 cents a head. Cessna went back to farming for several
years, but in the mid-twenties was enticed to join in an aviation venture with Walter Beech and others. Soon he struck out on his own again, determined to build the first airship with a full-cantilever wing—the Cessna Phantom. The Cessna Aircraft Company was soon building the A-series planes, which were successfully employed in commercial and racing ventures. Success led to expanded production facilities and development of the DC series. The DC-6A and DC-6B were officially certified on October 29, 1929— the day of the stock market crash, harbinger of the Great Depression. Despite valiant attempts to keep the company
alive, the plant doors were closed. Cessna privately continued developing and racing planes with his son until his dear friend Roy Liggett was killed in a plane designed and built by Clyde during a race at which he was a spectator. Though Clyde’s enthusiasm for flying was dampened, that of his nephews was not. After assisting in the resurrection of the company, Clyde relinquished the company helm to his nephew Dwayne Wallace,
who would lead Cessna Aircraft Corporation for nearly 40 years. Throughout his tenure, Wallace was a popular figure at Cessna who, in the early days, wasn’t above sweeping floors, living on nickelhamburgers, and flying races to win payroll money.
The company served during World War II by producing Bobcat trainers and parts for B-29 bombers, and was a pioneer in the employment of women in factory jobs. Postwar prosperity and demand for private planes launched Cessna into the role for which it is best known today—as a producer of personal and business aircraft. In addition to creating the Air Force’s first jet trainer (the T-37) and business-class twins, Cessna began production of the single-engine line, which to most people defines “Cessna.” Starting with the Cessna 120 and moving up through successive models, the Cessna singles are the world’s best-selling airplanes.
Although downturns during the 1980s halted the production of piston-powered Cessnas, the company is back to building a new generation of its famous singles. Cessna also builds six business jet models, including the world’s fastest, the Citation X. After many decades of success, it seems Cessna will continue its eminent role in general aviation well into the future.
Specifications U.S. Metric
Maximum Speed 126 kts 203 km/hr
Cruise Speed 124 kts 200 km/hr
Engine Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A 180 bhp
Propeller Macauley Fixed Pitch Two Blade
Maximum Range 638 nm
Service Ceiling 14,000 ft 4,267 m
Fuel Capacity 56 gal 212 L
Empty Weight 1,665 lb 1,002 kg
Maximum Gross Weight 2,550 lb 1,157 kg
Length 27 ft, 2 in 8.2 m
Wingspan 36 ft, 1 in 11 m
Height 8 ft, 11 in 2.72 m
Seating Up to 4
Useful Load 893 lb 423 kg
This isn’t the aviation equivalent of some cheap date you’ll be taking out for one wild, adventurous weekend. The Cessna 172 is more like the love of your life—a steady, constant companion to fly with for a long time to come. A stable and trustworthy plane, most pilots have logged at least a few hours in a Cessna 172, since
it’s the most widely available aircraft in the rental fleet and is used by most flight schools. Since the first prototype was completed in 1955, more than 35,000 C172s have been produced, making it the world’s most popular single-engine plane. One of Cessna’s first tricycle-gear airplanes, the 172 quickly became the favorite of a growing class of business pilots. Its reliability and easy handling (along with thoughtful engineering and
structural updates) have ensured its continued popularity for more than 35 years. The differences between an original 1956 172 and today’s version are many, but there are a few similarities. The wing has the same NACA 2412 airfoil that Cessna’s been using since production of its 170, and the plane continues to use
the same flat-plate ailerons that 172s and 152s have always been known for, making it a steady handler, if not exactly an exciting one. Updates to the 172 have been carefully chosen and consistently well made. The
172 received its distinctive swept-back tail in 1960 and its helpful wraparound rear window in 1962. In 1964, Cessna began using a 150-hp Lycoming engine rather than the old six-cylinder, air-cooled Continental engines of the original 172s. With the SP comes a further engine update providing an even higher maximum takeoff weight. With its fuel-injected, 180-hp Textron-Lycoming IO-360, the SP has 20 hp more than even a
172R and a maximum takeoff weight of 2,550 lbs—250 lbs more than the 172R. 172s are famed for their stability. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Cessna vied for attention and respectability by attempting to build a hardworking airplane that could be easily flown by nearly anyone. With the 172, they undoubtedly succeeded. When properly trimmed, this airplane will fly itself for hours at a time, needing little to no physical guidance from the pilot. And like other Cessnas, 172s don’t like stalling, either. Cessna temporarily stopped manufacturing the 172 in 1986, when market forces and high product-liability premiums forced the company to implement serious cutbacks. Pilots around the world breathed a sigh of relief when, 10 years later, President Bill Clinton enacted the General Aviation Revitalization Act. Cessna celebrated the good news with
the completion of a new plant in Independence, Kansas and immediately began production on a new version of the 172. If the new 172SP is any indication, things have only gotten better since then.