This weekend at the FlightSim Expo in Cosford, Infinite Flight presented the reworked version of the Cessna C172, an airplane that is known around the world.
Let’s use the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the most built aircraft of all time.
Four seats, one single-engine, a high-wing configuration. The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is not just any aircraft. It’s the most successful aircraft in aviation history, measured by its longevity and popularity. More than 44’000 units of the airplane have been built since 1956, and the company is not stopping there. After 64 years, the model is still being built.
Let’s go back in time to discover the history of this legendary airplane. The year is 1955, and the development of the C172 is in full progress. At that time, the C170 was the flagship model of the Cessna Aircraft Company, founded by Clyde Cessna in 1927. The C170 was a so-called “Taildragger,” which means it was an aircraft which undercarriage consisted of two main wheels forward of the center of gravity and a small wheel to support the tail.
To reduce the time and cost of certification, the type was added to the Cessna 170 type certificate as the Model 172, which flew first on June 12th, 1955. Later, the C172 was given its own type certificate. The C172 - as the successor of the already successful C170 - became an overnight sales success, and over 1,400 were built in 1956, its first full year of production.
There are many different variants of the model.
|172||1955||Original Model that appeared in 1955|
|172A||1960||Introduced a swept-back tail fin and rudder, as well as float fittings|
|172B||1961||Shorter landing gear, engine mounts lengthened three inches, reshaped cowling, and a pointed propeller spinner. It also featured the name “SkyHawk” for the first time|
|172C||1962||Optional Autopilot and a key starter. Also, the seats were redesigned, and an optional child seat was introduced|
|172D||1963||Lower rear fuselage with a wraparound Omni-Vision rear window and a one-piece windshield|
|172E||1964||Electrical fuses replaced with circuit breakers as well as a redesigned instrument panel|
|172F||1965||Electrically operated flaps|
|172G||1966||Redesigned nose gear to reduce drag and improve the appearance of the aircraft in flight, new cowling introducing shock-mounts that transmitted lowe nose levels to the cockpit|
|172I||1968||New engine to increase cruise speed as well as the first standard instrument arrangement|
|172K||1969||Redesigned tailfin cap and reshaped rear window|
|172L||1971/72||New and lighter main landing gear|
|172M||1973/76||Drooped wing leading edge for improved low-speed handling, an optional package for higher standard equipment including a second radio and a transponder, additionally increased size of baggage compartment and newly installed nose-mounted dual landing lights|
|172N||1977||Rework of the electrical system and a flap extension|
|172P||1981||Increased flap extension, thicker windows|
|172Q||1983||Increased cruise speed|
|172R||1996||New interior, new ventilation system, standard intercom, redesigned front seats, and the first Cessna to have a factory-fitted fuel-injected engine|
|172S / 172SP||1998||Increased engine RPM and higher maximum takeoff weight; in later years offered with the Garmin G1000 and leather seats|
Until today, the Cessna C172S (which is marketed as the Cessna C172SP) remains the only 172 that is still in production. There are many more versions of this plane, including some military variations or models with water landing abilities.
The C172 was also used to set the 1958 world record for refueled flight endurance.
Record-Breaking C172 displayed at Las Vegas Airport
On December 4th, 1958, Robert Timm and his companion John Cook took off from Las Vegas. They landed back in Las Vegas on February 7th, 1959. You heard correctly. The C172 stayed in the air for 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and 5 seconds. But how is that possible?
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 plane with his foot on the vehicle’s accelerator pedal.
After the flight ended, in 1959, Cook said the following:
Next time I feel in the mood to fly endurance, I’m going to lock myself in our garbage can with the vacuum cleaner running. That is until my psychiatrist opens up for business in the morning.
The Cessna C172 is a fascinating aircraft, with a lot of history. It’s one of the most famous aircraft when it comes to flight training. And again, with over 44’000 units built, it’s one of the most famous aircraft of all time.
And now that it’s being reworked in Infinite Flight, all of us will have the excellent opportunity to explore the world using this marvelous machine.
- Cessna C172S, Peter Bakema
- Cessna 170: Public Domain
- Cessna 172 flown by Robert Timm and John Cook, Daniel Piotrowski