The Cessna 172, the most produced aircraft in aviation history. Her legacy spans over a half-century since she was first flown in 1955 by the experienced aircraft manufacturer Cessna, the manufacturer had a record of producing great planes but even having the title of “Outstanding Plane of the Year” for their C140 couldn’t skyrocket them to the success that the C172 brought them. So what went so right with the C172 and is it the best plane ever made?
The C172 had relativity humble start. Her development began with the C170, a taildragger aircraft that actually sold quite well with an impressive 5,000 sales. After striking a winning formula with the C170 Cessna decided to experiment and experiment they did. They added a new engine and a tricycle landing gear but here’s the thing, the new Cessna 170 was born. Besides the fact that it wasn’t. You see the manufacturer wanted to save time with certification so they simply called it model 172 or the Cessna 172 and the iconic aircraft was born.
Probably one of the things that makes the 172 so successful is its size and simplicity. She holds 4 people with one being the pilot, spans a length of only 8m and can cruise at only 226km/h, she’s basically a car on Germany’s Autobahn with some wings and a tail. The price point is also appealing, with the plane only costing just over AUD$400,000, that’s cheaper than most houses. The other thing that makes the 172 so appealing is that’s it’s basically a flying classroom. Flight schools love their simplicity and ease of use, they are used at almost every flight school in the world and their design hasn’t changed much since 1955. The 172 is actually so easy to fly that Cessna branded it the “land o-Matic” due to her forgiving nature and high wing design that makes it easy for students to see the ground beneath them.
Now, how does this compare to other aircraft? Well the second most-produced aircraft is the Ilyushin Il-2, a “flying tank” which was produced in a flurry for the Soviets during World War II, she sold 36,000, still 8,000 less than the 172’s 44,000 strong production count. Piper’s PA 28 ranks at 4th while other Cessna aircraft rank in the top 10. In terms of safety, the C172 has only had 9 recorded major accidents which are less than Boeing’s 767 which is piloted by trained airline pilots while the C172 is mainly flown by training pilots, a stark contrast. The C172 is also a master of long jeopardy being the joint longest produced trainer aircraft (tied with the Cessna 182) and is still produced to this day.
The Cessna 172 is a true testament to the importance of great design. These days Cessna is a brand of Textron Aviation along with Beechcraft and Hawker with the now 65-year-old aircraft being largely the same as the one produced back in 1955. Her only design changes are the ones in the cockpit with Garmin Avionics and better soundproofing. So is the C172 the best plane ever made? Yes, yes it was. What do you think?
Her long jeopardy is a credit to her design image credit