The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is the most popular plane that Cessna has ever produced. The first prototype of the 172 was flown in 1955 and production began for the craft in 1956. The normal cruising speed for a fixed-gear 172 ranges from about 105 to 125 knots, depending on the engine and vintage. The Cessna 172 was a new idea by Cessna which they were hoping would be popular with the public. The plane was an overnight success though, with sales reaching 1,400 in its first year, 1956. The official production estimate of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk is between 35,000 to 43,000 aircraft.
The basic Cessna 172 Skyhawk remained in production until being replaced by the Cessna 172A in early 1960. The 172A introduced a swept back tail and rudder. However, the Cessna 172B, which arrived in late 1960, introduced a shorter undercarriage and other equipment changes. Then, the Skyhawk name was first introduced for the deluxe version which was produced after the 172B.
The engine used on the type of Cessna 172 which was produced from 1955 to 1967 was the six cylinder Continental O-300. Afterward, this engine was replaced by the four cylinder Lycoming O-320. The equipment and the instruments used were analog, but currently Cessna is going to be introducing into their planes the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit which is reported to be the new way forward with airplane avionics and equipment.
The Cessna 172’s competitors include the Beechcraft Musketeer, the Grumman American AA-5 series (neither in production today, but were competitors during the 1960s and 70s), the Piper Cherokee, the Diamond DA-40, and the Cirrus SR-22. These earlier versions of the 172 shipped with a 145 horsepower engine. Later planes shipped with engines up to 180 horsepower, though 150 or 160 hp is more common. Cessna produced a retractable gear version of the Cessna 172 named the Cutlass 172RG and also produced versions on floats.
The Cessna 172RG also had a variable pitch, constant speed propeller and more powerful stock engine as did the more spartan militarized Cessna 172E that was sold to the U.S. Army as a spotter plane. The Cessna R172K Hawk XP was produced in the late 1970’s, and featured a fuel injected Continental IO-360-k, which performs only to 195hp. This aircraft is capable of a 131 knot cruise speed, and performs similarly to the Cessna 182.
The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is the aircraft most people visualize when they hear the words ” small plane”. More people probably know the name Piper Cub, but the Skyhawk’s shape is far more familiar. Most people own a 172, as I have seen at my local airport. But in my opinion, the Cessna 172 is a nice plane to fly as in the flying I have done in it in Microsoft Flight Simulator X. I could be wrong, but from me it’s a good plane for beginners.