5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the Cessna 172 Skyhawk

Anders Clark

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a widely flown, well-known aircraft. It’s used pretty extensively by flight schools to train student and prospective pilots and companies have even created flight simulators modeled on it. If you’ve spent time flying, chances are pretty good you’ve flown in one, or even flown one. And you’ve probably heard or know that the Cessna 172 has a reputation for being a solid all around aircraft.

However, here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Cessna 172 Skyhawk.

The Most Popular Aircraft Ever

As of 2015, more than 43,000 Cessna 172’s have been built, making it the most produced and successful aircraft in history. Who’s in the number two slot? That would be the Ilyushin II-2, a two seat Russian combat aircraft produced during World War 2, with just over 36,000 made. The next closest aircraft that is still being produced, however, is the Piper PA-28, with a little under 33,000 at last count. With that kind of a lead, and 172s still rolling off the line, it seems like the Skyhawk might not be giving up the title anytime soon.

So, What Exactly is a Skyhawk?

I mean, is there a groundhawk? Deep thoughts aside, where did “Skyhawk” come from, and what makes a Cessna 172 a Skyhawk? Well, the first 172 rolled off the line on 1956, but it wasn’t until 1960 that the term “Skyhawk” first entered the scene. For the new 1961 model of the 172, Cessna wanted to develop a deluxe version that they could offer alongside the basic model. So, they called the deluxe version the “Skyhawk.” Technically, “Skyhawk” still refers to the deluxe model, while the basic model is just the Cessna 172. However, this distinction isn’t usually recognized, and for most people, all 172s are the Cessna 172 Skyhawk.

You Want to Build a What?

The Cessna 172 actually began life as a variant of the Cessna 170, a taildragger. As the story goes, a few Cessna engineers designed a nosewheel installation for the 170, and even went ahead and developed a mock-up. However, a manager happened to drop by the shop on the weekend, saw the mock-up and was not pleased. The following Monday, a memo went out from the vice president of engineering ordering that the nosewheel variant was to be destroyed. The brave engineers didn’t follow orders, however, and hid it.

In the mean time, the Piper Tri-Pacer with a tricycle configuration had been selling well, and Cessna started wondering if maybe there wasn’t something to that. They even rented a Tri-Pacer so they could do a first-hand evaluation of the airplane. Finally, they decided it was time to move forward with a tricycle-gear version of their 170. The engineers whipped out their mock-up, things moved forward, and what started as a variant became a new model. And guess what? They weren’t wrong. In the 172’s first year, Cessna built more than 1400 of the aircraft.

The Cessna 172 Took a 10 Year Break

Being popular isn’t easy work. So in 1986, the Cessna 172 decided it was time to take a sabbatical, and figure out a new direction in life. It spent the next ten years reflecting … OK, OK, that’s not what happened. What actually happened was that towards the end of the 1970s, aircraft manufacturers were getting hit with more and more lawsuits, and it was costing them huge amounts of money. During the period from 1978 – 1988, aircraft manufacturing overall declined a devastating 95% and over 100,000 people in the industry lost jobs.

Cessna, Piper, and Beech, who at the time produced over 50% of all general aviation aircraft, were the hardest hit. Cessna, who’d been making aircraft since 1927, posted their first annual loss in 1983, and by 1986 was forced to shut down production on all single engine aircraft, including the 172. Finally, in 1996, after the General Aviation Revitalization Act went into effect, Cessna was able to restart single engine production, and they brought back three models, the 172 and 182 in 1996, and the 206 in 1998.

The Cessna 172 Holds a World Record

Yeah, that’s right, the Cessna 172 holds the world record for flight endurance.

Short version:

A mere two years after the 172 hit the market, a Las Vegas businessman was approached by one of his slot machine mechanics (and WW2 bomber pilot) about funding a bid to break the flight endurance record as a promotional stunt to advertise his casino. The record had just been broken and re-set a few months previous, by a pair who flew for 50 days continuously, in a 172 dubbed The Old Scotchman. The businessman agreed, so the slot mechanic, Robert Timm, found a co-pilot, John Cook, and an aircraft, a modified Cessna 172. And on December 4th, 1958, at 3:52 PM, they lifted off.

64 days, 22 hours and 19 minutes later, Timm and Cook landed. And their record still stands today. Some time after the flight, Cook was asked whether he would ever consider trying to beat the record, to which he replied “Next time I feel in the mood to fly endurance, I’m going to lock myself in a garbage can with the vacuum cleaner running, and have Bob serve me T-bone steaks chopped up in a thermos bottle. That is, until my psychiatrist opens for business in the morning.

For the long version, check out this article.

And there you have it. Five things you may not have known about the seemingly unassuming, but actually quite amazing Cessna 172 Skyhawk.

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Un-Learning as You’re Learning How to Fly Airplanes

Shawn Arena

Okay, you have checked another box in your journey to earning your private pilot certificate. You and your instructor have set up a ground training schedule and an aircraft has been selected for your training. The next logical step then arrives, as you ask yourself, “So, HOW do I fly airplanes?” I’ll now provide you with an overview so you can answer that question.

Some Un-Learning is required

Since we spend our lives in a limited dimensional world on the ground, learning how to fly airplanes requires what I call ‘un-learning’. “What do you mean by that?” you may ask. As you are learning (or have learned) from your ground component of training, an aircraft operates in multiple dimensions as it is supported by the flow of the air around it.

To conduct many ground-based activities (like driving a car or riding a bicycle) much muscle input is required to accomplish the task. In an aircraft, however, very subtle yet direct muscular inputs and keen hand-eye coordination are required (as your flight instructor will remind you). Another piece of un-learning you’ll encounter is, since an aircraft is not designed for ground operations per se, that you use your feet instead of your hands to smoothly direct the aircraft while on the ground. You will quickly realize that while on the ground, your hand movements on the control yoke are basically useless.

A Quick Physics Lesson

Since the aircraft is designed to operate efficiently in the air, four forces of physics act upon it: Lift (Up), Gravity (down), Thrust (forward), and Drag (backward). In learning how to fly airplanes, you will find out (sometimes the hard way) that all four of these forces have to be in balance with each other. If one is not in agreement with the others, the aircraft will do something that you may not want it to do.

Today’s training aircraft are forgiving, allowing the student to get ‘a feel for the aircraft’. You will understand what your instructor means when he or she states, “Relax, become part of the aircraft, and things will become easier.” As each lesson progresses, the answer to the question “how do I fly airplanes” will be ingrained and easier to realize.

Flight Controls Management

As you gain confidence with every lesson, that hand-eye coordination will become second nature AND you will also realize the vestibular ‘feel’ in your body. Remember that sinking feeling you have when riding an elevator down? In an airplane, that feeling is magnified. Similarly, when that same elevator is rising quickly you feel a strange force pushing down on your body, and the same feeling (again magnified) is what your body feels in an airplane. Congratulations, you just discovered positive and negative g-forces!

That is where management of the flight controls comes into play. You pull back on the yoke or control stick and you go up (Lift), you push down and you go down (gravity). You accelerate the aircraft through the thrust control, you go forward (thrust), and you slow the airplane down, and drag (and gravity) take over. As you progress on how to fly airplanes, management of ailerons, rudder, flaps, and trim tabs become more important to control the pitch, yaw, and roll actions – THAT is how you fly airplanes! It is all about a smooth coordination of each of those individual three axes, that the aircraft operates.


As you progress through the basic training, a better understanding of physics, flight control, and hand-eye coordination management enlarges your physical world. It is so powerful that all five of your senses (yes, I mean all five) will forever be changed because you have experienced something very few people get to do in a lifetime. That physical (and physiological) impact on your body is something you will enjoy and treasure the rest of your life!

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Crosswind Landing: Learning The Basics in Small Aircraft

Crosswind conditions increase the risk of the landing, and as a student pilot, it is imperative that you become very comfortable with a crosswind landing. You never know when the wind will become greater than expected, and you need to be prepared for all circumstances.

“A crosswind landing is a landing maneuver in which a significant component of the prevailing wind is perpendicular to the runway center line.”

As a student pilot, crosswind landings are very important to learn, so do not avoid crosswinds landings. A good instructor will take advantage of crosswind conditions to teach his or her student the proper techniques. Practice makes perfect, therefore as a student your instructor should be looking for opportunities to train you in the techniques of crosswind landings. There is no other way to become comfortable than to make landings in crosswinds.

“A crosswind landing starts with proper alignment of the aircraft with the runaway.”

As the aircraft approaches the ground, the pilot should be prepared to make needed corrections (alignment with the runway) depending upon the strength of the opposing winds.

There are two ways to perform crosswind landings. The first technique is the “crab landing”. Crabbing is a technique used to head the nose of the aircraft into the wind while keeping the track of the aircraft aligned with the runway. During the crab, the heading of the aircraft will not be aligned with the runway (aircraft nose will point into the wind), but the direction of the aircraft will be in alignment with the runway.

A quick strong force (side-load) imposed on the landing gear during a crosswind landing could cause damage to the landing gear and result in the loss of the control of the aircraft. It is not wise to land (touch down) the aircraft sideways (pointing into the wind while tracking with the runway) without landing gear capable of pivoting to align with the runway.

Therefore it is necessary for the pilot to align the aircraft with the direction of runway (landing the plane in straight alignment with the runway) prior to touchdown.

The other popular crosswind landing method is the “slip”, which requires greater skill compared to the crab. During a slip the pilot uses the rudder, to align the nose of the aircraft with the center of the runway, and using the aileron to correct the airplane’s drift to align with the runway center line.

The amount of aileron and rudder required will be dependent upon the strength and change of the wind. There could be a lot of adjustments as you approach touchdown. After landing the student pilot will continue to use the ailerons into the wind and keep working the rudders to maintain a straight track down the runway.

Light Aircraft in Strong Crosswind Landings HD

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