Cessna 172 Skyhawk

Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP

The Cessna 172 is the one airplane that people have associated with the term “small airplanes” for the past five decades because it is most successful and best selling aircraft of all time.  More than 43,000 were built since 1955. It is used extensively in flight schools because of its easy and forgiving handling characteristics. The large wing flaps provide excellent low speed landing performance.  Private pilots love it too because used 172s are relatively inexpensive and parts are plentiful.  Cessna added improvements nearly every year and distinguished the versions by a letter suffix.  In 1976 Cessna began marketing the 172 as the Skyhawk; until then Skyhawk was simply an upgrade option on new 172s.  Numerous FAA approved aftermarket modifications are available for special use such as skis, floats, bush tires, and higher engine power. The chart below provides a general overview and timeline of the many variants.

Cessna designed the 172 as a four seat high-wing successor to the model 170 with the main difference being the tricycle-style landing gear. All models were powered by a Continental six cylinder, air-cooled engine producing 145 horsepower until 1968 when Cessna switched to Lycoming engines. The early models through 1960 can be identified by the straight square tail design and absence of a rear window. Cessna switched to a more streamlined rear fuselage and wrap-around back window with the 1963 model 172D. Production ended in 1986 because of liability laws that made insurance too expensive and sales plummeted.

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 provided some liability relief to manufacturers so Cessna restarted production of the 172 in 1996. This new version retained the same design but was the first Cessna single engine aircraft to feature a fuel injected engine. In 2007 a digital glass panel for the cockpit became standard. Today’s version of the Cessna 172 is called the Skyhawk SP.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk Specifications
First Flight November, 1955
Number Built 43,000 (2015)
Length 27ft 2in
Wingspan 36ft 1in
Max Gross Weight 2,550lbs
Powerplant 1 Lycoming IO360 4 cylinder (180hp)
Maximum Cruising Speed 124kts
Maximum Range 640nm

Cessna 172 Skyhawk Model Timeline
Model Years Notable Features
172 1956-59 Straight tail; base price $8,995; 4,195 built
172A 1960 Swept tail; 1,015 built
172B 1961 Shorter landing gear; Skyhawk deluxe option package
172C 1962 Autopilot was optional; 889 built
172D 1963 Wrap-around rear window & one piece windshield; 1,146 built
172E 1964 Electric fuses replaced by circuit breakers; 1,401 built
172F 1965 1,436 built. Used in modified form by the U.S. Air Force as the T-41 primary trainer. Also built under license in France by Reims Aviation as the F172 until 1971.
172G 1966 1,597 built
172H 1967 1,586 built
172I 1968 First Cessna 172 to use the Lycoming engine; 1,206 built
172K 1969-70 Larger side windows & fiberglass curved wingtips; 759 built
172L 1971-72 Tubular steel landing gear legs & wheel fairings; 1,811 built
172M 1973-76 Drooped wing leading edges to improve slow speed handling; marketed as Skyhawk starting in 1976; 7,306 built
172N 1977-80 Base price started at $22,300.
172RG 1980-84 Also called the Cutlass; retractable landing gear and 180hp version of the engine.
172P 1981-86 Production of the Skyhawk ended in 1986.
172R 1996-2008 New interior design and soundproofing; fuel injected engine
172S 1998 – present Marketed as the Skyhawk SP; digital instruments became standard in 2007.

Photo Gallery – click for a larger view

Cessna 172 N5054A (1955)

Cessna 172 N5054A (1955)


Cessna 172A N7209T (1960)

Cessna 172A N7209T (1960)


Cessna 172D N99EB (1963)

Cessna 172D N99EB (1963)


Cessna 172G N4416L (1966)

Cessna 172G N4416L (1966)


Cessna 172K N7422G (1970)

Cessna 172K N7422G (1970)


Cessna 172P N98264 (1985)

Cessna 172P N98264 (1985)

Cessna 172L N7823G (1971)

Cessna 172L N7823G (1971)


Cessna 172M N9685V (1974)

Cessna 172M N9685V (1974)


Cessna 172N N5193S (1979)

Cessna 172N N5193S (1979)


Cessna 172R N8292 (1997)

Cessna 172R N8292 (1997)


Cessna 172RG Cutlass N172KA

Cessna 172RG Cutlass N172KA


Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP N546ER (2007)

Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP N546ER (2007)

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