Cessna 172 Skyhawk
Cessna 172S
Role Civil utility aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Cessna
Textron Aviation
First flight June 12, 1955
Introduction 1956
Status In production
Produced 1956–1986, 1996–present
Number built 44,000+[1]
Developed from Cessna 170
Variants Cessna T-41 Mescalero
Developed into Cessna 175 Skylark

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is an American four-seat, single-engine, high wing, fixed-wing aircraft made by the Cessna Aircraft Company.[2] First flown in 1955,[2] more 172s have been built than any other aircraft.[3] It was developed from the 1948 Cessna 170 but with tricycle landing gear rather than conventional landing gear. The Skyhawk name was originally used for a trim package, but was later applied to all standard-production 172 aircraft, while some upgraded versions were marketed as the Cutlass.

Measured by its longevity and popularity, the Cessna 172 is the most successful aircraft in history. Cessna delivered the first production model in 1956, and as of 2015, the company and its partners had built more than 44,000 units.[1][4][5] The aircraft remains in production today.

A general aviation airplane, the Skyhawk's main competitors have been the Beechcraft Musketeer and Grumman AA-5 series (neither currently in production), the Piper Cherokee,[6] and, more recently, the Diamond DA40 and Cirrus SR20.

Design and development

A 1960 Cessna 172A
Early Cessna 172s, like this 1957 model, had a "fastback" rear cabin with no rear window and featured a "square" fin design.

The Cessna 172 started life as a tricycle landing gear variant of the taildragger Cessna 170, with a basic level of standard equipment. In January 1955, Cessna flew an improved variant of the Cessna 170, a Continental O-300-A-powered Cessna 170C with larger elevators and a more angular tailfin.[7] Although the variant was tested and certified, Cessna decided to modify it with a tricycle landing gear, and the modified Cessna 170C flew again on June 12, 1955.[7] To reduce the time and cost of certification, the type was added to the Cessna 170 type certificate as the Model 172.[7] Later, the 172 was given its own type certificate.[8][9] The 172 became an overnight sales success, and over 1,400 were built in 1956, its first full year of production.[10]

Early 172s were similar in appearance to the 170s, with the same straight aft fuselage and tall landing gear legs, although the 172 had a straight tailfin while the 170 had a rounded fin and rudder. In 1960, the 172A incorporated revised landing gear and the swept-back tailfin, which is still in use today.

The final aesthetic development, found in the 1963 172D and all later 172 models, was a lowered rear deck allowing an aft window. Cessna advertised this added rear visibility as "Omni-Vision".[11]

Production halted in the mid-1980s, but resumed in 1996 with the 160 hp (120 kW) Cessna 172R Skyhawk. Cessna supplemented this in 1998 with the 180 hp (135 kW) Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP.[citation needed]


The Cessna 172 may be modified via a wide array of supplemental type certificates (STCs), including increased engine power and higher gross weights. Available STC engine modifications increase power from 180 to 210 hp (134 to 157 kW), add constant-speed propellers, or allow the use of automobile gasoline. Other modifications include additional fuel tank capacity in the wing tips, added baggage compartment tanks, added wheel pants to reduce drag, or enhanced landing and takeoff performance and safety with a STOL kit.[12] The 172 has also been equipped with the 180 hp (134 kW) fuel injected Superior Air Parts Vantage engine.[13]

Operational history

World records

The record-setting 1958-built Cessna 172

From December 4, 1958, to February 7, 1959, Robert Timm and John Cook set the world record for (refueled) flight endurance in a used Cessna 172, registration number N9172B. They took off from McCarran Field (now Harry Reid International Airport) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and landed back at McCarran Field after 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes and 5 seconds in a flight covering an estimated 150,000 miles (240,000 km), over 6 times further than flying around the world at the equator. The flight was part of a fund-raising effort for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund.[14][15] The aircraft is now on display at the airport.[16]


Cessna has historically used model years similar to U.S. auto manufacturers, with sales of new models typically starting a few months prior to the actual calendar year.

1956 Cessna 172, Toowoomba, Australia, 2010

The basic 172 appeared in November 1955 as the 1956 model and remained in production until replaced by the 172A in early 1960. It was equipped with a Continental O-300 145 hp (108 kW) six-cylinder, air-cooled engine and had a maximum gross weight of 2,200 lb (998 kg). Introductory base price was US$8,995 and a total of 4,195 were constructed over the five years.[11]


The 1960 model 172A introduced a swept-back tailfin and rudder, as well as float fittings. The price was US$9,450 and 1,015 were built.[11]

Cessna 172B

The 172B was introduced in late 1960 as the 1961 model and featured a shorter landing gear, engine mounts lengthened three inches (76 mm), a reshaped cowling, and a pointed propeller spinner.[17] For the first time, the "Skyhawk" name was applied to an available deluxe option package that included optional equipment and avionics along with full exterior paint rather than partial paint stripes. The gross weight was increased to 2,250 lb (1,021 kg).[11]


The 1962 model was the 172C. It brought to the line an optional autopilot and a key starter to replace the previous pull-starter. The seats were redesigned to be six-way adjustable. A child seat was made optional to allow two children to be carried in the baggage area. The 1962 price was US$9,895 (~$99,668 in 2023). A total of 889 172C models were produced.[11]

1963 Cessna 172D

The 1963 172D model introduced the lower rear fuselage with a wraparound Omni-Vision rear window and a one-piece windshield. Gross weight was increased to 2,300 lb (1,043 kg), where it would stay until the 172P. New rudder and brake pedals were also added. 1,146 172Ds were built.[11]

1963 also saw the introduction of the 172D Powermatic, powered by a 175 horsepower (130 kW) Continental GO-300E, increasing cruise speed by 11 mph (18 km/h) relative to the standard 172D. In reality this was not a new model, but rather a Cessna 175 Skylark that had been rebranded to overcome a reputation for poor engine reliability. The ploy was unsuccessful and neither the Powermatic nor the Skylark were produced again after the 1963 model year.[11][18]


The 172E was the 1964 model. The electrical fuses were replaced with circuit breakers. The 172E also featured a redesigned instrument panel. 1,401 172Es were built that year as production continued to increase.[11]

1964 Cessna 172F

The 1965 model 172F introduced electrically-operated flaps to replace the previous lever-operated system.[8] It was built in France by Reims Cessna as the F172 until 1971. These models formed the basis for the U.S. Air Force's T-41A Mescalero primary trainer, which was used during the 1960s and early 1970s as initial flight screening aircraft in USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). Following their removal from the UPT program, some extant USAF T-41s were assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy for the cadet pilot indoctrination program, while others were distributed to Air Force aero clubs.[19]

A total of 1,436 172Fs were completed.[11]

1966 Cessna F172G

The 1966 model year 172G introduced a more pointed spinner and sold for US$12,450 in its basic 172 version and US$13,300 in the upgraded Skyhawk version. 1,597 were built.[11]


The 1967 model 172H was the last Continental O-300 powered model. It also introduced a shorter-stroke nose gear oleo to reduce drag and improve the appearance of the aircraft in flight. A new cowling was used, introducing shock-mounts that transmitted lower noise levels to the cockpit and reduced cowl cracking. The electric stall warning horn was replaced by a pneumatic one.

The 1967 model 172H sold for US$10,950 while the Skyhawk version was US$12,750.[20] A total of 839 172Hs were built.[11]

The 1968-built Cessna 172I introduced the Lycoming O-320-E2D engine of 150 hp (112 kW).

The 1968 model marked the beginning of the Lycoming-powered 172s.

The "I" model was introduced with a Lycoming O-320-E2D engine of 150 hp (112 kW), an increase of 5 hp (3.7 kW) over the Continental powerplant. The increased power resulted in an increase in optimal cruise from 130 mph (209 km/h) true airspeed (TAS) to 131 mph (211 km/h) TAS. There was no change in the sea level rate of climb at 645 ft (197 m) per minute.

The 172I also introduced the first standard "T" instrument arrangement. The 172I saw an increase in production over the "H" model, with 1,206 built.[11]


For 1968, Cessna planned to replace the 172 with a newly designed aircraft called the 172J, featuring the same general configuration but with a more sloping windshield, a strutless cantilever wing, a more stylish interior, and various other improvements. However, the popularity of the previous 172 with Cessna dealers and flight schools prompted the cancellation of the replacement plan, and the 172J was instead introduced as the 177 and sold alongside the 172. The 172J designation was never used for a production aircraft.

1969 model-year Cessna 172K, built in 1968

The next model year was the 1969 "K" model. The 1969 172K had a redesigned tailfin cap and reshaped rear windows. Optional long-range 52 US gal (197 L) wing fuel tanks were offered. The rear windows were slightly enlarged by 16 square inches (103 cm2). The 1969 model sold for US$12,500 for the 172 and US$13,995 for the Skyhawk, with 1,170 made.[11]

The 1970 model was still called the 172K, but sported fiberglass, downward-shaped, conical wing tips. Fully articulated seats were offered as well. Production in 1970 was 759 units.[11]

1971 Cessna 172L at Kemble Airfield, England, 2003

The 172L, sold during 1971 and 1972, replaced the main landing gear legs (which were originally flat spring steel) with tapered, tubular steel gear legs. The new gear had a width that was increased by 12 in (30 cm).[11] The new tubular gear was lighter, but required aerodynamic fairings to maintain the same speed and climb performance as experienced with the flat steel design. The "L" also had a plastic fairing between the dorsal fin and vertical fin to introduce a greater family resemblance to the 182's vertical fin.

The 1971 model sold for US$13,425 in the 172 version and US$14,995 in the Skyhawk version. 827 172Ls were sold in 1971 and 984 in 1972.[11]

1975 Cessna 172M

The 172M of 1973–76 gained a drooped wing leading edge for improved low-speed handling. This was marketed as the "camber-lift" wing.

The 1974 172M was also the first to introduce the optional 'II' package which offered higher standard equipment, including a second nav/comm radio, an ADF and transponder. The baggage compartment was increased in size, and nose-mounted dual landing lights were available as an option.[11]

The 1975 model 172M sold for US$16,055 for the 172, US$17,890 for the Skyhawk and US$20,335 for the Skyhawk II.

In 1976, Cessna stopped marketing the aircraft as the 172 and began exclusively using the "Skyhawk" designation. This model year also saw a redesigned instrument panel to hold more avionics. Among other changes, the fuel and other small gauges were relocated to the left side for improved pilot readability compared with the earlier 172 panel designs. Total production of "M" models was 7306 over the four years it was manufactured.[11]

1979 Cessna 172N Skyhawk in 2019

The Skyhawk N, or Skyhawk/100 as Cessna termed it, was introduced for the 1977 model year. The "100" designation indicated that it was powered by a Lycoming O-320-H2AD, 160 horsepower (119 kW) engine designed to run on 100-octane fuel, whereas all previous engines used 80/87 fuel. But this engine proved troublesome[21] and it was replaced by the similarly rated O-320-D2J to create the 1981 172P.

The 1977 "N" model 172 also introduced rudder trim as an option and standard "pre-selectable" flaps. The price was US$22,300, with the Skyhawk/100 II selling for US$29,950.[11]

The 1978 model brought a 28-volt electrical system to replace the previous 14-volt system. Air conditioning was an option.[11]

The 1979 model "N" increased the flap-extension speed to 110 knots (204 km/h).[11]

The "N" remained in production until 1980 when the 172P or Skyhawk P was introduced.[11]


There was no "O" ("Oscar") model 172, to avoid confusion with the number zero.[11]

Cessna 172P

The 172P, or Skyhawk P, was introduced in 1981 to solve the reliability problems of the "N" engine by replacing it with the Lycoming O-320-D2J.

The "P" model also saw the maximum flap deflection decreased from 40 degrees to 30 to allow a gross weight increase from 2,300 lb (1,043 kg) to 2,400 lb (1,089 kg). A wet wing was optional, with a capacity of 62 US gallons of fuel.[11]

The price of a new Skyhawk P was US$33,950, with the Skyhawk P II costing US$37,810 and the Nav/Pac equipped Skyhawk P II selling for US$42,460.[11]

In 1982, the "P" saw the landing lights moved from the nose to the wing to increase bulb life. The 1983 model added some minor soundproofing improvements and thicker windows.[11]

A second door latch pin was introduced in 1984.[17]

Production of the "P" ended in 1986, and no more 172s were built for eleven years as legal liability rulings in the US had pushed Cessna's insurance costs too high, resulting in dramatically increasing prices for new aircraft.[citation needed]

There were only 195 172s built in 1984, a rate of fewer than four per week.[11]

172Q Cutlass

The 172Q was introduced in 1983 and given the name Cutlass to create an affiliation with the 172RG, although it was actually a 172P with a Lycoming O-360-A4N engine of 180 horsepower (134 kW). The aircraft had a gross weight of 2,550 lb (1,157 kg) and an optimal cruise speed of 122 knots (226 km/h) compared to the 172P's cruise speed of 120 knots (222 km/h) on 20 hp (15 kW) less. It had a useful load that was about 100 lb (45 kg) more than the Skyhawk P and a rate of climb that was actually 20 feet (6 m) per minute lower, due to the higher gross weight. Production ended after only three years when all 172 production stopped.[11]


The Skyhawk R was introduced in 1996 and is powered by a derated Lycoming IO-360-L2A producing a maximum of 160 horsepower (120 kW) at just 2,400 rpm. This is the first Cessna 172 to have a factory-fitted fuel-injected engine.

The 172R's maximum takeoff weight is 2,450 lb (1,111 kg). This model year introduced many improvements, including a new interior with soundproofing, an all new multi-level ventilation system, a standard four point intercom, contoured, energy absorbing, 26g front seats with vertical and reclining adjustments and inertia reel harnesses.

Cessna 172S Skyhawk

The Cessna 172S was introduced in 1998 and is powered by a Lycoming IO-360-L2A producing 180 horsepower (134 kW). The maximum engine rpm was increased from 2,400 rpm to 2,700 rpm resulting in a 20 hp (15 kW) increase over the "R" model. As a result, the maximum takeoff weight was increased to 2,550 lb (1,157 kg). This model is marketed under the name Skyhawk SP, although the Type Certification data sheet specifies it is a 172S.[22][23]

The 172S is built primarily for the private owner-operator and is, in its later years, offered with the Garmin G1000 avionics package and leather seats as standard equipment.[24]

As of 2009, only the S model is in production.[25]

Cessna 172RG Cutlass
Cessna 172RG Cutlass

Cessna introduced a retractable landing gear version of the 172 in 1980 and named it the Cutlass 172RG.

The Cutlass featured a variable-pitch, constant-speed propeller and a more powerful Lycoming O-360-F1A6 engine of 180 horsepower (130 kW). The 172RG sold for about US$19,000 more than the standard 172 of the same year and produced an optimal cruise speed of 140 knots (260 km/h), compared to 122 knots (226 km/h) for the contemporary 160 horsepower (120 kW) version.[11]

The 172RG did not find wide acceptance in the personal aircraft market because of higher initial and operating costs accompanied by mediocre cruising speed, but was adopted by many flight schools since it met the specific requirements for "complex aircraft" experience necessary to obtain a Commercial Pilot certificate (the role for which it was intended) at relatively low cost. Between 1980 and 1984, 1,177 RGs were built, with a small number following before production ceased in 1985.[citation needed]

While numbered and marketed as a 172, the 172RG was actually certified on the Cessna 175 type certificate.[18]

Special versions

Reims FR172 and Cessna R172K Hawk XP
1977 Cessna R172K Hawk XP
1977 model R172K Hawk XP on Wipline amphibious floats

The FR172 Reims Rocket was produced by Reims Aviation in France from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce built, fuel-injected, Continental IO-360-H(B) 210 hp (160 kW) engine with a constant-speed propeller.[26] Variants included the FR172E until FR172J.

The Reims Rocket led to Cessna producing the R172K Hawk XP, a model available from 1977 to 1981 from both Wichita and Reims. This configuration featured a fuel-injected, Continental IO-360K (later IO-360KB) derated to 195 hp (145 kW) with a two-bladed, constant-speed propeller. The Hawk XP was capable of a 131-knot (243 km/h) cruise speed.

Owners claimed that the increased performance of the "XP" did not compensate for its increased purchase price and the higher operating costs associated with the larger engine. The aircraft was well accepted for use on floats, however, as the standard 172 is not a strong floatplane, even with only two people on board, while the XP's extra power improves water takeoff performance dramatically.[11]

While numbered and marketed as 172s, the R172J and R172K models are actually certified on the Cessna 175 type certificate.[18]

Turbo Skyhawk JT-A

Model introduced in July 2014 for 2015 customer deliveries, powered by a 155 hp (116 kW) Continental CD-155 diesel engine installed by the factory under a supplemental type certificate. Initial retail price in 2014 was $435,000 (~$551,508 in 2023).[27] The model has a top speed of 131 kn (243 km/h) and burns 3 U.S. gallons (11 L; 2.5 imp gal) per hour less fuel than the standard 172.[28] As a result, the model has an 885 nmi (1,639 km) range, an increase of more than 38% over the standard 172.[29] This model is a development of the proposed and then cancelled Skyhawk TD.[30] Cessna has indicated that the JT-A will be made available in 2016.[31]

In reviewing this new model Paul Bertorelli of AVweb said: "I'm sure Cessna will find some sales for the Skyhawk JT-A, but at $420,000, it's hard to see how it will ignite much market expansion just because it's a Cessna. It gives away $170,000 to the near-new Redbird Redhawk conversion which is a lot of change to pay merely for the smell of a new airplane. Diesel engines cost more than twice as much to manufacture as gasoline engines do and although their fuel efficiency gains back some of that investment, if the complete aircraft package is too pricey, the debt service will eat up any savings, making a new aircraft not just unattractive, but unaffordable. I haven't run the numbers on the JT-A yet, but I can tell from previous analysis that there are definite limits."[30]

The model was certified by both EASA and the FAA in June 2017.[32] It was discontinued in May 2018, due to poor sales as a result of the aircraft's high price, which was twice the price of the same aircraft as a diesel conversion. The aircraft remains available as an STC conversion from Continental Motors, Inc.[33][34]

Electric-powered 172

In July 2010, Cessna announced it was developing an electrically powered 172 as a proof-of-concept in partnership with Bye Energy. In July 2011, Bye Energy, whose name had been changed to Beyond Aviation, announced the prototype had commenced taxi tests on 22 July 2011 and a first flight would follow soon.[35][36] In 2012, the prototype, using Panacis batteries, engaged in multiple successful test flights.[37] The R&D project was not pursued for production.

Canceled model


On October 4, 2007, Cessna announced its plan to build a diesel-powered model, to be designated the 172 Skyhawk TD ("Turbo Diesel") starting in mid-2008. The planned engine was to be a Thielert Centurion 2.0, liquid-cooled, two-liter displacement, dual overhead cam, four-cylinder, in-line, turbo-diesel with full authority digital engine control with an output of 155 hp (116 kW) and burning Jet-A fuel. In July 2013, the 172TD model was canceled due to Thielert's bankruptcy. The aircraft was later refined into the Turbo Skyhawk JT-A, which was certified in June 2014 and discontinued in May 2018.[3][28][38][39]

Simulator company Redbird Flight uses the same engine and reconditioned 172 airframes to produce a similar model, the Redbird Redhawk.[40][41]

Premier Aircraft Sales also announced in February 2014 that it would offer refurbished 172 airframes equipped with the Continental/Thielert Centurion 2.0 diesel engine.[42]

Military operators

A variant of the 172, the T-41 Mescalero was used as a trainer with the United States Air Force and Army. In addition, the United States Border Patrol uses a fleet of 172s for aerial surveillance along the Mexico-US border.

From 1972 to 2019 the Irish Air Corps used the Reims version for aerial surveillance and monitoring of cash, prisoner and explosive escorts, in addition to army cooperation and pilot training roles.[43]

Irish Air Corps Reims FR.172H Rocket

For T-41 operators, see Cessna T-41 Mescalero.

Iraqi Air Force Cessna 172 lands at Kirkuk Air Base
 Saudi Arabia

Accidents and incidents

Mathias Rust's Cessna F172P, used in his flight from Helsinki to Moscow, on display at the German Museum of Technology, Berlin

Specifications (172R)

3-view line drawing of the base model Cessna 172
3-view line drawing of the base model Cessna 172
3-view line drawing of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk
3-view line drawing of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk
Cessna 172R instrument panel

Data from Cessna[82][83]

General characteristics



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


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