Friday, February 1, 2008
The Cessna Buyer's Guide
Which one is right for you?
During the private flying boom in the early ’50s, America fell in love with Cessna Aircraft Company’s high-wing singles. By the mid-’70s, Cessna had built more single-engine airplanes than any other manufacturer (100,000 by 1978). In the late ’70s, production peaked for all new airplanes, including Cessna singles, and then sharply tapered off (the production line was actually dormant from 1987 to 1996). Thankfully, Cessna restored piston-engine production in 1997; the first models to return were the ever-popular 172 and 182. Sporty’s Pilot Shop gave away one of the first new Cessna 172s as its 1997 Grand Sweepstakes Prize. Response to the new 172 was so positive that Cessna dealers quickly sold out of their allotments.
Cessna delivered approximately 360 new 172s and 182s in 1997. The “new” Cessnas offered significant improvements over the older models, but retained the ease of flying qualities that had made them favorites for 40 years.
How To Decide
New Cessna models offer such a variety in terms of performance that they fit the skill levels and flying needs of most GA pilots. These Cessnas are simple enough to fly that a qualified student pilot should be safe and comfortable. Acquisition costs, operating costs and capabilities, however, will differ. Examine your specific flying requirements and then match them to an appropriate Cessna model.
The Cessna 172
Hands down, the 172 has introduced more people to personal and business flying than any other airplane. The 172 began life in 1956 and, today, there are more than 25,000 still flying. The new-generation 172 was introduced in 1997 as the 172R. It came with a 160 hp Lycoming IO-360 engine and was designed for pilots already possessing or working toward an instrument rating. The 172R offered an impressive lineup of the latest King/Honeywell IFR avionics and a KLN-89B GPS (with moving map) as standard. A King KAP-140 autopilot was optional.
To stay competitive with the Piper Archer III, Cessna offered the upgraded 172SP, which came with a 180 hp Lycoming engine, in 1998. The 172SP quickly became the most popular model; the 172R is still available on special order, but at least 90% of all new 172s sold are the 180 hp “SP” model.
With the exception of the optional 180 hp engine and an optional King HSI, there were very little changes to the 172 between 1997 and 2004. In that year, Cessna introduced its first piston, glass-cockpit airplanes, the 172SP and the 182T. The simple, easy-to-fly, economical four-seater that introduced thousands to flying was now better-equipped than many commercial airliners. The Garmin G1000 came standard in all 2004 and newer 172SPs.
The 172R and 172SP cruise at approximately the same speed (110 knots on 9 gph), though climb performance is noticeably improved on the 172SP. A 2008 C-172SP costs about $255,000, depending on final options; a used glass-cockpit (2004 to 2007) 172SP will run about $180,000; and a good-condition 2000 C-172SP with low hours and little if any student-training history will cost about $120,000. The early 172Rs (1997 and 1998) with mid-time engines sell for about $85,000.
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