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).|
As early as 1946, Cessna—wisely identifying the post-WWII private flying boom—was producing an economical two-seater with an 85 hp Continental, which zipped along at 90 mph and sold new for $3,500. Cessna was always ready with something bigger and better, and the 170 was born in 1948. It carried four full-sized adults and would hit 105 mph reliably; it sold new for $5,900. Today, a decent 140 is $14,000 and a sharp 170B can easily cost $40,000.
Can you say “macho rocket ship”? Introduced in 1953, the 180 carried four adults at good speeds (150 mph) and would land and takeoff literally anywhere you could imagine. Climb performance was phenomenal, and the airplane was a true workhorse. The 180’s big brother, the 185, was introduced in 1961 with a 260 hp engine and six seats; it had essentially the same airframe, just beefed-up. A 300 hp engine became standard in 1966. Production lasted until 1981 for the C-180 and 1985 for the 185. A new 180 was $13,000 in 1953; today, a nice 1953/1954 model brings $60,000. A new 185 in 1961 was $18,950. Today, don’t come to class without at least $95,000 in your pocket for a good-quality one.
This was a great concept that just didn’t work. The idea was to offer a faster 172, using the same engine but gearing it up to go faster and gearing the prop down to stay within its limits. The net result was an engine doing a lot more work than it was originally designed to do, and it showed in much higher maintenance costs and a lower TBO. The engine is so problematic that some shops won’t overhaul it because it’s so sensitive, making it difficult to accommodate the owner. Like the Ford Edsel, some owners swear by them, but most mechanics swear at them. Best to avoid this low-production Cessna model in favor of a 172 or 182. Today, stock 175s sell for about $22,000, and the retrofitted O-360 Lycoming engine models can bring between $38,000 and $40,000.