Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

2005 Electronic Skyhawk

It’s here—the most popular airplane in the world now comes with a glass panel

When Garmin premiered its G1000 do-everything glass-panel avionics system in mid-2003, the package was perceived as an extremely talented collection of electronic wizardry obviously intended for high-end general-aviation aircraft. Glass panels have been available on airline and corporate aircraft for years, but the G1000 expanded the technology to general aviation. " />

If you were planning to fit any Skyhawk with a G1000, the C-172S would be the logical choice. Cessna currently produces two versions of the Hawk, the standard C-172R, fitted with a 160 hp version of the IO-360 Lycoming engine, and the C-172S, boasting the same mill turning 2,700 rpm to develop 180 hp and a slightly longer McCauley prop. Both engines incorporate fuel injection to even out fuel distribution between cylinders.

In addition to the extra 20 hp over the C-172R, the C-172S features a 77-pound payload improvement over the C-172R, a function of the 100-pound higher gross weight and only slightly increased empty weight. Payload represents the major benefit of the 172S over the 172R. There are a few other slight benefits, all related to the extra horsepower: two knots more cruise, a 10 fpm climb increase, a 500-foot improvement in service ceiling and better over-50-foot climb performance. On the downside, the 100-pound heavier and more powerful C-172S suffers predictably higher fuel burn, less range, a stall speed that’s one knot quicker and longer takeoff and landing ground runs.

Lest you mistake the new C-172 for your father’s Skyhawk, consider that only the basic structure and configuration are the same on the 2005 version. When Cessna reintroduced the Skyhawk in 1997, the company knew it already had a winning formula, so there was little reason to mess with success. (Indeed, at the peak of production in 1976, the Strother, Kan., facility was producing nearly one Skyhawk per working hour, 40 a week, 2,000 per year. Since the beginning of production in 1956,
Cessna had produced some 40,000 Skyhawks.)

Cessna knew the difference on the new C-172s would be in the details, and accordingly, the modern generation of Skyhawks merely refine the old airplane to a finer edge. In addition to offering the most sophisticated avionics package you can buy in a light aircraft, the newest Skyhawk SP incorporates a standard, all-leather interior, 26 G seats, the aforementioned, seat-belt-mounted AmSafe air bags, high-intensity xenon landing lights and Rosen sun visors.

The new model’s cabin maintains the same 39.5-inch cabin cross-section, barely large enough to accommodate two average-sized humans, but somehow, the luxurious leather interior makes it seem larger and more sumptuous. Cabin ventilation has been updated from the old wing leading edge sliding cans to airline-style WEMACs, and the heater even seems to put out more BTUs than before.


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