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. " />

Flying characteristics and performance haven’t changed much since the rebirth of the model in 1997. Under normal conditions, climb from sea level rarely will exceed 700 fpm, and service ceiling is limited to 14,000 feet, so don’t plan on topping the Rockies in the summer or staging out of Leadville, Colo. The airplane will handle most reasonable density altitude situations, however.

Level at 8,000 to 8,500 feet, the C-172S is allegedly capable of 124 knots under optimum conditions, but 120 knots is a more attainable everyday cruise. Most Skyhawk owners I know flight-plan their long trips at a block 110 knots in no-wind conditions and usually come close to their ETAs. With a maximum 53 gallons aboard and a burn of 10 gph, the Skyhawk can linger aloft for an easy four hours plus reserve, worth nearly 500 nm between bathroom stops.

A Skyhawk is appropriately among the most docile airplanes in the sky, simple to handle during transitions to and from the ground, possessed of gentle stall characteristics and generally reluctant to get mad at you. For that reason, the C-172 remains one of the most popular airplanes for primary flight training, despite the recent entry of several new trainers to the market.

The Skyhawk’s preeminence as a trainer probably is appropriate, considering the model’s incredibly passive nature during the two most challenging phases of flight, takeoff and landing. The low stall speed means it’s possible to lift off as slow as 55 knots and land at a similarly moderate pace. With 180 hp out front and 2,550 pounds to lift, the Skyhawk isn’t exactly a short-field specialist, but it will leap off in less than 1,000 feet and land in a little over half that.

In the old days, Cessna used to call the big flaps Para-Lift, an apparent reference to parachute-like landing qualities. That may have been a slight exaggeration, but there’s little question the Skyhawk returns to Earth with an ease and simplicity unmatched by most other aircraft short of a Robinson or Sikorsky. Judging the wing’s payoff, velocity isn’t much of a challenge if you’re merely awake. The airplane’s sprung steel gear is forgiving to a fault, making the actual touchdown almost too easy,
if that’s possible.

If there’s one cardinal sin in landing a Skyhawk, it may be too much speed. While approaching with too little speed isn’t a good idea, a blast of power from the 180 hp engine usually can salvage a slow approach. The big 174-square-foot wing eases the airplane down to the runway with style, provided you keep the speed at or below 70 knots. Fly approaches much faster than 75 knots, and you’ll float well into the next county.

And so, once again, the Skyhawk endures and prevails almost a half-century after its introduction. If the design seems antiquated in contrast to Cirrus, Lancair and Diamond offerings, Cessna’s airplanes continue to sell as well or better than the newer models. At Cessna, the glass remains more than half full.

For more information, contact Cessna Aircraft Company at (800) 4-CESSNA or log on to www.cessna.com.

SPECS: 2005 Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP



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