Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2009 Cessna 172S: Skyhawk In Year 53


Forever young


cessnaIs it just me, or does the Cessna Skyhawk seem younger than 53? After all, take away the panel, paint and interior, and you might mistake a 2009 for a 1964 model if both airplanes were parked side by side on the ramp in bare aluminum livery. But while the current model’s configuration is physically very similar to that of the older models, the 2009 172S is a very different machine from that early version.
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cessnaAfter 30 years of writing about each subsequent Skyhawk, it might seem tough to find anything new to say. The truth is, however, love ’em or not, you have to admire their staying power. Cessna’s durable everyman’s single is an all-around good airplane. The Skyhawk is a little like the Toyota Camry (an American car, by the way, for the benefit of xenophobes). It has always been such a good design in so many ways that even its detractors have to acknowledge its strengths.

The simple fact remains that, even if an airplane isn’t outstanding in any one category, there are few San Andreas–level faults in general aviation designs. The Skyhawk may not be the fastest, the quickest climber, the best load lifter or even the cheapest, but it combines enough high marks to come out near the top in any competition. (My friend, Formula One driver Keke Rosberg, won the 1982 F1 racing championship despite having placed first only once in the series’ 20 races.)

2009 Skyhawk Enhancements
• Garmin Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT): optional
• AeroTect protective films: standard
• Improved yoke chart clip: standard
Fuel sampler stowage provisions: standard 1,125
• Pictorial passenger briefing cards: standard
• Precise Flight oxygen masks & regulators: turbo models
• Observer seat: optional
• Exterior styling: standard


cessnaSkyhawks have long been regarded as perhaps the premier entry-level family airplane, a reasonable 2+2 machine with reduced fuel and a forgiving two-seater in full fuel mode. Indeed, in addition to their use as rental leasebacks, Skyhawks remain among the most popular trainers in general aviation.

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The aircraft’s electric trim control is located on the yoke.
Like many of you, I’ve logged my share of hours in Skyhawks of various vintage, driving some across oceans and pedaling others on local hops when my airplane was in the shop. I may have a slightly different perspective than some pilots, however, as I’m fortunate to fly virtually all the competition each year. While that definitely doesn’t give me a corner on ultimate truth, it does impart a certain perspective on the relative merits of a given design.

Better still, the lady in my life is a low-time student pilot just starting off in aviation who also has had a chance to compare a number of airplanes. In less than a year, Peggy Herrera has flown about a dozen models, from all three new Cessnas (Skyhawk S, T-Skylane and T-206), a Piper Archer and Malibu to a Beech F33A Bonanza, a Mooney Executive, a Marchetti SF.260, the Goodyear Blimp and probably a few others I’ve forgotten.

“From a student pilot’s perspective,” says Herrera, “the Skyhawk is an extremely simple airplane to fly in almost every respect—almost. I’ve been lucky to train in an air-conditioned 2008 model with a G1000 flat-panel display. The Skyhawk couldn’t be more straightforward, and I certainly understand why it’s such a popular trainer. Control response is slow and gentle, the flaps are very effective and stall speed is so low that nothing needs to happen very fast in the pattern.



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