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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The all-leather seats can be equipped with Am Safe seat belts/ air bags.
“That’s an important advantage for new students having trouble keeping up with the airplane, especially during landing,” Herrera continues. “I’d love to have ropes on the nose of the airplane like the Goodyear Blimp, so a ground crew could help me land, but short of that, the Skyhawk has to be one of easiest machines to put back on the ground.”

Herrera feels that perhaps the most challenging aspect of the newer Skyhawk is the G1000 glass panel. “It’s a little overwhelming until you understand the logic, but the technology is impressive,” she says.

For short people such as Herrera, the Skyhawk’s tall panel presents a bit of a challenge, but at least both front seats are vertically adjustable in partial compensation. Cessna hasn’t changed the airplane’s internal dimensions much over the years. It’s relatively easy to climb aboard, and the AmSafe seat belts/air bags spring from the center to attach at the doors rather than the other way around. In other words, you’d best fasten the belts before closing the doors.

The cabin is 39.5 inches across by 48 inches high, so you’re better off being tall than wide. In fairness, the door panels are recessed at the armrest to accommodate elbows. The cabin does narrow in back, so those passengers relegated to the rear have good reason to be small of beam.

Once you’re properly perched in the left seat, the view is good, with plenty of Plexiglas in all the right places. The Skyhawk’s tricycle gear provides a fairly stable ride on the ground, with little need for brakes to steer the airplane.

Even with 180 hp out front, nothing happens too quickly when the left knob goes full forward, again more of a positive than a negative. The Skyhawk S boasts a reasonable 730 fpm climb at gross, so students, owners and renters alike can score reasonable climb from sea level most of the time. Similarly, the airplane is fairly adept at training from semi-high-altitude Mountain West locations such as Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake and Reno. Service ceiling is 14,000 feet. That means cruise can be as tall as 10,500 feet without an especially labored climb.

Max cruise performance comes at 8,000 feet, however. The NACA 2412 airfoil is optimized more for climb than cruise, but the airplane will still generate about 125 knots if the CG is full aft, vents are closed, prop and engine are working at optimum, conditions are otherwise willing and your biorhythms are all high.

cessnaSpecific fuel consumption is fairly immutable, and the Skyhawk’s durable IO-360 engine scores about 0.43 lbs./hp/hr. From that, it’s fairly easy to extrapolate fuel burn at 75% (135 hp), 65% (117 hp) and 55% power (99 hp). The pure numbers work out to 9.7 gph, 8.4 gph and 7.1 gph, respectively. If that’s too precise to remember, just think of burn as 10, 9 and 8 gph, respectively, and you’ll always be on the safe side.


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