Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Skyhawk For Everyone

Cessna’s hit airplane keeps getting better with age

Skyhawks Make the News
If you had to describe the Cessna Skyhawk and its 55 years of history in one word, it would be "versatile." The airplane has been used as everything from a military trainer to a bush plane, with many roles in between. The airplane has even set world records.

Two pilots, Robert Timm and John Cook, took off from Las Vegas' McCarran Field on December 4, 1958, and landed 64 days, 22 hours and 19 minutes later, setting the world record for the longest flight without landing, which has stood since 1959. You read that right: over two months in the air without landing.

Timm, a former bomber pilot in World War II, and Cook, an aircraft mechanic and pilot, hatched the idea to raise money for cancer research. The Hacienda Hotel and Casino—where Timm worked as a slot machine mechanic—decided to get involved and provide some funding if the two painted the Hacienda's logo on the side of the Skyhawk. They did, and installed a 95-gallon fuel tank in the belly of the Cessna 172, along with removing the seats and installing special hoses and an oil filter in the cabin to allow them to change their oil during flight!

Once a day, the two pilots—flying in four-hour shifts—would descend along the runway at McCarran, lower a winch cable with a hook on the end and pull up a rubber hose from a truck carrying the fuel and driving beneath the Skyhawk at 75 mph. After filling the belly tank, they'd send the hook back down to pull up food and offload all the detritus of the previous hours.

The two flew a total of 150,000 miles in their otherwise stock 172, doing nothing more than
flying legs around the desert within a few hundred miles of their base. Timm, Cook and their trusty Skyhawk landed on February 7, 1959, and since then, nobody has even considered beating their record. Today, N9217B hangs from the ceiling above the baggage claim area at McCarran International Airport.

Meanwhile, Dennis Ozment of Quincy, Ill., owns the very first production 172 that rolled off the line back in '56: N5000A (s/n 28000). Ozment recently bought the vintage Cessna from Joe Nelson, who owned it for some 23 years, and is busy restoring both the interior and exterior to their period-correct, original condition. Ozment's plan is to have the full restoration done by this summer, just in time for Oshkosh. "I want it to be as original as possible," says Ozment. He adds that the veteran Cessna is still a regular flier with some 5,000 hours on the airframe. "I just flew it yesterday."

On the other side of the spectrum, "Beyond Aviation" (formerly BYE Energy) is using the
Skyhawk as a platform to develop their Electric Hybrid Propulsion System (EHPS). The company has developed the engine as a safer, more economical and "greener" alternative to the internal combustion engine. Beyond Aviation signed a joint agreement with Cessna to integrate the EHPS with the Skyhawk. The company will sell new 172s and will retrofit existing airplanes with the system.

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