Thursday, June 1, 2006
The Cessna G1000 Skyhawk
The best-selling airplane of all time gets more sophisticated
Since the demise of the Cessna 152 in 1986, the Skyhawk has emerged as perhaps the preeminent general aviation trainer on the market. It may be ideal for that role, because it’s one of the world’s most forgiving airplanes, but until recently, no one considered it a technologically sophisticated airplane.
That may, however, be an unfair assessment. Like lots of pilots, I’ve spent many hours in the left seats of a variety of 172s. The airplanes are, after all, virtually everywhere. In the past 50 years, Cessna assembled nearly 40,000 of them, making the 172 the most produced airplane in history, by far. (The Sturmovik, a Russian World War II fighter, comes in a feeble second place with 36,000 units produced.) It’s not surprising, therefore, that more general aviation pilots have flown Skyhawks than any other plane.
Though many marvel at the Skyhawk’s remarkable jack-of-all trades adaptability to a variety of missions, its extremely easy handling and its seemingly indestructible nature, it is these very qualities that cause the plane to be taken for granted. With the advent of the Diamond C1, Liberty XL2, Legend Cub and other entry-level two-seaters, the venerable Skyhawk has become economically disadvantaged in the trainer market.
The new wave of two-seaters, however, has not supplanted the population of Skyhawks utilized by countless flight schools across the nation. Its reputation as a reliable, versatile and modestly inexpensive trainer also makes it a popular rental and, occasionally, a check hauler or light-cargo machine.
Jessica Ambats, a features editor at Plane & Pilot, is currently training in an older Skyhawk. Jessica has logged most of her hours in older Skyhawks, but she spent an afternoon familiarizing herself with the new Skyhawk SP.
Tom’s Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif., recently loaned me a Garmin G1000-equipped Skyhawk SP fresh off the Independence, Kan., production line—I put Jessica in the left seat. How did the student pilot react to the sexy glass-paneled Skyhawk?
“From the outside, the basic design doesn’t look that different from my trainer,” said Jessica. “Obviously, this is a newer airplane with different paint, but there aren’t that many significant changes in appearance.
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