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.
For 2006, Garmin and Cessna have upgraded the Skyhawk’s G1000 to include a number of improvements, including a more sophisticated terrain awareness warning system (TAWS) and more universal traffic information.
Getting back to the Skyhawk, the budding pilot felt that in-flight handling was crisper and more positive than in her trainer. She also noticed the SP’s extra 20 horsepower. “There was no question that throttle response was slightly quicker and more enthusiastic,” she noted. “Climb seemed a little better, too.”
In fact, though there’s a slight climb improvement in the SP, the primary benefit of its additional horsepower is a higher gross weight that generates additional payload. Cruise and climb rate are only slightly better, and both the new and the old airplanes feature the same 53-gallon fuel capacity, but the Skyhawk SP’s 2,550-pound gross weight (100 pounds more than in the Skyhawk R) provides it with a 77-pound payload advantage. In theory, at least, a basic SP could fly away with nearly 900 pounds of useful load. If you need to haul a heavier load, the SP is the plane for you.
In cruise mode, the SP does its best work at 8,500 feet. Max cruise speed is 124 knots on about 10 gph, so the airplane has a realistic four-hour endurance plus reserve at 75%. Throttled back to 55% at 10,500 feet, you can expect about 106 knots on nearly 8 gph. That extends range to more than 600 nm.
Jessica felt that slow flight and landing characteristics were similar to that of the older Skyhawk model, but she was still impressed with the new airplane’s tighter controls and slightly quicker response. “Another nice feature is that the nosewheel tracks straight without any shimmy, which is a nagging problem on some of the older airplanes.”
Pricing for the SP version of Cessna’s most popular airplane starts at $180,00 for the basic machine, and if you pull out all the stops, you can easily top $260,000 for a Garmin G1000 version with air conditioning and every other option. If that seems steep for a Skyhawk, consider the talent of the machine it buys; full-on autopilot, TAWS-B terrain warnings, TIS traffic uplink with Mode S transponder, XM cockpit weather display. Name a feature you’d want in an airplane—the G1000 Skyhawk SP probably has it.
And so the Skyhawk soldiers on into its second half-century, a far better airplane than the original, but granted a level of electronic sophistication unheard of in 1956. Okay, so perhaps the Bonanza has been around slightly longer, though some could argue the current six-seat, 300 hp A-36 is a far cry from the original, four-place, 165 hp model 35.
Still, despite (or perhaps because of) the 172’s new avionics suite, the Skyhawk SP remains the gentle friend it has been for 50 years—always tolerant, patiently obedient and consistently eager to please.
SPECS: 2006 Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP
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