The company Clyde Cessna founded in 1927, Cessna Aircraft, has been selling planes for 93 years now, but almost all of its single-engine magic was conjured up during a period that started in the early 1950s and effectively ended around 1968. During those 20-some-odd years, the world’s biggest little airplane company created a lineup of classic planes that fit the needs of just about every imaginable personal airplane flyer and a lot of commercial operators, as well. And along the way, there were very few missteps, and even some of those were failures of great ideas.
With that, let’s take a look at how a great company redefined the world of personal air transportation.
Cessna 172 Skyhawk
That next big thing was the 172, which Cessna brought to market in 1956. The 172 wasn’t as big a deal as the 170 in terms of concept—it really was a 170 with a nose gear, at least at first—but the impact of that nose gear, which made landing a plane not only easier but also a lot more reliable, changed the market. And the 172 took over the market, becoming in essence the four-door sedan of the air. Over time, the plane evolved a great deal, even if it looks largely the same from 1961 on, and Cessna over the years continued to sell a lot of them, around 50,000 overall. It is, as you surely know, the most-produced aircraft in history. Today, new Skyhawks are sold almost exclusively as trainers, and they fetch a breathtaking price, too, though older ones are still changing hands for a lot less and are still being flown for all the great reasons they originally were. First flight: June 12, 1955. Number built: More than 44,000. Status: In production.