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And Then This Happened Aviation Breakthroughs/Oddities/Milestones: Cessna Single-Engine Evolution: 30 Years Of Magic

The progress of technology, materials and propulsion is only a small part of how over three decades Cessna evolved the concept of the small single-engine plane into a lineup of a dozen all-time classics.

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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

Cessna 172 Skyhawk
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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.

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