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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.


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 180

Cessna 180

Cessna 180

If the 172 (wait for it) was the epitome of modernizing a good product to make it a blockbuster, the upgrade of the 170 into the 180 is the ruggedizing of an existing product for a segment of the market that flies harder and hauls more. The 180 first flew in 1952 and was produced from 1953 all the way up until 1980, this despite the fact that its higher-powered stablemate, the 185, was all that and a lot more. In a way, the success of the 180 was one of two taildraggers that Cessna continued to produce in parallel with their tricycle-gear counterparts, the 182 and the 206, respectively, though the 206 was an outgrowth of the 205. The 180 and the 185 continue to be highly valued and heavily utilized aircraft in the bush. First flight: May 26, 1952. Number built: 6,193. Status: Out of production.

Flickr User Alan Wilson

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