Cessna Skyhawk SP Model 172

Flight Notes - how to fly the Cessna 172 SP

This isn't the aviation equivalent of some cheap date you'll be taking out for one wild, adventurous weekend. The Cessna 172 is more like the love of your life—a steady, constant companion to fly with for a long time to come. A stable and trustworthy plane, most pilots have logged at least a few hours in a Cessna 172, since it's the most widely available aircraft in the rental fleet and is used by most flight schools. Since the first prototype was completed in 1955, more than 35,000 C172s have been produced, making it the world's most popular single-engine plane. One of Cessna's first tricycle-gear airplanes, the 172 quickly became the favorite of a growing class of business pilots. Its reliability and easy handling (along with thoughtful engineering and structural updates) have ensured its continued popularity for more than 35 years.

The differences between an original 1956 172 and today's version are many, but there are a few similarities. The wing has the same NACA 2412 airfoil that Cessna's been using since production of its 170, and the plane continues to use the same flat-plate ailerons that 172s and 152s have always been known for, making it a steady handler, if not exactly an exciting one.

Updates to the 172 have been carefully chosen and consistently well made. The 172 received its distinctive swept-back tail in 1960 and its helpful wraparound rear window in 1962. In 1964, Cessna began using a 150-horsepower Lycoming engine rather than the old six-cylinder, air-cooled Continental engines of the original 172s. With the SP comes a further engine update providing an even higher maximum takeoff weight. With its fuel-injected, 180-horsepower Textron-Lycoming IO-360, the SP has 20 horsepower more than even a 172R and a maximum takeoff weight of 2,550 pounds-250 pounds more than the 172R.

172s are famed for their stability. In the 1960s and '70s, Cessna vied for attention and respectability by attempting to build a hardworking airplane that could be easily flown by nearly anyone. With the 172, they undoubtedly succeeded. When properly trimmed, this airplane will fly itself for hours at a time, needing little to no physical guidance from the pilot. And like other Cessnas', 172s don't like stalling, either.

Cessna temporarily stopped manufacturing the 172 in 1986, when market forces and high product-liability premiums forced the company to implement serious cutbacks. Pilots around the world breathed a sigh of relief when, 10 years later, President Bill Clinton enacted the General Aviation Revitalization Act. Cessna celebrated the good news with the completion of a new plant in Independence, Kansas and immediately began production on a new version of the 172. If the new 172SP is any indication, things have only gotten better since then.


U.S. Metric
Maximum Speed 126 knots 234 km per hour
Cruise Speed 124 knots 230 km per hour
Engine Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A 180 bhp
Propeller Macauley Fixed Pitch Two Blade
Maximum Range 638 nm 1,183 km
Service Ceiling 14,000 feet 4,267 meters
Fuel Capacity 56 gallons 212 liters
Empty Weight 1,665 pounds 1,002 kilograms
Maximum Gross Weight 2,550 pounds 1,157 kilograms
Length 27 feet, 2 inches 8.2 meters
Wingspan 36 feet, 1 inches 11 meters
Height 8 feet, 11 inches 2.72 meters
Seating Up to 4