Cessna 172 #N5537R
Measured by its longevity and popularity, the Cessna 172 is the most successful mass-produced light aircraft in history. The first production models were delivered in 1956. As of 2008, more than 43,000 had been built. The Skyhawk's main competitors have been the Beechcraft Musketeer and Grumman AA-5 series (neither in production), the Piper Cherokee and, more recently, the Diamond DA40.
The Cessna 172 started life as a tricycle landing gear variant of the taildragger Cessna 170, with a basic level of standard equipment. In January 1955 the company had flown an improved variant of the Cessna 170, a Continental O-300-A powered Cessna 170C with a larger elevator and more angular vertical tail. Although the variant was tested and certified, Cessna decided to modify it with a tricycle landing gear and the modified Cessna 170C flew again on 12 June 1955. To reduce the time and cost of certification the type was added on to the Cessna 170 type certificate as the Model 172. Later the 172 was given its own type certificate 3A12. The 172 became an overnight sales success and over 1,400 were built in 1956, its first full year of production.
Early 172s were similar in appearance to the 170, with the same straight aft fuselage and tall gear legs, although the 172 had a straight vertical tail while the 170 had a rounded fin and rudder. Later 172 versions incorporated revised landing gear and the sweptback tail which is still in use today. The final aesthetic development in the mid-1960s, was a lowered rear deck that allowed an aft window. Cessna advertised this added rear visibility as "Omni-Vision". This airframe configuration has remained almost unchanged since then, except for updates in avionics and engines, including the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit in 2005. Production had been halted in the mid-1980s, but was resumed in 1996 with the 160 hp (120 kW) Cessna 172R Skyhawk and was supplemented in 1998 by the 180 hp (135 kW) Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP.
The Cessna 172 may be modified via a wide array of Supplemental Type Certificates, including increased engine power and higher gross weights. Available STC engine modifications increase power to 180 to 210 hp (134 to 157 kW), add constant speed propellers, or allow the use of automobile gasoline. Other modifications include additional fuel tank capacity in the wing tips, add baggage compartment tanks, add wheel pants to reduce drag, or enhance landing and takeoff performance and safety with a STOL kit.
 Operational history
The record-setting 1958-built Cessna 172
On December 4, 1958 Robert Timm and John Cook took off from McCarran Airfield, Las Vegas, NV in N9172B. Sixty-four days, 22 hours, 19 minutes and 5 seconds later, they landed back at McCarran Airfield on February 4, 1959. The flight was part of a fund raising effort for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund. Food and water were transferred by matching speeds with a chase car on a straight stretch of road in the desert, and hoisting the supplies aboard with a rope and bucket. Fuel was taken on by hoisting a hose from a fuel truck up to the aircraft, filling an auxiliary belly tank installed for the flight, pumping that fuel into the aircraft's regular tanks, and then filling the belly tank again. The drivers steered while a second person matched speeds with the aircraft with his foot on the vehicle's accelerator pedal.
Engine oil was added by means of a tube from the cabin that was fitted to pass through the firewall. Only the pilot's seat was installed. The remaining space was used for a pad on which the relief pilot slept. The right cabin door was replaced with an easy-opening, accordion-type door to allow supplies and fuel to be hoisted aboard. Early in the flight, the engine driven electric generator failed. A Champion wind driven generator (turned by a small propeller) was hoisted aboard, taped to the wing support strut, plugged into the cigarette lighter socket—and served as the aircraft's source of electricity for the rest of the flight. The pilots decided to end the marathon-flight because, with 1558 hours continuous running during the record-setting flight plus several hundred hours already on the engine beforehand (considerably in excess of its normal overhaul interval), the engine's power output had deteriorated to the point that they were barely able to climb away after refueling. The aircraft is on display in the passenger terminal at McCarran International Airport. Photos and details of the record flight can be seen in a small museum on the upper level of the baggage claim area.