The Indefatigable Cessna 172

by Daniel Russ on September 7, 2017

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It is a trope in firearm lore to panegyrize the AK, though it has yet to fade. There is a story often told about the Kalashnikov Assault Rifle, or the AK-47 that is a tale of all things well made. You can bury it in the sand for 5 years, dig it up, shake it off, pull back the bolt and fire. Whether literally or figuratively true, it belies the gun, built tough. There are analogues to the AK in other fields of course. The Smokey Joe stamped metal charcoal grill. Costs $20, some assembly required, lasts a decade or longer depending on how much rain you expose it to.


In aircraft manufacturing, the Cessna 172 is that product. It was first produced in 1956. It is still in production. Same airframe, same aerodynamic design. This little high wing, fixed landing gear single engine plane has been produced in numbers around or under 45,000. It was an affordable, easy to fly, stable, good at hauling, good at observation, good as an avionics or optical or even a gun platform. This was and still is the everyman’s airplane.


In 1956 it was $8700


In 2017 it is $300,000


There are dozens of variants with hundreds of improvements nuanced to every era and every use. It has never been fast and flies between 122 knots and 163 knots maximum. It can fly about 2 and a half miles up and has a range of 700 nautical miles.


It also has a specific variant called the T-41 Mescalero which is used for pilot training, reconnaissance and I suppose some strike missions.


The Cessna 172. Still in production.









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