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June 1, 2006
To help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Cessna 172, AOPA Pilot has asked members for their memories and experiences flying the venerable 172. Below begins the compilation of the many stories and photos that were received. We will be adding more stories, so please check back regularly — your story could be one of them.
I have had a long love affair with the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. It all started in 1980 at the age of 20. I was dating a girl whose dad had just purchased a 1962 Skyhawk. He gave me a ride, let me fly and I was hooked! I married that girl in 1988 and became a guy with an airplane in the family!
Finally, in 1998 my goals were realized and I was hired at a major airline. In 2000, my father-in-law lost his medical and thought it was time to let someone else take care of N8327X. I had always said to him "If you ever want to sell her, let me have first chance and I'll find a way to make it work." So I soon became the proud third owner of the first airplane I ever flew, N8327X.
27X still has its original paint and interior. I can count the times it has not been hangared overnight during the last 25 years on one hand. The airframe and her steady Continental O-300 has barely 1,500 hours since new in 1962.
The airworthiness certificate has the date 10-24-1961 typed on it, which is also the day that my wife Kathy was born. Needless to say this airplane will be in the family for years to come.
It was a smooth crisp October morning when I planned to complete my commercial cross-country requirement. Flying the C-172 had been my escape on many weekends from the daily chores of my advertising career and this day was going to prove to be one of the best. My wife who, doesn't fly with me very much, attended that day with the lure of seeing a balloon festival.
The first leg of the trip took us from the Denver area southward. I could see toward Pikes Peak over 60 miles away in clear view to the south. As we got closer to this magnificent mountain, flight following kept us away from the Air Force Academy's runway activities as well as some other sensitive areas. They advised us to head directly over Colorado Springs Airport then south on V19 to Pueblo VOR and on to ABQ. The ride was perfect and a typical day in the high country. The flight south of Pueblo was free of traffic except for the high altitude airliners passing overhead and the occasional military hardware hugging the surface well below our 2-mile high cruising altitude.
We arrived at ABQ in time to see the many colored hot air balloons ascending into the sky and an unexpected treat. After parking the airplane and getting topped off the attendant asked if we had to leave or are we going to stay for the show. What show? He said the Blue Angles were doing their act in about an hour. We stayed obviously to watch. What a treat the C-172 provided us that day. The privilege to fly places I'd never seen before, and to get a chance to see the Blue Angles fly, not to mention seeing the balloon festival with its color and grandeur.
I had the great pleasure of having a flying club with a 1959 Cessna 172 at the boarding high school that I attended. I was able to get my private ticket. This was back in days of less regulation. I needed to fly two hundred hours for my commercial license. I was told to just take the airplane on a long cross-country. So after graduation I flew from Michigan to Niagra Falls then on to Orlando, Florida, and back to Michigan. Soon after that and before going on to college I qualified and passed the commercial requirements. All in this trusty C-172.
In January of 1976 I bought my first airplane, a 1961 C-172. I had about 80 hours all of which were in Piper Cherokees. I flew my first approach in the C-172 as if I was flying a Cherokee. The instructor had a good laugh while I did a go around.
One of my most memorable flights in that aircraft was from Bermuda Dunes in Palm Springs to my home base in Chico, California. My wife and two young boys were blissfully asleep. I on the other hand was not so blissful, flying over the Mojave dessert and losing altitude because of down drafts. I was preparing to head to Fox Field in Lancaster, California, to sit out the winds, when I remembered a lesson learned during flight training. My instructor and I were flying out of a small strip in the mountains of Northern California. It was a hot windy day, and we were unable to climb. There was no safe way to return to the small canyon airstrip. My instructor calmly told me to hug the mountain and catch an updraft. In no time we were out of the canyon and safely on our way. I put that experience to work over the Mojave dessert. I called to get the current winds, flew to the eastern side of the San Gabriels, and found a 1,000-ft updraft, circled, and went from 7,000 to 10,500, and headed to our planned fuel stop in Paso Robles.
Later that same year flying at night that the oil pressure fell to zero, temps were OK, so I throttled back to idle so as not to alarm my lovely wife. Fortunately I was taught to keep extra altitude at night, and thanks to the excellent glide range of the C-172 I safely made the airport. It seems the starter had not fully disengaged and had sent metal fillings throughout the engine, one of which fouled the oil pressure sensor.
I have flown gliders to twins and am now flying a 182, but it is almost impossible to beat the simple joy of flying a 172!
It was my first-time rental of this particular C-172, so I was determined to do a careful preflight. As I put my flight bag in the back seat, I noticed a box of Band-Aids on the floor. Strange, why would someone leave those behind? Then as I examined the leading edge of the left wing, I noticed a Band-Aid on the wing itself. Well, I had spares, so let's see what's under it. I found a pinhole, apparently the result of a lightning strike. I put a new Band-Aid over the hole and the flight went exactly as planned. I've always wondered how much lower my airspeed would have been without the Band-Aid.
My dad flew N734QD for close to two decades, beginning long before I was born. As soon as I could sit up I was my dad's co-pilot; I could pick out a Lycoming engine droning overhead before I could speak, and I could peer through a fuel strainer before I could reach the wings to draw a sample.
We flew all over Southern California in Quebec-Delta, from Big Bear to Bullhead. I remember watching cars become toys and people turn into ants, comparing houses to my fingernails and wondering what I'd do with a toy collection the size of a city. I remember pushing with all my strength on the huge hangar doors at Rialto Municipal, hearing the boom, boom, BOOM as they telescoped open and we pulled the airplane into the sunlight. I remember being twelve, already dreaming ahead to my first car, and wondering how much a vanity license plate would cost: I didn't even care what kind of car it was, I just wanted its back end to read N734QD.
Dad eventually sold Quebec-Delta, and as the years progressed, he wasn't able to renew his medical. He hadn't flown in five years by the time I convinced Mom to bring him out to Rialto, its cross runway now choked with weeds and its hangars rusting in the sun. On that bright Sunday a few months before he passed away, I landed my own Lycoming-powered steed and took him up for one last flight.
One of the first years produced, this is my 1956 Cessna 172 (straight tail), N5862A. In the past year together, we have flown close to 200 trouble-free joy-riding hours. Talk about a joy ride: This bird is a real joy to fly! It flies hands off, burns on average 6.5 to 7 gph, and it is one of the nicest flying airplanes that I've flown. With the STOL kit and the 40 degrees of flaps, we can put in on the shortest runways. The extended-range 18-gallon tank can keep us up in the air close to seven hours with reserves, if need be. I always look forward to my next joy ride in N5862A. If it's a nice day, I feel obligated to fly it; doesn't take much of an excuse to take it up for me.
For the past 12 years, I have been flying my Cessna Skyhawk, the same airplane featured in the May 1992 issue of AOPA Pilot, doing a survey of the bald eagle population in the state of Virginia with Dr.'s Mitchell Byrd and Bryan Watts of the Center for Conservation Biology located at The College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia.
The survey is accomplished by flying over the eagles' nests at low altitude and counting the number of chicks or eggs in the nests. During this survey the bald eagle population has been observed as coming from near extinction to currently over 300 active nesting pairs. Please contact me for additional information.
Tel: (804) 746-5687 Cell: (804) 301-7411 Email: [email protected]
[ See " Workhawk: Not all 172s earn their livings at flight schools" (May 1992 Pilot).]
I had to go back and review an old logbook to refresh my memory of this experience. I had a whopping 25 hours of time under my wings when I first soloed in a Cessna 172 (N172FT). It wasn't my first solo as up to that point I had done my primary instruction and first solo in a Cessna 152. However, I was nearing the time when one embarks on cross-country flying and my instructor, David Briody, felt it was a good idea to have a little extra room for those flights, not to mention horsepower. After all, Jeffco Airport (BJC) in Denver, Colorado, is located at 5,670 msl.
After spending all of my time in a 152, the Skyhawk seemed huge when I first settled in. The panel could fit two of everything, and it had the "big airplane" feel due to having to look up to the top of the windshield to view the compass. I won't even go into all that shoulder- and leg- room. But I will say that I did notice that David didn't have to sit at a 45-degree angle in his seat during our first local flight. Now I knew what he meant by "a little extra room."
It was during my second flight, when we were doing touch and goes, when David said that the next one would be a full stop. I knew that he was going to bail out at the FBO and send me on my way, while he listened on the radio that was at the school's front desk. I complied, dropped him off, and set off for my first solo in a Cessna 172. Two touch and goes and one full stop later was when the excitement began. I had just touched down, and Jeffco Tower requested that I make the first right turnoff to help facilitate other landing aircraft behind me. I would have been able to do so, but as I touched the brakes, the right brake had absolutely no grab. The left one was fine, and, of course, the aircraft started to veer off to the left. I let go and coasted down the runway at around 50 knot.
Completely ignoring the Tower's requests and not really sure what I should do, I started to apply the brakes together hoping that the right one would eventually come alive. With each press of the brakes, I slowed down a small bit before that Skyhawk would head left. I would let up and put in right rudder to correct. This occurred several times, and so did the calls from the Tower asking my intentions since I had ignored their last two requests. I am certain that everyone watching on the ground must have thought that I couldn't decide if I should go right or left, since I saw each side of the runway several times. Finally, I had slowed down enough that I knew I could simply coast to a stop by the time the runway ended.
Eventually, I keyed the mic and told the Tower that I was unable to turn right due to the brake being INOP. The controller responded very calmly and quickly (like this happens all the time) that he would provide progressive taxiing instructions with all turns to the left.
I eventually returned to my starting point with my instructor standing there with a big grin on his face. He told me that I handled the situation well and said that this was likely the first of many simple situations that are likely to occur. He has been right. Every problem that I have had in a 172 has been just that: simple and of no major consequence. Even the time that I lost the only alternator on a night IFR flight, that big little Skyhawk got me home just fine. The aircraft is so simple and so forgiving yet so capable that it is not a surprise that the design has outlasted time.
As an F-16 test pilot in the Air Force, I loved flying alone. Now that I have children, sharing my love of flying is made possible by airplanes like the Cessna 172. Recently, I brought my daughter Emily up to see her favorite places from the air.
I fly pipeline patrol in various Cessna 172s, owned by my employer, about 25 to 30 hours each week. They are mostly M models. These aircraft are all high time, 8,000 to 16,000 hours, but they are meticulously maintained. I very seldom miss any routes for mechanical problems. All components — engine, magnetos, carb, plugs, etc. — are changed out at predetermined intervals. The patrols are performed under FAR Part 91 with a waiver for low-level flight. The pipelines run through the countryside, populated urban areas, refineries, tank farms, industrial areas, and across some very busy airports in Class B airspace.
The 172 is perfect for this mission. It works well in low-level turbulence, and handles all but the very worst crosswinds. I usually fly three-hour legs, but with full fuel I can stretch it to 3.5 and still have legal reserves. It easily handles one or two observers when required, and these are usually not small people.
Two years ago, the little Lycoming engine ate a valve-guide and the oil pressure went to zero in less than three minutes. Thanks to that high wing and great glide, I was able to put it into a pasture (not many of those in East Texas — lots of trees). We took the wings off and put it on a trailer back to the maintenance base. After a replacement engine and a new wing tip (clipped a tree branch), I had it back and on patrol.
My personal airplane is a Cessna T-210L, but I spend a lot more time in my employer's 172s. I love the speed and comfort of the 210, but for my daily mission the 172 is perfect.
In the spring of 1973, I was just out of the Air Force with the ink still damp on my CFI ticket. I had taken a job as flight instructor at Strawberry Hill, a small airport in Advance, North Carolina, just west of Winston-Salem. (Alas, Strawberry Hill no longer exists.) I had been there perhaps two weeks when the receptionist scheduled me for a Cessna 172 checkout with someone named "Kohlweiss." I looked at the schedule that morning and said, "What's a Kohlweiss?" The receptionist told me it was "some woman who wants a 'Hawk checkout."
At the appropriate time, the "some woman" appeared. She was about my age and very pleasant looking. We exchanged introductions and I asked about her flying experience. Her name was Lily, and she said she'd gotten her private pilot license about two years previously in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and had been flying there. She was now working in Winston-Salem and living in Advance, close to the airport. She wanted to rent our airplanes. So I handed her the time book and the keys and said she should go pre-flight the airplane. I watched from the office.
When she was almost done, I walked out and slipped into the right seat. I'd fastened my seat belt just as she was climbing in. She sat down and realized that the seat needed adjustment. As I sat there, watching this drama out of the corner of my eye, she stood up, turned completely around, bent over, and bumped into the instrument panel. In this position, she proceeded to adjust the two cranks to reposition the tilt and height of the seat. I had never seen anybody stand up and turn around to adjust the seat. I made no comment, but I was melting inside with laughter.
She flew the airplane well, and after a couple of landings, I got out and told her to enjoy herself.
I was still amazed by her ability to maneuver in such tight surroundings.
Two years later, Lily and I were married. We've been soul mates and airplane owners ever since. We've shared ownership of a Cessna 172 (not the same one whose seat she so masterfully adjusted) and a pressurized Cessna 210. The P210 is our steed to this day. The only thing different is that Lily now uses a more conventional technique for adjusting the seat.
Like many other Cessna products, the Cessna 172 was a veteran of military service. Designated T-41 by the military, the 172 was the "Rodney Dangerfield" of military trainers. Lacking the size and bulk of Stearmans, T-28s, and other trainers, the T-41 played a quiet and important role in the 1960s and '70s as the first military flight experience for a generation of Air Force pilots.
Operated by civilian instructors at civil airports near each of the Air Force's major training bases, the T-41 served as a transition and introduction to military flight instruction. It all helped identify those unlikely to be successful in the more demanding jet trainers. A few hours in the T-41 determined who would go on to pilot F-4 Phantoms, F-105s, C-130s and other front line aircraft, and who would head off to navigator training or other AF specialties. Long retired from active service, many of these aircraft continue to serve in Air Force Aero Clubs.
I am happy to say that I just received my private pilot license on January 25, 2006. I would have to say my best moment so far in a Cessna 172 was my cross-country night flight on August 17, 2005, with my instructor. It was a non-eventful flight from Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling, Illinois, to Dekalb, Illinois, then to Kankakee, Illinois, back to DuPage, Illinois, and finally heading back toward Palwaukee.
On our way back to Palwaukee, my flight instructor asked if I wanted to try to get a landing in at Chicago O'Hare. O'Hare is about 7 nm south of Palwaukee. It was about 1 a.m. and we figured the workload for the controllers might be such that they would allow us to enter Class B airspace, land, and take off again. Sure enough we were cleared into Class B airspace and given vectors to Runway 14R. For those unfamiliar with O'Hare, Runway 14R is a 13,000-by-200-feet runway. We landed successfully and were told to turn around on the runway at about Taxiway Tango 7. The controller said that we had about 6,500 feet of runway left and asked if that would be enough room for us to take back off and depart to the north. We laughed and said that it should do for our Cessna 172. We were then cleared for takeoff on Runway 32L. As we took off from Runway 32L it was such an amazing feeling to have taken off from one of the busiest airports in the world — on one of the longest runways. It was certainly an amazing view and an experience I will never forget!
I have many memories from flying the Cessna 172 since it is in this type that I have logged most of my time. However, my first flight is probably my most memorable one and not for the usual reasons.
After spending my life looking up at the sky and wondering what it would be like to pilot my own airplane, I took the plunge at the ripe old age of 44 and walked into the local FBO and asked, "Can anyone here teach me how to fly?" A young man, a couple of years younger than my oldest son, stood up and introduced himself, and after a couple of preliminaries, we walked out to an airplane. He showed me preflight procedures and explained the instruments and controls. Then we saddled up and prepared for my first takeoff. I am sure that he was helping me more than I could tell, but it was me who gently pulled back on the yoke and as the ground dropped away felt that thrill of the first takeoff. All of us who are fortunate enough to have done this remember that thrill. Mine however was a bit more thrilling than most. At about 500' agl, I noticed smoke coming out from under the panel. Being somewhat mechanically inclined, I presumed that this was not normal. I pointed this out to my young instructor who immediately upped my anxiety level by shouting, "oooohhhh s..." out loud.
He reached across my body and turned off the master switch, put the airplane in a steep turn to the left, and told me not to open the windows even though the cabin was filling with smoke. A quick downwind, the master back on briefly to lower the flaps and alert everyone in the pattern (the smoke started again as soon as the switch came on), and a very tight base turn, followed by a "carrier landing" got us back on the ground. We taxied to maintenance where a guy in old coveralls sniffed around and decided we had a shorted-out transponder. "You won't need this if you stay in the pattern," he said as he pulled it out of the panel. My instructor asked if I wanted to try it again. Knees still shaking, I got back in and fired up the engine. This time the smoke started on the rollout before we left the ground, and I got my first taste of an aborted take off. It turns out the problem was a chaffed wire behind the panel.
"How was your lesson?" my wife asked when I walked in the house. "Boy, I sure learned a lot," was my reply. I went ahead with lessons and finished in nine months with the same instructor, but none of our lessons were ever as exciting as the first one.
Sometime during the summer of 1985, my oldest brother Marcus found a Cessna 172 that would fit into our monetary guidelines. Way inside our guidelines; which had me curious to say the least. Having grown up with three older brothers, and being fifteen years younger than Marc, I was used to trusting his judgment on matters having to do with anything mechanical. He was one of the first football heroes of Evans High and in my mind a local hero. So without a doubt, he'd stumbled across a real deal on this 1957 Cessna 172.
On a Saturday morning, instead of going to the Augusta Airport, he took me to a grass field out in the middle of nowhere and told me this was the Pea Patch. It looked like a cow field to me, as I really didn't know much about airports, or airfields, at that time. He'd made a life's study of aircraft and aircraft history, which defined him as an airplane nut. When I came face to prop with N8175B for the first time, all I could say was "you've got to be out of your mind!" He started telling me all about how low-time the engine was, and that it was in a lot better shape than it looked. All I could see was the faded pine-stained Plexiglas and the flaking paint — or lack thereof. He was pretty upset about my attitude, and he insisted on taking me to talk to Mr. Aldine Patton, the local expert on aircraft according to Marc. After talking to him for a while, I decided there might be more than I thought to the old airplane, so we bought it from the guy who owned it.
To me, it still looked pretty sad; deflated front strut, needing new Plexiglas, not sure about anything in the panel, and the paint was really bad. Over a period of a couple of months, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons were devoted to stripping the airframe. During this time, we replaced the main Plexiglas, with the local on-field A&P watching everything we did. N8175B suddenly started to look more like an airplane than a pile of scrap metal, and we were ready for an annual. Already this old 172 was teaching me new terms and giving me new acquaintances.
I got my ticket — and Marc his — in N8175B. As soon as we got our ticket, we started really enjoying the freedom of owning our own airplane. Marc was a radios-and-navigation-type-of-guy, so I let him do all the frequency changes and transponder operations. This worked well for us, and all the while we got to see new places, and meet new people.
All of these people and things I've come to know are because of an old neglected airplane that I first got sight of parked under the pines. I just recently upgraded N8175B once again, to include new paint, interior, full Horton Kit, and a new panel. Twenty years of taking me to new places and meeting new people: I hope to have twenty more with an airplane that I once thought needed to be parted out.
Memories are made of this: It was a beautiful fall evening (October 26, 1973) in Lansing, Michigan, when I checked out the Cessna 172 Skyhawk (N35711) to fly myself and two friends to Grand Rapids to meet another friend for perhaps the most expensive dinner I've ever had. I had gotten my private ticket less than a month before (September 30, 1973), signed off by R. K. Maule, who conducted my check ride.
As a journalism instructor at Michigan State University, I had spent the previous eight months in ground school and flight training with the university's flying club, the Winged Spartans. My instructor, Phil Clark, a 19-year-old business major, had taught me well; I passed the written test and checkride the first time around, and I could hardly wait to share my recently acquired expertise with good friends.
The two who joined me on the flight were former students, who had never flown in a small airplane before. They knew about my extensive training and trusted me completely. So, off we went into the wild, blue yonder, arriving shortly in Grand Rapids, where we met a third friend for dinner at the airport restaurant. (Dinner was relatively inexpensive; it was the airplane rental and cost of fuel that drove the price up, not to mention the time and money spent securing my pilot's license.)
Afterwards, my two friends and I piled back into the Skyhawk — after my walk-around and checking the fuel, which would be topped off upon our return to Lansing — for the flight back to the State Capital. The entire event took less than two hours, yet I shall never forget the thrill of flying that 172 as twilight turned into night and the lights of the cities along the way showed us our way home.
Both legs were uneventful, but I'll wager the two friends who flew with me that night have never forgotten it, either. One of them, in fact, went on to get her pilot's license.
I have been a pilot for almost six years. I don't have a lot of time as pilot-in-command — just over 100 hours in fact. I was trained in the Cessna 172 and, in the 172, I have about 75% of my hours. After training in the 172, I thought the airplane was boring and had dreams of how much cooler it would be to fly a low-wing aircraft. I managed to get into a club just after my check ride. They had a Piper P-28 Warrior. I had a lot of fun flying that aircraft. I actually eventually learned to fly a Cessna 182 high-performance airplane with constant speed propeller and a 210-hp engine. But I started to lose interest in flying. I never thought that would happen!
About a month ago, I went up with a friend of mine in a Cherokee Six, and it rekindled my interest to get back up in the air. So, I went to a local FBO and received a checkout in the 172, returning to my roots. My instructor pushed me a lot. I was surprised and ecstatic to see how much fun it was to be back in the left seat. My instructor was surprised I had as little hours as I had. The 172 felt like home for me. Now, the airplane I thought was so boring earlier has become one of the greats airplanes to fly this whole time I have been a pilot. I want to eventually learn to fly other aircraft again. But I will never stop flying the 172!
I know this isn't much of an old memory. But I certainly love flying the Cessna 172 now!
I was a career surface officer in the United States Navy, which meant that there were long stretches at sea without the opportunity to pursue my passion of flying airplanes, especially so during deployments overseas. I had belonged to military flying clubs in the United States, but I did not realize until the1970s that these flying clubs existed in places like the Philippine Islands. After the excitement of Vietnam died down, life returned to a semblance of normality for the Navy in the Western Pacific. It was then that I discovered that there was a Navy Flying Club at the Cubi Point Naval Air Station located in Subic Bay, Philippine Islands.
On December 4, 1976, my logbook records that I checked out in one of the flying club's Skyhawks, with a United States' registration number, N8841U. The remarks section says the checkout included area familiarization and a required flight into the gigantic Clark Air Force Base on the central plain of Luzon, near the city of Angeles, and five miles east of the volcano, Mount Pinatubo. The flight lasted an hour and a half. After the check out I flew 41U and the other aero club's Skyhawk, N7990G in December 1975 and January 1976, for about ten hours.
The flights were all round robins from NAS Cubi Point to places with exotic sounding names. Although the northeast Monsoons produce horrible weather north and east of Luzon in the wintertime, it was the dry season for the west and south side of the island. It was almost always sunny and clear and the scenery remarkable.
At that time the existing agreements between the United States and Philippine governments allowed U.S. military personnel and government employees with a valid FAA pilot certificate and a current FAA medical certificate to fly in the Philippine Islands. Cubi Point Flying Club members were required by the Navy to file a flight plan for every flight, even if it was only touch and goes in the pattern at NAS Cubi Point.
There was a Philippine Aviation Authority, but to my knowledge no air traffic control system existed that kept track of VFR flights. The Navy generally followed each flight and provided on call Search and Rescue services, but when a Flying Club pilot launched on a flight, contact lasted out to about 30 miles, where because of the mountainous terrain and the nature of the radios, there was no one to talk to.
There were numerous airports and landing strips on Luzon, many left over from World War II. General Aviation aircraft were never tied down in the open at any of them. Airplanes were kept in guarded hangars or inside military airbases with fenced, patrolled perimeters and guarded by Marines or Air Police. Airplanes that were left unguarded in the open overnight were usually stripped and un-flyable by morning, or they had vanished altogether.
I am amazed that things turned out so well. The aircraft were maintained by active duty Navy mechanics that moonlighted working for the flying club. Despite this kind of maintenance, I could find no record of a club aircraft having had to make a forced landing for any reason. Considering that all of the flying club aircraft ran on automobile motor fuel — there was no 100LL or leaded aviation-grade fuel available in the Philippines — the Skyhawks I flew ran reliably and without complaint over some formidable and mountainous terrain, and uninhabited or dangerous countryside. I was younger and bolder then, and I had a great time flying the Skyhawks in the Philippines; a memorable experience.
I was 13 when my interest in airplanes got my Dad to the airport to see about flying lessons for me. He hadn't flown in a small airplane since before WWII, and after taking a demo ride, he went on and got his private pilot license. I did get my flying lesson for my birthday, and I washed cars, windows, and mowed lawns to be able to get a lesson a month until my solo at age 16. We lived near San Jose, California, and dad had grown up in Pennsylvania. When he bought a 1959 Cessna 172 in 1968, it had been an instrument trainer and was pretty used up. We flew it to Pennsylvania during summer vacations five times before he upgraded to a Cessna 182. Those trips were something I looked forward to all year long.
The most memorable trip had a weather-related incident. We had landed in Gage, Oklahoma, and were sidelined for an extra day because of the remnants of hurricane Delia that had come up through the Gulf of Mexico and went through Texas and Oklahoma very quickly. Dad had been a weather forecaster for TWA and for the Flying Tigers in WWII, so he felt he knew the weather as well as anyone. The weather advisory information we received wasn't as complete as dad wanted, so he asked the guys at the FSS if we could draw our own weather map. I would read the info from the Teletype and he drew the map. He didn't really like it very well, so we kicked around for a couple of hours and at about 11:30, we drew another one. That info, coupled with a couple of pilot reports, was enough for dad to say we would go on. We set off behind the front and headed towards Kansas City, and not too much later we could see we were coming up on a squall line. I started looking for alternate airports where we could land and stay for the night. The weather was deteriorating rapidly so dad decided to turn around and go back towards Gage. Well, there was a squall line forming right behind us, very rapidly, and the closest airport was Hutchinson, Kansas, under some very bad looking weather. The rain pelted the airplane really hard, and it was so loud at times, it was almost deafening. I was pretty scared, and this was the first time in my life I thought we might not make it. We got through the rain and I spotted Hutchinson, where we landed. Walking around the airplane, we could see that all the paint was gone from all leading edges. Dad surmised that the rain we were in must have had small hail to sand blast the paint like that, and that it must have happened when it was so loud that we were yelling at each other to be heard. The poor airplane looked pitiful with the paint gone like that, but dad was planning on getting it painted anyway. It just happened sooner than he planned.
Another summer, dad had just gotten a new radio and VOR receiver. He only flew it a couple of times before we started out on the trip, but it worked great. We didn't even get to Bakersfield, California before the VOR quit. The radio worked just fine, and we had a Narco Mark IV coffee grinder with the VOR receiver built-in that was our spare NAVCOM. The problem was tuning it as it was at the bottom left of the panel and pretty difficult to see. We managed, but it quit before we got very far out of Arizona. Both radios worked fine, it was just the NAV part of both. I navigated by the maps the rest of the way to Pennsylvania and home. That was the most fun I had on any of the trips.
I sure do miss those trips, and I miss my dad. I am building a Sonex, and when I finish it, I plan to take one of those trips in memory of my father.
My most recent flight in a Cessna 172 was a two-hour night flight, with 10 full-stop landings, around the metro Phoenix area in a 2005 R model, equipped with the Garmin G-1000 glass cockpit, N1590W. My earliest flight in a 172 was in the early 1960s with my maternal grandfather, H.A. "Ham" Morris as PIC.
My first cross-country flight in any airplane was in the early 1970s from South Dakota to Alabama, with an overnight stop in Cape Girardeaux, Missouri. My maternal grandfather was PIC and my maternal grandmother, Hallie I. Morris, rode right seat as mission commander, in N7304T — an A model Cessna 172. I remember how excited my grandfather was upon the installation of dual Omnis in N7304T, nicknamed Tango. My mother, Hallie A. Morris, still tells the story of a precautionary landing on a South Dakota wheat field with my grandfather in Tango.
On the first page of my first logbook is my first flight in the left seat of a Cessna 172, in 1977. Although I earned my private pilot (ASEL and ASES) in Citabrias, I first checked out in a 1979 N model Cessna 172 on March 21, 1980 at Fairbanks International (FAI) in Fairbanks, Alaska, in N61586. On January 14, 1981, I flew my grandfather on his last flight, in a Cessna 172, N6277D, from Falcon Field (FFZ) in Mesa, Arizona, to Grand Canyon, Arizona. My brother, Daniel, rode along.
I still have my grandfather's logbook. He earned his private pilot license on November 27, 1946, with 45 hours, and he logged his last flight on October 2, 1972 in N7304T, logging a total of 1,179 hours. A review of his logbook shows that he traveled the country, mostly in 172s, from his home base at Watertown (ATY), South Dakota, to Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and California.
I passed my instrument checkride in a Cessna 172, N66018, on June 18, 1996. On March 9, 1997, I flew my wife Leslie, son Michael, and daughter Sara, from Scottsdale (SDL), Arizona, to Prescott (PRC), Arizona in a 172, N129FR, for breakfast. I have logged only a few dozen hours in 172s, most of my flight time has been in 182s and Citabrias. However, my favorite model Cessna 172, is definitely the R model with the NAV III G-1000 glass cockpit. Just make sure that you find time to look out the window!
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