Produced in greater numbers than any other aircraft in history, Cessna’s venerable 172 enters AOPA’s Best Aircraft Showdown, presented by Aero-Space Reports, as a heavy favorite in its first-round matchup with Piper’s PA-28 series—all of them. The Skyhawk, given a No. 1 seed by the selection committee of AOPA staff pilots, looks to cruise past the 16-seed Cherokee family as the showdown returns for a second year.
Pilots can vote for their favorite aircraft starting March 22. The first round will be broken into four consecutive days, with each day featuring eight matches. To receive a voting email reminder with the latest matchups, sign up on the Best Aircraft Showdown Web page.
The tournament field was winnowed from a list of 300 nominations made by 2,500 members, and the first-round matchups were crafted with natural rivalries in mind. The Extra 300 takes on the Pitts Special in a battle of aerobats; the top-seeded F4U Corsair—which gave last year’s winner, the P-51 Mustang, a run for its money—will dogfight the P-38 Lightning for a spot on the second round. The Cessna 182, another top seed, will square off against Cessna’s 180/185 in a sibling rivalry that echoes the Battle of Bonanzas, pitting the top-seed A36 against the V35.
Based on the votes, each of the contenders aims to earn a spot in the April 8 final, when a winner will join the P-51 in the showdown hall of fame, retired from future competitions.
Some fur has already flown getting even this far, and the rivalries will inspire many hangar debates around the country.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” said AOPA Vice President of eMedia Chris Ward. “We all have our favorites, and the Best Aircraft Showdown celebrates the passion that drives us all to take flight.”