Rumor has it that four Cessna engineers were hanging around after work one day and designed a tricycle-gear variant of the 170 but a boss came by, saw what they were working on, and told them to scrap the idea. Of course, they didn’t, and so when faced with the success of the Piper Tri-Pacer, Cessna officials looked around and discovered their engineers already had a mockup of a nosewheel installation on the 170. The tricycle-gear variant became the 172 and since its launch in 1956 more Cessna 172s have been built than any other aircraft in history. In the first year alone more than 1,400 of the all-metal, four-place, high-wing, single-engine aircraft were made and sold. Why? It’s easy to fly, has great visibility, forgiving flight characteristics, and it’s inexpensive to maintain and repair. It’s not super-fast, but it is a four-seater that originally could carry a useful load of 878 pounds and cruise at 124 KTAS with a maximum range of 640 nautical miles. Because it is so versatile, 21 different models have been made over the years, adding more powerful engines (and moving from Continental to Lycoming), increasing gross weight, changing to a key starter, reshaping the windows, adding a swept-back tail, and adding the camber-lift wing, among other changes. The 172 also holds a record that has never been broken: from December 4, 1958, to February 4, 1959, pilots John Cook and Robert Timm remained airborne in a Cessna 172 for 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and five seconds over Las Vegas, Nevada.
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