The Cessna 170 is an American light aircraft, single-engined and designed for general aviation use. It is an all-metal, four-place, high-wing airplane, and is equipped with conventional landing gear, ie it has a tailwheel rather than the now more common nosewheel.
The type was produced by the Cessna Aircraft Company between 1948 and 1956 but has been out of production ever since.
It is the predecessor of the Cessna 172, the most produced general aviation aircraft, which replaced the 170 in production in 1956, and has been manufactured regularly ever since.
These days, the Cessna 172 is extremely well known and popular among private pilots. I have flown one of these many times, and I like it a lot.
The Cessna 170 is probably not as well known now, but it is still flown by a number of pilots, and around 2000 are still in service. Unlike the Cessna 172, it has conventional landing gear, so it is a little harder to land than the Cessna 172, with its tricycle landing gear and nosewheel.
Pilots these days often don’t learn to fly tailwheel aircraft; indeed, in some countries, it requires separate training to be able to do so. But more about this aspect of things later on…
- Gross Weight: 2,200 LBS
- Empty Weight: 1,205 LBS
- Maximum Payload: 995 LBS
- Fuel capacity:42 GAL
- Horsepower:1 x 145 HP
- Best Cruise Speed:104 KIAS
- Best Range (i): 410 NM
- Fuel Burn @ 75%: 9.6 GPH
- Stall Speed: 50 KIAS
- Rate of climb: 690 FPM
- Ceiling: 15,500 FT
- Takeoff distance over 50ft obstacle:1,820 FT
- Landing distance over 50ft obstacle:1,145 FT
- Manufacturer: Cont Motor
- Model: C-145-2
- Horsepower:145 HP
- Overhaul (HT):1,800 Hrs
- Years before overhaul:12
Since it has been out of production since 1956, prices for the Cessna 170 are, of course, all for secondhand models. There are a number of different engine sizes and other options, so prices do vary to a large extent.
One source suggests a base price for the 145-horsepower 1956 Cessna 170B, the latest year the aircraft was made, of $30,000. If the aircraft has been converted to a 180-horsepower engine, the base price is $35,000. Avionics are extra.
However, listed in Trade-A-Plane at around the same time as this was quoted were three Cessna 170B models ranging in price from $39,000 to $50,000. Also, there were five Cessna 170A models ranging in price from $20,000 to $44,500.
So you can see that there is a wide range of prices, and you have a great deal of choice. But since the price depends to a large extent on the model, engine size, and upkeep of the aircraft, you will need to do some research and work out what it is that is important to you when buying one.
And if you don’t know much about the Cessna 170 and/or buying aircraft generally, some expert help and advice might be a good idea.
Performance and Handling
The Cessna 170 is certified in both the normal and utility category. Spins and aerobatic maneuvers are not permitted in normal category airplanes.
When in the utility category, certain maneuvers, including spins, are permitted as per the aircraft’s Pilot’s Operating Handbook. The aircraft is approved for day and night VFR/IFR when equipped in accordance with regulations.
While stock models of the Cessna 170 may be as slow as a Cessna 152, there are models with upgraded engines that will outrun a Cessna 172.
An experienced pilot stated that he checked out in a rental Cessna 170B a few years ago and observed that if you have the approach speed exactly right as you enter ground effect, the airplane nearly lands itself.
You don’t need exceptional tailwheel piloting skills, except in a crosswind, which is another story! Tailwheel aircraft are always difficult to land in a crosswind, and the Cessna 170 is no exception.
A properly rigged Cessna 170 will cruise at 104 knots at around 2,400 RPM (65 to 70 percent power) while burning between seven to eight gallons of fuel an hour at altitudes below 8,000 feet.
Fuel can be drawn from either wing tank or from both of them at the same time (the latter is required for takeoff and landing). Direct-reading fuel gauges are located in the wing-root areas of the cabin.
Generally, book performance numbers are achievable, according to owners. The Pilot’s Operating Handbook shows that 1,145 feet are required for a normal landing and 1,210 feet to get in over an obstacle.
The best rate-of-climb speed is 77 knots, and the climb rate diminishes from 690 FPM at sea level to 370 FPM at 7,000 feet. The airplane stalls at about 50 knots, clean, and at 45 knots with full flaps.
In summary, most pilots find that the Cessna 170 is a pleasant aircraft to fly. It is easy to transition to as a first tailwheel aircraft, particularly if you are used to flying the Cessna 172.
And the majority of owners who are well accustomed to it speak glowingly of its performance.
Due to similarities between the Cessna 170 and the 172, parts are not a big problem, and neither is maintenance generally.
The International Cessna 170 Association frequently arranges to secure quantities of critical parts from Cessna Aircraft Corp. and other suppliers. A few years ago, the group pooled its resources to have Cessna produce a supply of solid axles.
Two other types of axles used in the production of Cessna 170s were hollow designs, and service difficulty and accident reports showed that these were prone to break under excessive side loading.
The association was also able to bring the price of seat tracks down substantially by placing a quantity order with Cessna.
The Continental engine was designed to operate on 80/87-octane aviation fuel, which is increasingly becoming hard to find in many areas, and many 170 owners have experienced problems on 100LL fuel.
Some have invested in exhaust-gas temperature (EGT) gauges for their airplanes and alleviate the problems by leaning aggressively.
Others have sought relief from lead-fouling problems and the higher prices of avgas by operating their airplanes on premium unleaded automobile gasoline.
Corrosion and fatigue cracks are relatively frequent problems. Affected components include flight control cables, main landing gear support brackets, vertical stabilizer attachments, bulkheads, and engine attach brackets.
There was one report of severely corroded wing spars in a Cessna 170A that had been parked outside and not flown for three years.
However, overall there are not too many problems that would not be expected in an aircraft as old as all of the Cessna 170s.
Modifications and Upgrades
There were 5,000 Cessna 170s manufactured between 1948 and 1956 and three different versions: C170, C170A, and C170B. These are all single-engine piston airplanes with a gross weight of 2200 in the normal category.
There are also many different modifications and Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) that can be applied to the 2000 remaining ones flying today.
The most common upgrade is the Lycoming O-360 180hp engine STC, which may include a constant speed prop. While it does not change the useful load on paper, it definitely added extra ‘oomf’, as many owners put it, to the performance.
Other common modifications include piecing together parts from newer models, such as swapping in C180 gear and C175 wings with extended fuel tanks.
The list is endless, but it should be noted that there is a difference between those modifications that have STCs keeping the aircraft certified versus those that would put it in an experimental category.
Luckily, there are over 100 STCs that can be applied to the Cessna 170, including jump seats, extended baggage, etc, etc.
Owners just need to be aware that many of these modifications will make the airplane heavier – and that’s where the higher horsepower starts making a big difference.
The Cessna 170B makes a great bush plane for off-airport operations if that happens to be your thing. This is especially the case when it is paired with 29-31” Alaskan bush wheels and a Hartzell carbon Trailblazer propeller.
There are several STOL (short take-off and landing) kits you can install to lower your stall speed and reduce your landing rolls, such as the Horton or Sportsman’s.
This airplane can fit two people, two bikes, and camping gear, all ready for your backcountry adventure! You can even squeeze in two dogs…if they each weigh 5lbs or less!
Where to Find Replacement Parts
As explained above, because the Cessna 170 is so similar to the Cessna 172 in most ways, parts are not a big problem.
The International Cessna 170 Association is a very useful source of parts and regularly brings down prices by buying them in bulk. So despite this being an old aircraft, obtaining parts is rarely an issue.
Problems in handling tend to be due mainly to the fact that modern pilots are simply not used to tailwheel aircraft. One long-time Cessna 170 pilot summed it up this way: “The 170 is one of the easier taildraggers to land, but any taildragger will bite you”.
Accidents tend to be due to lack of training on tailwheel aircraft or simply lack of practice. Indeed, when considering the Cessna 170’s accident record, lack of overall or recent experience in the airplane is a factor in many of the mishaps, though not all, of course.
The lesson seems clear. The Cessna 170 has no treacherous characteristics that are revealed at the critical moment in a landing approach or takeoff roll. It simply has a tailwheel, and tailwheel aircraft require more precise control on the ground than do aircraft with nose wheels.
Insuring your Cessna 170 is likely to be slightly different from insuring nosewheel aircraft, as insurance companies will want to make sure you have experience of flying tailwheel aircraft. Having said that, it is one of the easiest tailwheel aircraft to insure.
Since it was introduced way back in 1948, there have been over 5,000 Cessna 170s built. So the insurance companies have a good idea of the stability of the aircraft and its accident history.
This makes the whole thing easier than trying to insure a less well-known tailwheel aircraft.
When it comes to actual figures, Cessna 170 insurance cost averages $1,477 per year, according to one source. It is easy to obtain as long as you have at least 25-50 tailwheel hours and are qualified to at least the private pilot level.
Once insurance company quoted the following:
Cessna 170 Insurance Cost Breakdown: Premium range for qualified pilots: $1,050-$1,980 per year. The premium range for less than qualified or low-time pilots: $1,500-$2,350 per year.
Of course, it should be noted that Cessna 170 insurance, like all airplane insurance, is broken down into two specific parts.
The first is Liability Coverage, which is standard on every aircraft insurance policy, and the second is optional hull coverage, which covers damage to the aircraft itself. So the actual cost of insurance will depend on what the owner decides to include.
Interestingly, when it comes to the Cessna 170, values tend to increase with age. In the ten years from 1990 to 2000, Cessna 170 prices increased by about $10,000.
Another 20 years or so have now passed, and it appears that another $10,000 may be added, at least for airplanes in good condition.
But there is a lot of variation in prices, as all these aircraft are aging, and simply buying one as an investment is possibly very risky and not a good idea. But it is clear that you won’t lose money if you buy one.
Most owners are incredibly positive about their Cessna 170s. One owner said he loves his Cessna 170B because it is “dirt simple,.”
By this, he meant that it is not only simple to fly but simple to maintain and keep. Indeed, in its long history, the Cessna 170, 170A, and 170B have had few airworthiness directives.
Here are some comments from owners and pilots about the Cessna 170:
From a review in a published article: “The Cessna 170 is a lovely benign airplane to fly. I cannot think of a taildragger that is so easy to operate, or so versatile.”
From an owner: “When I purchased my 1954 Cessna 170B in June 1987, I was looking for a taildragger that could carry my family, 100 pounds of baggage, and fuel for 350 miles with reserves.
The Stinson 108 and the Piper Tri-Pacer/Pacer meet the requirements about as well as the Cessna 170B, and I fully expected to end up with a PA-22 and convert it to a tailwheel configuration.
My 170B just happened to become available locally, and even though it cost $3,000 more than a good Tri-Pacer, I am pleased with my choice.”
As the successor to the Cessna 170, the Cessna 172 is fairly similar in many ways, indeed in most ways The main difference, as has been emphasized throughout this article, is that the Cessna 170 is a tailwheel aircraft, and the C172 has tricycle landing gear and a nosewheel.
The Cessna 172 is, therefore, a little less challenging for inexperienced pilots to land.
Pilots considering either of these aircraft might also want to think about the Cessna 180 or Cessna 140.
Clubs You Can Join
The best-known club by far is the International Cessna 170 Association, which is based in Wyoming. This club does a tremendous amount for Cessna 170 owners and pilots. Their efforts to secure needed parts for the airplanes at competitive prices have already been mentioned.
In addition, the group publishes a monthly newsletter and four quarterly magazines containing tips on maintenance and safety and conducts regional fly-ins and an annual convention.
Around 170 owners are represented by the Association, and details of joining, etc can easily be found online.
There are also a number of other regional and local clubs for Cessna 170 owners and pilots.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Would the Cessna 170 be Good as a First Tailwheel Aircraft for a Fairly New Pilot who has only Flown Aircraft with Tricycle Landing Gear?
Answer: The Cessna 170 is said to be an excellent first tailwheel aircraft. Although all taildraggers are harder to fly than nosewheel aircraft, the Cessna 170 is much easier to fly and land than many others.
However, you do need special training in techniques for flying tailwheel aircraft. It is not a good idea to attempt to learn by yourself.
Question: The Cessna 170 is a Very Old Aircraft. Is it Possible to But a Model which is Airworthy?
Answer: Yes, it is most definitely possible to buy an airworthy Cessna 170. Despite being old, around 2000 of these are still flying, and most are in good condition.
Aircraft are not like cars, and do not deteriorate to that great an extent with age, so long as they are taken care of. Having said that, do some research before buying one, and if possible take advice from a pilot who knows about the Cessna 170.
Question: If I buy a Cessna 170, how Hard Will it Be to Sell it Again?
Answer: It really should not be difficult, so long as you maintain the aircraft and it remains in good condition. As explained above, aircraft really do not deteriorate that much with age. The Cessna 170 has always been popular, and is likely to continue to be so.
Tailwheel airplanes are great for nostalgia, and many pilots love them. However, they do require some special skills that have been largely lost among today’s pilots.
Those who want a four-seat taildragger, and are willing to develop and hone the necessary skills, might want to consider buying an early-model Cessna 172 and having it converted to a tailwheel configuration. This could actually cost less than buying a 170.
But having said that, the Cessna 170 is in a class by itself. Those who want the real thing aren’t going to be put off by a few extra dollars here or there. And, since prices are going up, purchases can possibly even be seen as a good investment.
As mentioned earlier, the Cessna 170 is a true four-seater with performance rivaling that of current production singles and with acquisition and operating costs putting many brand-new airplanes to shame.
To add to that, it is a good-looking airplane, and buying one may well be the best thing you ever do.
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