Cessna is one of the best-known and most prolific aircraft manufacturers in the world. The company is perhaps best known for its single-engined planes, which are used mainly for flight training and private flying. These are extremely popular; in fact, the Cessna 172 is said to be the most popular aircraft there is. And a large number of pilots flying today, from private pilots to those flying for the airlines, learned to fly on a two-seater Cessna 150 or 152.
However, in its long history, Cessna has built many aircraft apart from these well-known piston-engined singles. These include twin-engined piston aircraft, fast jets, and even a few military models. But, since we’re mentioning the company’s history, let’s take a brief look at that first…
History of Cessna
The Cessna Aircraft Corporation was founded way back in 1927 by Clyde Cessna, a Kansas farmer and car salesman, who had long wished to learn to fly light aircraft. He managed to do that but then did a lot more! He began to design aircraft as well, and he did what no one had thought possible up until then – he built a plane with wings that had no supporting struts or braces. His first model, the Cessna All Purpose Aircraft, took off on August 13th, 1927. He was on his way!
Throughout much of the twentieth century, the Cessna brand produced a large number of diverse aircraft and became known and respected worldwide. Clyde Cessna eventually died on November 20th, 1954, at the age of 74, but his legacy lived on.
Cessna closed its doors during the great depression of the 1930s, but the company returned to commercial production after the Second World War in 1946. Cessna then started to build all-metal aircraft rather than the tube and fabric construction of earlier airplanes. Their first aircraft of this type – the Cessna 140 – was named by the US Flight Instructors Association as the “Outstanding Plane of the Year” in 1948.
After concentrating to a large extent on single-engine aircraft, the Cessna Citation 1, Cessna’s first business jet, performed its maiden flight in 1969. But the company continued to concentrate on its popular single-engine aircraft, producing its 100,000th example in 1975.
In 1985, Cessna ceased to be an independent company. It first became a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation, which sold Cessna to Textron in 1992. But the name of Cessna is still well known in aviation, and the company remains one of the best known private aircraft brands in the world. It now produces both piston and jet-engined aircraft, for everyone from student pilots to advanced aviators.
Cessna Aircraft Types
Cessna has manufactured a huge variety of aircraft, many of which are still in production today. These can be divided into three general types – single-engined aircraft, twin-engined aircraft, and Jets. We will now take a look at each of these in turn.
Cessna Single Engined Aircraft
Here are all the Single Engined aircraft which Cessna has ever made:
- Cessna 150
- Cessna 152
- Cessna 162 Skycatcher
- Cessna 165 Airmaster
- Cessna 170
- Cessna 172 Skyhawk
- Cessna 175 Skylark
- Cessna 177 Cardinal
- Cessna 180/185 Skywagon
- Cessna 188
- Cessna 190/195
- Cessna 205/206/207
- Cessna 208 Caravan
- Cessna 120/140
- Cessna 210 Centurion
We will now take a necessarily brief look at a few of these models in more detail, as examples of the variety of Cessna single-engined planes which are on offer.
Cessna 152 – Popular Training Aircraft
This two-seater, single-engined aircraft is well known to generations of private pilots, for a large number of them have learned to fly in it. It was produced from 1977-1985 and designed for training and personal use.
But despite being fairly old, many examples of the type are still flying today, both as flying school aircraft and under private ownership; it remains a much-loved aircraft type. I have many hours in a Cessna 152, and I am still very fond of the type and greatly enjoy flying it.
Cessna 172 Skyhawk– Much Loved First Aircraft Purchase
Many pilots who learned to fly on the Cessna 152 soon moved on to the four-seater Cessna 172. Said to be the most popular and top-selling aircraft in the world, this model is still produced today and looks likely to continue indefinitely. It is easy to fly, comfortable, and safe.
The only criticism ever leveled at it is that it is perhaps somewhat boring! Of course, this might well be the case for the type of pilot who wants to do aerobatics or similar. But if you simply want to go flying to another airfield or take the family on a trip, the Cessna 172 is ideal.
However, it should be noted that the earlier models were a problem for shorter pilots, as the seats did not move far enough forward. As one of these vertically challenged pilots, I remember having a large collection of cushions for use in Cessna 172s! Thankfully, the later models overcame this, allowing the seats to move further forward.
Cessna 188 – for Agricultural Use
The Cessna 188 is actually a whole group of aircraft developed for light agricultural use. They were produced between 1966 and 1983 by Cessna. The different versions of the 188 were the AGwagon, AGpickup, AGtruck, and Aghusky. These, along with the AGcarryall variant of the 185, constituted Cessna’s complete line of agricultural aircraft, and they show that Cessna is more than just a company producing aircraft for general aviation use.
Cessna 210 Centurion – Cessna’s largest single-engine aircraft
The Cessna 210 Centurion is a six-seater, high-performance, retractable-gear airplane. It represents Cessna’s largest and most complex single-engine general aviation aircraft. It was manufactured from 1956-1986.
Cessna 208 Caravan – Short haul regional airliner
The Cessna 208 Caravan is a single-engined turboprop with the fixed-tricycle landing gear. It is designed primarily as a short-haul regional airliner and utility aircraft.
This plane can seat nine passengers with a single pilot, although with a FAR Part 23 waiver, it can legally hold up to fourteen passengers. The aircraft is also used for cargo feeder liner operations. It is Cessna’s largest single-engine aircraft, and again, it is an example of the fact that Cessna produces aircraft for far more than general aviation use.
Cessna Twin Engined Aircraft
The following are all of Cessna’s twin-engined aircraft. A number of these are still flying, but it should be noted that Cessna no longer makes piston twins. They found that it made no economic sense to do so, particularly with the high price of Avgas. So they have in recent times been replaced with more modern jets.
Additionally, even pilots who can afford to buy and operate a twin are beginning to challenge their safety records. Indeed, the oft-cited cliché in aviation is that the only real use for the second engine in a twin-engined piston aircraft is to fly you to the site of your accident in the event of engine failure! This is perhaps exaggerated, but there is a certain amount of truth in it.
Here is a list of all Cessna’s piston twin-engined aircraft:
- Cessna 303
- Cessna 310
- Cessna 320
- Cessna 336/337
- Cessna 340
- Cessna 401
- Cessna 402
- Cessna 404
- Cessna 411
- Cessna 421
- Cessna 425
- Cessna 441
Again, we will look at a couple of examples in more detail.
Cessna T303 Crusader – First twin for over a decade
The Cessna T303 Crusader is a six-seat, low wing, light twin-engined aircraft with a retractable undercarriage. It was first manufactured in 1979, with the first deliveries being made in October 1981. When it was built, it was Cessna’s first all-new production twin in over a decade.
Cessna 404 Titan – Largest Piston Twin
At the time of its development in the 1970s, the Cessna Model 404 Titan was Cessna’s largest twin piston-engined aircraft. Originally it came in two versions: the Titan Ambassador passenger aircraft for ten passengers and the Titan Courier utility aircraft for either passengers or cargo. But by1982, there were actually seven variants, including a full cargo version.
Although Cessna still concentrates to a large extent on its popular single-engined piston aircraft. The Citation jets now form a growing part of its stable of aircraft. The Cessna Citation Jet series includes several distinct ‘families’ of aircraft, rather than simply individual types. Cessna began building jets in 1972, and more than 7,500 Citations have now been manufactured. The aircraft is named after ‘Citation,’ a champion Thoroughbred racehorse that won the American Triple Crown.
Here is a list of all the Citation jets available today, although there have been others:
- Citation C2
- Citation CJ3+
- Citation CJ4
- Citation XLS
- Citation Latitude
- Citation Longitude
We will now look in more detail at a couple of examples of Citations, taken from both the top and bottom of the range.
Cessna Citation M2 – Entry-level jet aircraft
The Citation M2 is often considered to be an entry-level jet, that is, the model most suitable for pilots who are newly moving on from piston-engined aircraft. It is designed for private, corporate, or charter flying and features in-cabin technology, touch-controlled avionics suited for a single pilot, and two powerful Williams FJ44 engines.
It can cruise at a speed of up to 404 knots. Its interior is finished with category-leading craftsmanship and space for up to seven passengers. It has a wireless cabin management system and LED lighting. So even with this smallest model, we are looking at something very different from the fairly basic single-engined planes for which Cessna is best known.
Cessna Citation Longitude – Top of the Citation range
At the top of the range, the Citation Longitude is a mid-size jet which was was designed for reliability, efficiency, and ultimate comfort. It is designed primarily for business use. With its wireless cabin management system that puts the pilot in control of the cabin and fully integrated autothrottles in the cockpit, it brings all of the latest technology to the super-midsize segment.
The Major Differences Between Cessna Aircraft and its Competitors
Firstly, we need to ask what company’s are Cessna’s main competitors. This depends to a large extent on what type of aircraft you are considering. But overall, perhaps the main competitor to Cessna aircraft is the equally well-known and popular Piper aircraft.
To be honest, on the whole, there is not much to choose between these two well-respected aircraft manufacturers. The main difference overall is in the wing configuration of their single-engined piston aircraft. Cessna makes mainly high wing aircraft, while Piper aircraft have low wings.
Now, while this does not make a huge difference, there are some advantages and disadvantages of each type – see the Advantages and Disadvantages below for details of this. And some pilots will prefer Cessna’s aircraft design, and others will prefer Piper’s. Other than that, there is really not much to choose between them overall, although of course individual models will differ, often greatly.
Advantages of Cessna Aircraft
Moving on from the last section, the main advantage of high wing Cessna single-engine aircraft is that the high wing means that you have excellent visibility in the cruise, and the wings also protect the pilot and passengers from the sun.
This may not seem that important, but many people definitely prefer this. The high wings also mean that fuel from either wing tank is automatically fed to the engine, and unlike in low wing aircraft, pilots do not have to monitor fuel use for each individual tank. It also means that climbing aboard is simple, with no necessity to clamber onto the wing, which can be difficult for short or less agile individuals.
Other advantages are that with the company being so well known, maintenance and insurance are relatively straightforward. Indeed, you won’t ever find anyone wondering about the details of your Cessna aircraft and what it is – everyone has heard of Cessna.
Disadvantages of Cessna Aircraft
The main disadvantage of high wing planes like the Cessna single-engine aircraft is that it is almost impossible to see below you in turns, e.g., when you are maneuvering in the airport pattern. This is something that most pilots quickly get used to, but many people really do not like it. Other than that, there are really no disadvantages to the Cessnas….but see Safely Tips below…
On the whole, Cessnas are exceedingly safe aircraft. The 172 has an impressive safety record when compared with the industry average. To illustrate this, the Cessna 172’s fatal accident rate is 0.56 per 100,000 flying hours, which is about half the industry average. At the other end of the scale, Cessna Citations seem to be as safe as other private jets.
However, one issue should be noted when it comes to safety. Many pilots have noticed that the seats in small Cessna’s can sometimes slide backward, making it impossible for the pilot to reach the pedals.
This probably means that the pilot had not secured the seat correctly, but there have been several incidents of it, sometimes with catastrophic results if it has occurred at a crucial phase of flight, such as short final. I have heard that the seats in more modern Cessnas have been modified so that this cannot happen. But nevertheless, please be careful, particularly if you fly with the seat well forwards.
Another related issue is one which I myself have noted. In more modern Cessna 172’s, the seats will move a long way forward, which is useful for short pilots.
But if two of you are flying with the seats well forward and little in the back of the aircraft, you could have a problem with the center of gravity being too far forward. A friend and I found this out when we were trying to land; it wasn’t a major problem, but we did realize that it is something which should be noted by any short pilot if flying this type.
Recommendations for a particular type will depend on what sort of pilot you are, what type of flying you want to do, your ability, and of course, your budget. For a private pilot, the popular Cessna 172 may still be your best choice.
After all, it is the best-selling aircraft of all time–and can thousands and thousands of pilots be wrong? If you want something larger and higher performance, perhaps consider the Cessna 210 Centurion. And if you are in the market for your own private jet, any of the Citation family would be eminently suitable, depending on your budget.
So here are some general recommendations:
- For the Student Pilot – Cessna 150 or 152
- For a first purchase – Cessna 172 or 182 Check out our comparison guide on Cessna 182 vs 172 here.
- For longer flights with more passengers – Cessna 210 Centurion
- For a first jet – Citation M2
But of course, there are a number of other Cessna types which you may well prefer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is a Cessna 152 a good plane to learn on?
Answer: The Cessna 152 is an excellent aircraft on which to learn to fly. It is easy to fly and very safe. It is generally forgiving of mistakes made by student pilots, and it stalls gently, rarely dropping a wing, so making learning stalls less frightening than when flying some of its competitors.
Question: Are Cessnas easy to fly?
Answer: On the whole, Cessna aircraft are not difficult to fly and have few vices. However, it should be noted that no aircraft is all that easy to fly, and training with a qualified instructor is required for Cessnas, as much as for any other aircraft.
Question: What is the cheapest Cessna to buy?
Answer: A secondhand Cessna 150 is probably the cheapest plane of any type that you can buy. The average starting price is said to be $17,000. If you are careful, you can get a well-maintained and completely airworthy model for this price. Indeed, I owned a share in a Cessna 150 for many years, which had cost quite a lot less than this, even when considering inflation.
Question: What is the most popular Cessna?
Answer: The Cessna 172 is the most popular Cessna model and is indeed the best-selling aircraft of all time.
Question: How much will a Cessna 172 cost?
Answer: The current price of a new Cessna 172 is $199,750. Of course, used models will cost considerably less, and many are still airworthy and offer extremely good value.
Question: What is the Cheapest Cessna Citation model?
Answer: It must be emphasized that jet aircraft are not cheap. A second-hand Cessna Citation M2 will set you back around $4,020,500.00. Other models cost much more. The powerful Cessna Citation Sovereign is the most affordable super-midsize jet available today. However, a new one will set you back a cool $18 million!
Question: Are Cessna Aircraft better than Piper aircraft?
Answer: To be honest, it makes little difference. There are those who say the low wing Pipers are better, and others who prefer the high wing Cessnas. Both companies produce excellent aircraft, and it really comes down to personal preference.
There is a reason why Cessna has remained such a popular and prolific aircraft manufacturer for nearly a century. From single-engined two-seater aircraft like the Cessna 150 and 152 to fast and luxurious jets like the Citation Latitude and Longitude, the company has provided aircraft suitable for all types of pilots with varying needs and budgets and continues to do so. If you are considering buying an aircraft of any type, a Cessna may well offer all that you need.
There is a huge amount of choice, and it is impossible to pick the best Cessna model for all pilots and situations. However, for a private pilot, the popular Cessna 172 may still be your best choice.
After all, it is the best-selling aircraft of all time–and can thousands and thousands of pilots be wrong? But if you want something larger and higher performance, perhaps consider the Cessna 210 Centurion. And if you are in the market for your own private jet, any of the Citation family would be eminently suitable.
- Cessna Citation V Guide and Specs
- Cessna Citation CJ4 Guide and Specs
- Cessna 162 Guide and Specs: Is It The Best Training Aircraft?
Textron Aviation, https://cessna.txtav.com/
Cessna Flyer Association https://www.cessnaflyer.org
Twin Cessna Flyer https://www.twincessna.org/
Inflight Pilot Training. https://inflightpilottraining.com/2021/03/17/history-of-cessna-aircraft/
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