Cessna Skyhawk SP Model 172

172This isn’t the aviation equivalent of some cheap date you’ll be taking out for one wild, adventurous weekend. The Cessna 172 is more like the love of your life—a steady, constant companion to fly with for a long time to come. A stable and trustworthy plane, most pilots have logged at least a few hours in a Cessna 172, since it’s the most widely available aircraft in the rental fleet and is used by most flight schools. Since the first prototype was completed in 1955, more than 35,000 C172s have been produced, making it the world’s most popular single-engine plane. One of Cessna’s first tricycle-gear airplanes, the 172 quickly became the favorite of a growing class of business pilots. Its reliability and easy handling (along with thoughtful engineering and structural updates) have ensured its continued popularity for more than 35 years.

The differences between an original 1956 172 and today’s version are many, but there are a few similarities. The wing has the same NACA 2412 airfoil that Cessna’s been using since production of its 170, and the plane continues to use the same flat-plate ailerons that 172s and 152s have always been known for, making it a steady handler, if not exactly an exciting one.

Updates to the 172 have been carefully chosen and consistently well made. The 172 received its distinctive swept-back tail in 1960 and its helpful wraparound rear window in 1962. In 1964, Cessna began using a 150-horsepower Lycoming engine rather than the old six-cylinder, air-cooled Continental engines of the original 172s. With the SP comes a further engine update providing an even higher maximum takeoff weight. With its fuel-injected, 180-horsepower Textron-Lycoming IO-360, the SP has 20 horsepower more than even a 172R and a maximum takeoff weight of 2,550 pounds-250 pounds more than the 172R.

172s are famed for their stability. In the 1960s and ’70s, Cessna vied for attention and respectability by attempting to build a hardworking airplane that could be easily flown by nearly anyone. With the 172, they undoubtedly succeeded. When properly trimmed, this airplane will fly itself for hours at a time, needing little to no physical guidance from the pilot. And like other Cessnas, 172s don’t like stalling, either.

Cessna temporarily stopped manufacturing the 172 in 1986, when market forces and high product-liability premiums forced the company to implement serious cutbacks. Pilots around the world breathed a sigh of relief when, 10 years later, President Bill Clinton enacted the General Aviation Revitalization Act. Cessna celebrated the good news with the completion of a new plant in Independence, Kansas and immediately began production on a new version of the 172. If the new 172SP is any indication, things have only gotten better since then.


U.S. Metric
Maximum Speed 126 knots 234 km per hour
Cruise Speed 124 knots 230 km per hour
Engine Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A 180 bhp
Propeller Macauley Fixed Pitch Two Blade
Maximum Range 638 nm 1,183 km
Service Ceiling 14,000 feet 4,267 meters
Fuel Capacity 56 gallons 212 liters
Empty Weight 1,665 pounds 1,002 kilograms
Maximum Gross Weight 2,550 pounds 1,157 kilograms
Length 27 feet, 2 inches 8.2 meters
Wingspan 36 feet, 1 inches 11 meters
Height 8 feet, 11 inches 2.72 meters
Seating Up to 4

Flight Notes

Many factors affect flight planning and aircraft operation, including aircraft weight, weather, and runway surface. The recommended flight parameters listed below are intended to give approximations for flights at maximum takeoff or landing weight on a day with International Standard Atmosphere (ISA) conditions.

Important: These instructions are intended for use with Flight Simulator only and are no substitute for using the actual aircraft manual for real-world flight.

Note: As with all of the Flight Simulator aircraft, the V-speeds and checklists are located on the Kneeboard. To access the Kneeboard while flying, press SHIFT+F10, or on the Aircraft menu, click Kneeboard.

Note: All speeds given in Flight Notes are indicated airspeeds. If you’re using these speeds as reference, be sure that you select “Display Indicated Airspeed” in the Realism Settings dialog box. Speeds listed in the specifications table are shown as true airspeeds.

By default, this aircraft has full fuel and payload. Depending on atmospheric conditions, altitude. and other factors, you will not get the same performance at gross weight that you would with a lighter load.

Required Runway Length

960 feet at sea level with ISA conditions.

Note: The length required for both takeoff and landing is a result of a number of factors, including aircraft weight, altitude, headwind, use of flaps, and ambient temperature. Lower weights and temperatures will result in better performance, as will having a headwind component. Higher altitudes and temperatures with degrade performance.

Engine Startup

The engine will be running automatically every time you begin a flight. If you shut the engine down, you can initiate an auto-startup sequence by pressing CTRL+E. If you want to do the startup procedures manually, use the checklist on the Kneeboard.


While taxiing, the power should be set at approximately 1,000 rpm. (Mixture should be full forward.) As you move down the taxiway, use the rudder to turn the nose right and left for directional control. (Twist the joystick; use the rudder pedals; or press 0 or ENTER on the numeric keyboard to turn left or right, respectively.)


For a normal takeoff, Cessna recommends 0 to 10 degrees of flaps (at the pilot’s discretion). Using 10 degrees of flaps reduces the takeoff roll by approximately 10 percent.


Run through the Before Takeoff checklist, and set flaps at either 0 or 10 degrees (press F7, or click the flaps lever), depending on the runway situation.

Align the aircraft with the white runway centerline, and advance the throttle control to full power (use the joystick throttle, or press F4).


Climb with full throttle, no flaps, and a fully rich mixture—approximately 75 to 85 knots—when below 3,000 feet. Above 3,000 feet, lean the mixture for smooth operation and for maximum rpm.


Cruise altitude would normally be determined by winds, weather, and other factors. You might want to use these factors in your flight planning if you have created weather systems along your route. Optimum altitude is the altitude that gives the best fuel economy for a given configuration and gross weight. A complete discussion about choosing altitudes is beyond the scope of this section. However, a good rule to bear in mind is that an airplane with a normally aspirated engine is most efficient between 6,000-8,000 feet. That altitude range gives the best tradeoff between available power, fuel economy, and true airspeed.

Ideal cruise settings for the 172SP are between 45 and 75 percent power. When above 3,000 feet, lean the mixture for optimum performance. (For more information, see Controlling the Engine.)

Descent and Approach

Reduce power to 2,100 rpm, and set the airplane up for a descent rate of approximately 450 feet per minute.


On final approach, plan for a landing speed of 65 knots with full flaps. Select a point just past the runway threshold, and aim for it. Adjust your pitch so that the point remains stationary in your view out the windscreen. Leave the power at approximately 1,500 rpm, and fly the airplane down to the runway. Keep the nose off the ground, and slowly bring back the throttle completely while you flare just above the runway. Touch down with the back wheels first. With less than full flaps, expect a bit of float in the flare.

Upon touchdown, apply brakes by pressing the PERIOD key. Exit the runway, and retract the wing flaps.

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