The Evolution of the Cessna Skyhawk in Photos

America's best-selling airplane, the Cessna 172, holds a storied history and a bright future.

Cessna 172

Cessna 172

In 1961, only five years after the Cessna 172 was introduced, the airplane already had a new profile boasting a swept tailfin, redesigned cowl and pointed spinner. Short of the rear window, this fastback airplane looked very much like the Skyhawk of today. It was a huge hit and dominated its four-place, entry-level niche.
Cessna 172

Cessna 172

Cessna realized the need for external baggage access and added a baggage door to the deluxe Skyhawk version in 1961. By popular demand, the door was later included on all 172s. The Skyhawk, the given name of the premium model, was later added to all 172 models. Today, the names are interchangeable, and every one of them comes with a baggage door at no additional cost.
Cessna 172

Cessna 172

**The Skyhawk panel started out looking much like the Cessna 170’s. By the late 1960s, the basic panel design had morphed to what we’re used to seeing today, but the yoke position remained near the center of the panel. It was later moved down for better ergonomics and instrument visibility, with the six-pack instruments centered above the yoke tube. Even so, this 1969 IFR panel is remarkably capable, with ILS, ADF, and an autopilot, the roll-only Cessna brand Navomatic 300. Note the electric flaps. Early models had manual flaps, actuated by a big Johnson bar located between the seats. **
Cessna 172

Cessna 172

While Cessna never added a rear view mirror to the cockpit, the fuselage was modified to insert a rear window, which the marketing department named “Omni-Vision,” in 1963. The new window configuration added a significant amount of light to the rear cabin. Importantly, it also kept Cessna at the forefront of innovation in the segment. With Piper and Beechcraft both introducing new entry-level lines in the early 60s, Cessna invested heavily in 172 development, adding new features and options on a yearly basis in order to maintain its market edge, a strategy that worked.
Cessna 172

Cessna 172

In addition to being an exceptional training airplane, the Cessna 172’s versatility has made it a very successful owner-operated and family flyer. Many Skyhawks have been transferred from generation to generation.
Cessna 172

Cessna 172

While the basic design of the panel has remained very similar since the late 1960s, there have been numerous modifications and options for the instruments, from a very basic VFR package to a full IFR offering, including an autopilot. This 1980 model featured Cessna’s ARC radios with digital displays — hot stuff at the time — the 200A Navomatic wing leveler autopilot, audio panel with built in intercom, and a standalone timer. Then and now, the Skyhawk is an excellent instrument trainer.
Cessna 172

Cessna 172

For more, read "The Evolution of the Cessna 172."