One of the best airplanes Clyde Cessna’s company put out was the little 140. The 140 also has a little twin, the Cessna 120. Both airframes are very similar, with only slight differences. The most notable difference is the 120 lacks flaps and the “D” window in the back of the fuselage.
The airplane had a relatively short production run from 1947 to 1950. Introduced with a monocoque fuselage with metal wing structures covered in fabric, the latter variants, the Cessna 140A, sported a larger engine and all metal wings. On some of the older airplanes, one of the more popular modifications includes “metalized” wings.
The Continental C-85 engine of 85 horsepower originally powered each airplane. Each airplane had the capacity for one pilot and one passenger and carried enough fuel to go 390 nautical miles at 94 knots. This amounted to 3.8 hours cruise time with a reserve of one hour. The airplanes carried 25 gallons of fuel in two wing tanks, of which 1.5 gallons on each side was unusable. This allowed for 22 gallons of usable fuel, which the engine typically drew off at a rate of 4.5 gallons per hour.
As we move later into 2011 with naturally higher prices for energy, the miserly fuel flow of the Continental 85 means hourly fuel costs in the range of $22 to $37 per hour. This is definitely an advantage over the four-place airplanes with 50 percent or higher fuel flows. This of course, equates to more flying albeit with few passengers and less payload capability.
For those familiar with the Cessna 150, flying the 140 is much the same. However, it is easier to climb aboard a 150 compared to the Cessna 140. With the tricycle landing gear of the former, pilots and passengers have easier access to the cockpit; the taildragger configuration of the 120/140 series raises the cockpit slightly making it somewhat more difficult to navigate. Additionally, the doors seem slightly smaller than the 150 series.
The nice thing about the Cessna taildraggers, compared to others, is that the pilot can see over the nose. There is no need for “S-turning” during the taxi to the runway, as required in other airplanes with tailwheels.
In taking off, the 140 and the 120 are delightful. They are nice and light on the controls and shortly after applying full power, the pilot can lift the tail with only slight forward pressure on the elevators. For an airplane with only a small engine, the 140 is delightfully spry.
Her spryness comes from, of course, a wing area of 159.3 square feet coupled with a gross weight of only 1450 pounds. This allows for a wing loading of only 9.1 pounds per square foot. It also gives the airplane a stall speed of 39 knots.
As with all the other Cessnas flying, stall characteristics of the 120/140 series is straightforward. She has no nasty habits and will start flying again with the slightest hint of recovery.
For landings, the pilot need only to perfect his or her three-point technique for the reward of a landing ground roll of only 200 feet. Again, because you can see over the nose of the airplane while it is on the ground, the landings are really easy, for a taildragger.
If the owner of a 120 or 140 ever invites you to try out their airplane, do not hesitate. It will be some of the most enjoyable flying you will ever experience.
© 2011 J. Clark