What Makes a Cessna 172 So Safe?

The Cessna 172

OK, so I was checking out the stats on the blog and I came across this search term. Someone had actually asked the question of Google or Bing or Yahoo, “What makes a Cessna 172 so safe?”

What a great question!

Here’s the answer (at least my explanation and opinion).

First, the people at Cessna put together great products across their single-engine line. When it comes to the 100-series Cessnas, I believe there are no safer airplanes on the market, new, used, or otherwise.

The first reason Cessna airplanes are so safe is the basic design of the airplane. Clyde Cessna built beefy airplanes. Later, after Clyde was gone, the beefy-airplane tradition continued.

Cessna 150

For instance, one important distinction of the 1986 Cessna 172P (my favorite year and model of the 172) is the maneuvering speed. If you take the aircraft’s Vgn diagram, you will find maneuvering speed at gross weight is 99 KIAS. Four hundred pounds lighter, maneuvering speed drops to 92 knots and then at 1600 pounds, maneuvering speed is 82 knots.

These speeds almost fall within the normal cruise capabilities of the aircraft. Another way to look at this: to bend the airplane and break it, you have to work really hard. If you have intentions to over-g the airplane, you actually dive the airplane to get to a speed with which you can damage it. Don’t get me wrong, it can be broken, just not so easily.

Another reason the 172 is so safe is its ability to fly slow. The reason the 1986 P-model is my favorite is this low stalling speed.  At a gross weight of 2400 pounds, the flaps-up stall speed is 44 knots; with the flaps full down, stall speed is only 33 knots. At lower weights, the airplane will stall even slower.

Why is this so important? In the event of an engine failure, a pilot can land the aircraft in minimal space.  If needed, a pilot could even fly the airplane into a solid structure and walk away from it at such a low speed. This is particularly true for the pilot who can land with a 15 to 20-knot headwind component. With that kind of a wind and a stall speed of 33 knots, groundspeed at touchdown will be phenomenally slow at 13 knots with a 20-knot wind and 18 knots with a lighter 15-knot wind.

Seriously, anyone can fly a 172 into a brick wall at 13 knots and walk away from it.

Cessna 210

This one reason alone is why I am such a big fan of the single-engine Cessna 100 series.  Even their largest recip, the Cessna 210 Centurion is a great airplane in this manner.  The Centurion is heavy for a single-engine airplane and is capable of cruising at 185 knots.  With a generous wing area and high-lift flaps, pilots can land the 210 at 55.

Yeah, rest assured I am a Cessna-man, through and through.


© 2010 J. Clark

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4 Responses to What Makes a Cessna 172 So Safe?

  1. flyinggma says:

    Is the Cessna 210 yours? It sure is a nice looking plane.

  2. Joe Clark says:

    No, I wish. But then again, at the rate that thing burns fuel, I’m glad I don’t own her. The 210 easily cruises about 175 knots, a little better if you push it, but to get those speeds, the engine will burn 15 gallons per hour at what? $4.50 a gallon minimum? ($65 an hour just for gas!) I’ve flown the airplane quite a bit back in my Part 135 charter flying days and I really like the airplane. It flies well and it hauls the baggage.

    Jeanne, I am going to do something terrible – I am going to introduce you to the airplane I would like to own. And I have a feeling that with your sailing background and all the lakes near your house, you too, will probably want one of these. Check this out: http://www.iconaircraft.com/

    Just remember, if you spend $140,000, it’s not my fault. Tell your husband ahead of time I am sorry for introducing this. He might have to work longer before retirement…

  3. Mike says:

    Hi Joe, I, too, think I am becoming a Cessna man. I have been planning on purchasing my own plane in the near future but I like all of them. Those little vans RV’s are pretty sweet. But for some reason, my gut keeps telling me to be logical and that the Cessna is a stable and safe platform. I am getting my commercial in the 172RG and I absolutely LOVE that thing. My goal is to fly the caravans for the Fedex feeders. Then I will be able to buy my own 172RG, 182RG if I’m lucky and a 210 if I’m really lucky. I like your blog !

    • Joe Clark says:


      Nice meeting you, if only over the Internet. I did my commercial in a Cessna 177RG and really liked the airplane. I thought I would like to buy one of those, too. However, here’s the word of caution with Cessna RGs – they can be a maintenance nightmare. That, coupled with the higher insurance premiums, makes for a grand argument for fixed gear airplanes. Personally, I like the taildraggers. The Cessna 140s, 170s, 180s, and 185s. They always turn heads wherever you land. Thanks for the compliment on the blog.


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