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Cessna 172 vs 182: Which Would You Choose?




Two of the most practical single-engine aircraft to take off from Witchita are the Cessna 172 and 182. 

These models, with their long-standing production, have earned a solid reputation among private owners. 

The 172, a workhorse in flight schools globally, is renowned as one of the most reliable training aircraft ever built. 

In contrast, the upgraded 182 caters to the needs of private owners, offering a significant boost in power, speed, and payload capacity.

Let’s look at the similarities and differences between these two classic birds.

Cessna 172 Skyhawk

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk, a true aviation icon, was introduced in 1955 and is still produced today. 

It was a tricycle-gear plane derived from the earlier tailwheel Cessna 170.

The plane has always been a four-place, high-wing basic trainer. In nearly all variants, it has been powered by a simple and efficient four-cylinder engine that spins a fixed-pitch propeller.

As subtle improvements and options have become available, variations have progressed over the years. 

Cessna 172 vs 182

After the initial 172s, the first variants were designated 172As, and the current version is the 172S (although this model is typically referred to as the “SP”). 

In addition to various small upgrades, Cessna produced the 172RG (Retractable Gear). This plane added retracts and a constant-speed propeller, which allowed flight schools to offer complex aircraft training for the Commercial Pilot certificate, but it was not a big success for the company. 

According to Wikipedia, more than 44,000 Cessna 172s have been built. 

Its main competitors are the Piper PA-28 Cherokee/Warrior/Archer, Diamond DA-40, and Cirrus SR20. Older planes with similar performance include the Grumman AA-5A Cheetah and Beechcraft Musketeer.

With its proven reliability, forgiving handling characteristics, and simple systems, the 172 is a trusted choice not only as a trainer but also for rental fleets and private owners. 

The simplicity of the aircraft keeps operating expenses low and makes it easier (and less expensive) to insure. There are also many available, so prices in the used market are reasonably stable.  

Similar planes Cessna has made over the years include the 175 and 177. 

The 175 Skylark was an upgraded 172 that filled the gap between it and the high-performance 182. It was built until 1962. 

The 177 Cardinal was the company’s attempt to modernize and update the 172, but it proved unsuccessful. The distinctive full-cantilever wing (no wing strut) and sleeker looks made the 177 a head turner, but it never sold as well as the 172 Skyhawk and was discontinued in 1978.

If there are any critiques to be made about the 172, it’s that it’s too easy to fly. Transitioning to another light aircraft is often an eye-opening experience. 

The 172’s remarkably low stall speed and mild stall manners are unmatched by nearly all other production aircraft. If there’s one word that flight instructors would choose to use to describe the Skyhawk, it would be “forgiving.”

Training in a 172? Be sure to check out our guide on the Cessna 172 Emergency Checklist.

Cessna 182 Skylane

The Skylane was introduced in 1956, just one year after the Skyhawk. 

It looks nearly identical from the outside, with four seats, a high wing, and fixed tricycle landing gear. And, like its little sister, it was developed from an earlier Cessna (the 180) and is still in production (the 182S and T182S). 

Compared to the 172, the 182 is built for higher performance—more speed, more payload, and longer-range flying. 

It is more squarely aimed at private owners who have learned in the 172 and want a similar plane with better performance. 

The typical difference between most 172s and 182s, regardless of the year, is the size of the engine. 

Cessna 182 vs 172

The 172 has a basic four-cylinder engine (between 150 and 180 horsepower), while the 182 has a six-cylinder engine mated to a constant-speed, variable-pitch propeller.

A turbocharged version is also available for operators who want even more power.

Since it’s more expensive to maintain and insure, a Cessna 182 is rare to find at a flight school or in a rental fleet. Cessna produced a retractable-gear model called the R182 for a short time, but it has been discontinued.

By The Numbers — Cessna 172 vs Cessna 182 Compared

Both Cessna models are high-wing, fixed-gear, single-engine airplanes. They have similar designs of aluminum semi-monocoque fuselages and conventional empennages. 

Both have been made since the 1950s, with only very small updates every few years.

While the 172 and 182 appear nearly identical from the outside, they are very different aircraft. The 182 is the larger, more powerful, and more capable aircraft. The 172, on the other hand, is built to be simple and inexpensive to operate. 

A pilot needs a high-performance endorsement (aircraft over 200 horsepower) to fly an 182. 

However, the plane is not considered a “complex aircraft” as it lacks retractable landing gear.  

Technical Specifications

As we’ve discussed, the Cessna 172 and 182 aircraft have distinct features that cater to different needs. Below are detailed insights into their dimensions, powerplant performance, and weight considerations.

2024 Cessna 172S Skyhawk2024 Cessna 182S Skylane
Length Overall27 ft 2 in29 ft
Wingspan36 ft 1 in36 ft
Max Takeoff Weight2,550 pounds3,100 pounds
Useable Fuel 53 gallons87 gallons
Full Fuel Payload560 pounds588 pounds
Max Cruise Speed124 kias154 kias
Max Range640 nm915 nm
Max Rate of Climb730 fpm925 fpm
EngineLycoming IO-360 180-hpLycoming IO-540 230-hp

Dimensions and Design

The Cessna 172 measures 27 feet in length, with a wingspan of 36 feet. It stands at 8 feet 11 inches in height. The Cessna 182, on the other hand, is slightly larger, with a length of 29 feet, the same wingspan, but a height of 9 feet 4 inches.

Both aircraft share a high-wing design, beneficial for visibility and easier access. The wing area differs slightly, with the 182 having a more robust structure to accommodate its additional weight and power.

Powerplant and Performance

The Cessna 172 is equipped with a four-cylinder Lycoming IO-360-L2A engine producing 180 horsepower. Its maximum cruise speed is approximately 124 knots, with a rate of climb around 730 feet per minute.

In contrast, the Cessna 182 features a more powerful six-cylinder Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5 engine that delivers 230 horsepower. It has a maximum cruise speed of 154 knots and a climb rate of about 925 feet per minute, making it superior for longer journeys and higher performance expectations.

Cessna 172 flying

Weights and Load

The Cessna 172 has an empty weight of around 1,650 pounds and a gross weight of 2,450 pounds. This provides a useful load of about 800 pounds, suitable for light luggage and passengers.

The Cessna 182, being larger, boasts an empty weight of approximately 1,970 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 3,100 pounds. This gives you a useful load of around 1,130 pounds, which includes a higher payload capacity and greater baggage space.

Understanding these specifications helps determine the best aircraft for your flying needs, whether you prioritize speed and power or require a lighter, more economical plane.

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