From the Cockpit Part 48: Cessna 172 Skyhawk

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Editor’s Note: This is part 48 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

This week Rankin steps into the cockpit of one of the most ubiquitous aircraft around—the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. An iconic training craft and all-around workhorse, the Skyhawk pops up on nearly every airfield and in nearly every training regimen, but somehow Rankin has avoided it thus far.

To be fair, it almost became an active avoidance, one of those little flukes of happenstance that somehow become defining, like never seeing Star Wars. Similarly, Rankin has never eaten Taco Bell, not due to a deliberate boycott, but because that’s just how things shake out sometimes. “So at this point, I’m just not going to go,” he says. “Might as well not ever.” He will, however, fly a Cessna.

“It was always a plane I had in my back pocket,” Rankin says. “There are hundreds everywhere you go.” So in the case of illness or a canceled flight, wrangling up a ride in a Skyhawk was a good backup to have. But that’s how Rankin saw it—as a backup. For a guy with a penchant for the weirder or more exotic planes, the commonplace can lose some of its magic. But taking off with Nate Barber, an instructor with SkyWarrior Flight Training out of Pensacola, FL, Rankin discovered for himself what made the Skyhawk so popular in the first place.

At first, it was weird. He’d seen the Skyhawk so much, Rankin felt like he’d flown it before. “It’s like seeing this one face every day, but not talking to that person,” he says. But after a quick introduction (no instruction necessary, just pointing out where the windshield wipers are) and a little airtime, Rankin was sold. Like the Honda Civic of the sky, the Skyhawk isn’t flashy or excessive in any way, but it gets the job done reliably, safely and affordably. And there’s a reason he sees at least two or three at every airfield. Everyone needs to train at some point, Rankin says, “and the Cessna is the best in that category.”

And though the flight shattered his preconceived notions surrounding the Skyhawk, Rankin feels comfortable letting his preconceptions stand when it comes to Taco Bell. “I don’t think so,” he says, when asked about making his first trip for a fast food fiesta. “I love Mexican food and value it too much to lower my standards.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin flies the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

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