Cessna Headquarters, Wichita, Kansas
The words “Cessna Skyhawk” have special meaning for anyone who has ever wanted to learn to fly. At 27 feet long and 8 feet tall, with a 36-foot wingspan, a 140 mph cruising speed, and room for two adults and their luggage, more people have learned to fly with a Cessna Skyhawk than with any other plane in aviation history. In fact, the Cessna Skyhawk is the best-selling plane of all time. Clyde Cessna built his first plane in 1911, and Cessna became a storied name in aviation. Cessna built 750 gliders for the army in World War II, introduced the Skyhawk in 1956, produced the first turbo-charged and cabin-pressurized single-engine planes in the 1960s, delivered its first business jet in the 1970s, topped $1 billion in sales in the 1980s, and then, in one of the worst downturns in the history of aviation business, nearly went out of business over the next decade and a half.
Sales of general aviation aircraft, which had topped out at 17,000 planes per year, dropped to 12,000 planes within a year, and over the next decade finally hit rock bottom at 928 planes for the entire industry. During the same time, Cessna's sales of piston-engine planes, like the Skyhawk, dropped from 8,000 per year to just 600. Cessna was forced to lay off 75 percent of the employees at its piston-engine plane factories (Cessna also makes business jets and larger planes) and eventually stopped making piston-engine planes altogether. However, after the economy improved and the U.S. government approved the General Aviation Revitalization Act (barring product liability lawsuits on any plane over 18 years old), Cessna decided to start building its legendary Skyhawks again.