Alright well today I’m gonna try something I’ve never tried for Tech Wednesday: an aviation post. I haven’t written anything about aviation for one sole reason: I usually only talk airplane with airplane people. Talking airplane with the average person is like listening to that one friend you had who memorized the Brave’s baseball stats in 3rd grade when you still had trouble with your Rs and Ss. It just is long, boring, and full of a bunch of acronyms.
Anywho, with that out of the way, let’s talk aviation.
The Cessna 172 is the quintessential training airplane. First produced in 1956, it is one of the most common general aviation aircraft in the world, with over 43,000 built. It looks like this:
ain’t that just adorable? These suckers put out a whopping 100-130 horsepower to cruise at a blazing 105 knots at the dizzying height of up to 12,000 feet (never have I ever seen a 172 go above 9k). The 172 does nothing well except limit what a nervous, 5-hour pilot can get themselves into. And that is fantastic. It, as well as its low-wing counterpart the Piper Cherokee have trained hundreds of thousands of student pilots, and most pilots in America have flown some subset of 172 or Cherokee. They are, to the greatest possible extent, the everyman’s airplane.
There’s a catch, however. Aviation in particular hasn’t taken inflation lightly, and airplane costs have grown exponentially. Young flight schools can’t buy new aircraft that cost a quarter of a million dollars, so they’re forced to look into the thankfully large secondhand market. This is where the issue is. 172s are in abundance for sure, but many pre-1980 aircraft are beginning to show their age, the period in which many 172s were made. They have cracked panels, smelly interiors, and really really bad paint jobs, among other things. Upkeep costs are rising, but the old airplanes are still a better deal than more recent craft.
That’s where the 172LITE comes in. One of the largest pilot supply stores in the world, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, is starting a new program to convert old 172s into newer, lighter, and much much cheaper aircraft to operate. Such improvements include: LED lights, metal instrument panels, carpet, and a new engine. This is, in short, a massive deal. Aircraft like the one above will come out of the conversion program looking like this:
Cost has yet to be seen, but Sporty’s is saying it will be attainable. Whether “attainable” is actually attainable, that is to be determined.
General aviation numbers are low these days. Fewer and fewer people are becoming pilots, and the world is pushing against the old fuels general aviation aircraft use. Hopefully, with these new conversion programs, more and more “new”ish aircraft can be pumped out, and the general aviation market can once again be pumped full of life. Best of luck to Sporty’s in their endeavor, and happy landings!