We knew we could do this in three days of flying, no sweat…weather permitting. Kirby, Cessna Aircraft’s chief pilot for piston airplanes, was confident. He broke the trip
down to manageable legs, and three days of
hopscotch flying looked su;cient. To cross
eight states, he planned nine or 10 legs
totaling about 19 hours spread over three
days, with a fourth flying day available as
a hedge against Mother Nature.
Ultimately the flying time amounted to
only 17. 1 hours, but the flying days expanded
into a fourth, courtesy of a wicked fall storm
that pillaged the southeast states. Yet we still
arrived at Tampa Executive (VDF) exactly 72
hours after leaving San Diego’s Montgomery
Field (MYF); from 9: 10 a.m. PDT ;ursday
to 11: 10 a.m. Sunday EST.
;e trip gave me time to become familiar
with the SkyCatcher—how it flies, how it performs, what’s enjoyable about the little bird.
;e aircraft drew repeated questions about its
“type;” it seemed to vex controllers and briefers
at every contact. “Not in our database,” we
Well, C162 will be there soon! With more
than 1,000 ordered and the first airplanes
to be delivered early this year, controllers
should hear from plenty of SkyCatcher
As you’d expect, the 162 also drew
interest on most of the ramps we visited,
which often were thick with business-turbine machines. In that atmosphere the
little airplane represented a di;erent sort
of aviation: flying solely for the desire to
fly. And the SkyCatcher demonstrated a;rmatively that a small sport plane with the
modest primary mission of flight training
and fun flying o;ers capabilities beyond
its original intent.
Flying the SkyCatcher proved easy and
predictable enough to avoid feeling like work
during three days that averaged about five
hours each. Excellent visibility made sightseeing
an integral element of the en route fun.
Its sophisticated glass panel provided information and hazard protection to help us avoid
some of the dangers possible when taking any
light aircraft across four time zones, particularly
when Mother Nature played her hand.
;e 162 lifted payload enough to let a
couple of less-than-svelte pilots still pack
for comfort, if not fashion, and fly legs long
enough to daily cover the ground needed.
And it accomplished all this without
becoming monotonous, burdensome, or
boring. It was fun!
CESSNA RETURNS TO THE TWO;PLACE REALM
Fifteen years ago at a National Business
Aviation Association convention, then
Cessna Chairman Russ Meyer explained to
me how flight schools preferred four-place
aircraft for training. ;e ability to throw an
“observer student” in the back and charge
them a reduced rate to watch another student and instructor interact helped cover
the costs of offering flight training in late-model airplanes.
But a decade-and-a-half changes perspectives in many areas. Today, the 5-year-old
LSA/sport pilot movement has returned the
two-seat trainer to prominence, with more
than 100 choices, all of them less costly then
the four-seat alternatives.
Into this environment Cessna launched
its development program not long after the
LSA movement won its blessings from the
FAA. After debuting a proof-of-concept prototype at EAA AirVenture 2006, the SkyCatcher
concept evolved as Cessna sought to find the
right fit for the market. ;e resulting plane
reflected much of the tradition of Cessna’s
past with some considerable nods to today
and the future.
For example, the 162 sports Teledyne
Continental’s redesigned, lightened O-200D
engine, still making 100 hp. It’s a new version
of an engine Cessna used in thousands
of C-150s. (Read more about the O-200D
in this month’s Firewall Forward column,
The SkyCatcher also employs metal
construction—technology Cessna knows
well—and many components were chosen for
weight and simplicity: a castering nose wheel;
manual Johnson-bar flaps; fixed, non-adjust-able seats; sturdy landing gear; sight-tube fuel
indicators, and an all-on/all-o; fuel system.
Beyond these considerations, however, the
SkyCatcher provides a level of sophistication
to match its role as Cessna’s new entry for a
market known for its step-up habits.
Aircraft Make & Model:
Cessna SkyCatcher Model 162
Certification: Light-sport aircraft
Length: 22. 8 ft.
Wingspan: 30 ft.
Height: 8. 3 ft.
Maximum Gross Weight: 1,320 lbs.
Empty Weight: 830 lbs.
Powerplant Make & Model:
Horsepower: 100 hp
Propeller Make & Type: McCauley
Cruise Speed/Fuel Consumption:
Approx. 20. 9 nautical mpg
Power Loading: 13. 2 lbs/hp.
Wing Loading: 11 lbs/sq. ft.
Equipped for: Day VFR
VNE: 124 knots
Stall w/flaps: 39 knots
Stall without flaps: 44 knots
For more information:
Bottom: Kirby Ortega, (left), and
Dave Higdon, (right).