The Cessna 172, or Skyhawk, received its type certificate from the FAA in 1955. It is an all-metal four-seat, single-engine, high-wing airplane with one door under each wing. The 172 was designed to replace the Cessna 170, which used conventional (tailwheel) gear instead of tricycle (nosewheel) gear.
Cessna 172, England, May 2003
The Skyhawk is the world's most popular training aircraft -- nearly every pilot in the western world has spent at least some time flying one. Historically, the Skyhawk's main competitors have been the Piper Cherokee, which is also very common, and the Beechcraft Musketeer, which is rarer and no longer in production. The older Skyhawks shipped with a 145 horsepower engine; later planes shipped with engines up to 180 horsepower, though 150 or 160 is more common. Cessna produced a retractable-gear version of the 172 named the Cutlass, and also produced versions on floats. The normal cruising speed for a fixed-gear 172 ranges from about 105 to 125 knots, depending on the engine and vintage.
The Skyhawk is part of a large family of high-wing, tricycle-gear, single-engine Cessna planes, ranging from the two-seater 150/152 (no longer in production) to the more powerful 182 Cessna Skylane, the six-seat 206 Cessna Stationair, and the enormous fourteen-seat turboprop Cessna Caravan, along with several other models no longer produced.