Cessna C-177 Cardinal

By:      Norm Goyer

The first C-177 Cardinal had many problems which caused poor handling and very slow initial sales.

The first C-177 Cardinal had many problems which caused poor handling and very slow initial sales.

Cessna was no stranger to cantilever wings, they first produced them in the early 1930s. Cessna also used cantilever wings in their brief journey into air racing where they combined mid-wings with a retractable landing gear, these Cessnas were highly advanced, compared to other racing aircraft of the same vintage. Cessna seeing that the public had accepted strutless wings, brought out their Airmaster C-165, a mostly tube, fabric and wood high wing, four-passenger cantilever wing which looked very similar to the post war Cessna 195. These five passenger Businessliner  was introduced in 1947 and manufactured until 1954. The next cantilever wing was the Cessna Cardinal which was their only other clean paper design of any single engine aircraft. In other words, most post war single engine Cessnas got their inspiration from the Cessna 120. The Cardinal was very different, some folks even called it the non Cessna, Cessna. The Cessna 210 eventually also became cantilever about the same time as the Cardinal was introduced.

The Cessna 177 Cardinal was originally designed to replace the C-172 Skyhawk.

The Cessna 177 Cardinal was originally designed to replace the C-172 Skyhawk.

The Cardinal 177 design was intended to replace the 172, which was to be discontinued. The new design, called the 172J. However, as the time came to make the transition, there was considerable resistance from Cessna Marketing Division to the replacement of the 172. The  model 177 was introduced in late 1967 with a 150 hp engine. One of the design goals was to allow the pilot an unobstructed view when turning. In the Skyhawk, the pilot sits under the wing and when the wing is lowered to begin a turn, that wing blocks the pilot’s view of where the turn will lead to. The engineers solved this problem by moving the pilot’s seat forward but created a nose heavy situation, which they then had to resolve.. So they decided to use the much lighter Lycoming O-320 four-cylinder engine, rather than the six-cylinder O-300 Continental used on the 172. The forward CG situation still existed even with the lighter engine, so a stabilator was chosen, to provide sufficient elevator control effectiveness at low airspeeds. The stabilator of the 177 was not fully counterbalanced (only 75% counterweighted, to save about 4 pounds of weight). This, and the lighter stick forces, required of a stabilator design, contributed to a phenomenon called pilot-induced oscillation (PIO), wherein the pilot, attempting to correct a nose-high or nose-low attitude with out-of-sync elevator inputs, increases the undesirable attitude.

The Cardinal 177-B had a 180 hp engine, different wing and tail; it was also marketed in 198 as the Cardinal Classic with a deluxe interior.

The Cardinal 177-B had a 180 hp engine, different wing and tail; it was also marketed in 198 as the Cardinal Classic with a deluxe interior.

The NACA 65A015 airfoil used on the 177, was chosen for its laminar-flow characteristics. This airfoil has a much higher drag at low airspeeds than the NACA 2412 airfoil used on the 172. While 177 climb airspeeds are similar to the 172, the apparent angle of attack is flatter in the 177. Pilots not adhering to published 177 Vx and Vy airspeeds, instead climbing at the higher deck angle familiar from 172 experience, achieved both slower airspeeds and climb rates than the aircraft was capable of. These problems rapidly circulated throughout the training and rental aircraft industry and sales of the new C-177 never took off. Cessna was faced with a problem. What to do with the new C-177?

Cessna also produced a Cardinal RG to compete with the Cherokee Arrow. The RG used a four-cylinder 200-hp Lycoming for power.

Cessna also produced a Cardinal RG to compete with the Cherokee Arrow. The RG used a four-cylinder 200-hp Lycoming for power.

Engineers tweaked the airframe and power plant in 1969 and came up with the Cessna 177A. Recognizing that the aircraft was underpowered, Cessna installed 180-hp version of the same four-cylinder Lycoming used in the 177, moving the design’s price and role somewhere between that of the 172 and 182 Skylane The additional power improved cruise speed by 11 knots.

In 1970 Cessna introduced the 177B, with a new wing airfoil, a constant-speed propeller, and other minor improvements. The 177B weighed 145 lb more empty than the earlier 177, with maximum takeoff weight increased from 2,350 lb to 2,500 lb.  Despite these upgrades, the 177B was still outsold by the 172.

In 1978, Cessna built the deluxe Cardinal Classic a version of the 177B with leather upholstery, a table for the rear passengers, and a 28-Volt electrical system. It had special appeal to the ladies.

The final aircraft in the 177 line was the retractable-gear 177RG Cardinal RG, which Cessna began producing in 1971 as a direct competitor to the Piper PA-28-200R Cherokee Arrow and Beechcraft Sierra. The RG has a 200 hp Lycoming IO-360 engine to offset the 300 lb increase in maximum weight, much of which was from the electrically-powered hydraulic gear mechanism. 1n 1978 I purchased the remaining inventory of Cardinal Classics and sold them all within 30 days. Our firm won a substantial cash prize from Cessna. For obvious reasons our family loved the Cardinal.

Specifications Cessna 177-B

Crew: 1 pilot

Capacity: 3 passengers

Length: 27 ft 8 in

Wingspan: 35 ft 6 in

Height: 8 ft 7 in

Wing area: 174 ft²

Empty weight: 1,495 lb

Max takeoff weight: 2,500 lb

Engine: Lycoming O-360-A1F6D flat-4 engine, 180 hp

Performance

Maximum speed: 136 knots, 157 mph,

Cruise speed: 124 knots 143 mph

Range: 604 nm 695 mi.

Service ceiling: 14,600 ft

Rate of climb: 840 ft/min

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