Cessna 170
Single-engine four-seat cabin monoplane, USA

Archive Photos 4

Cessna 170 (NC3956V, s/n 18275, 1948) parked (11/20/2011) at the Buckeye Municipal Airport, Buckeye, Arizona (Photos by Lt. Col. Dr. Marc Matthews, M.D., USAF (retired))

Cessna 170 Series History 2

The Cessna 170 is a light, single-engine, general aviation aircraft produced by the Cessna Aircraft Company between 1948 and 1956.

Development 2

Cessna 170

In late 1948 Cessna began sales of the 170, with metal fuselage and tail and fabric covered wings. These earliest 170s were four-seat versions of the popular 140 with a more powerful 145-hp (108.13 kW) Continental O-300 and larger fuel tanks. Like the 140, they were constructed of metal with fabric-covered wings supported by a "V" strut.

Cessna 170A

In 1949 Cessna began marketing the 170A, an all-metal 170 with zero-dihedral wings, and a single strut replacing the "V" strut of the 170. This and subsequent versions of the 170 shared the fin/rudder shape of the larger Cessna 190 and 195 models.

Cessna 305

In 1950, the United States Air Force, Army and Marines began using the military variant of the 170, the Model 305, designated the L-19 and later O-1 Bird Dog by the military. It was used as a forward air control and reconnaissance aircraft. The Bird Dog was extensively re-designed from the basic 170 and included a revised fuselage and wing with large modified-Fowler flaps that deploy up to 60°.

Cessna 170B

In 1952, the Cessna 170B was introduced featuring a new wing incorporating dihedral similar to the military version. The 170B model was equipped with very effective modified-Fowler (slotted, rearward-traveling) wing flaps which deflect up to 40° and a wing design that lives on in the Cessna light singles of today (constant NACA 2412 section with a chord of 64 inches (1,600 mm) from centerline to 100 inches (2,500 mm) out, then tapering to 44-inch (1,100 mm) NACA 2412 section chord at 208 inches from centerline, with three-degree washout across the tapered section). The 170B model also included a new tailplane, a revised tailwheel, larger rear windows and other refinements over the 170 and 170A.

In 1955, the previously elliptical rear side windows were changed to a more square design.


The 170 is equipped with conventional landing gear, which is more challenging to land than tricycle landing gear. In 1956, Cessna introduced a replacement for the 170 that was essentially a nosewheel-equipped 170B with a square fin, designated the 172. Cessna 170 production was halted soon after the 172 became available.

Model 309 and 319

Between 1951 and 1955 Cessna used 170s as test beds for Boundary layer control research, designating them as models 309 and 319. The Model 309 was a 1951 project in conjunction with the US Navy and the University of Wichita and used a Cessna 170A modified with a turbine engine to blow air over the wing.

In February 1952 the 309A flew, using an engine-driven electric generator to run fans located within the wings to generate airflow that was blown over the wings.

The 1953 Model 309B used dry chemical to blow air across the wings and flaps, as did the 1954 experiments on the 309C.

Also flown in 1953 was the model 319, a Cessna 170A equipped with a Continental 225 hp (168 kW) powerplant and larger flaps along with the boundary layer control. The 319 demonstrated the capability of taking off in 190 ft (58 m), landing in 160 ft (49 m) and clearing a 50 ft (15.24 m) obstacle in 450 ft (137.16 m). The aircraft had a stall speed of 28 kn (51.86 km/h).

The 309/319 research projects were deemed a success, but the results were difficult to convert into commercial use and the aircraft were difficult to operate. One company test pilot described the aircraft on the test report following his first flight as: "All in all, a rather nasty little monster!".


Over 5,000 Cessna 170s were built and over 2,000 are still in service today.

Cessna Model 170A Specifications and Performance Data 3, 5 as noted




Tail Unit

Landing Gear

Power Plant



Weights and Loadings



  1. Photos, John Shupek, Copyright © 2009 Skytamer Images (Skytamer.com). All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Cessna 170
  3. Bridgman, Leonard (editor) Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1953-54. London, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., 1953, p 211.
  4. Photos by Lt. Col. Marc Matthews, M.D. (USAF Ret.), 10/20/2011
  5. Christie, Joe. The Complete Guide to Single-Engine Cessna’s, 4th Edition, Cessna 170, TAB Books, United States: New York City, 1993, ISBN 0-8306-4224-2, 1993, pgs. 12-15.

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