The following is an excerpt from “The 170 Book” and was originally written by Bob Baas. (Print copies are no longer available.)
Additional information about the history about Cessna 170 models can be found on the Forums
Early in 1948, aviation publications across the country were publishing press releases similar to the following, which appeared in the February issue of FLYING magazine:
“Wichita, Kansas – A full line of Cessnas will roll off the lines this year. Deliveries of the new 1948 model Cessna began early in January… The big news in the way of completely new aircraft at Cessna this year is the Model 170, a four-place plane powered by a 145 hp Continental engine. Selling at $5,475, this new 170 is the low-cost four-placer to complete Cessna’s full line. Deliveries are expected to begin in March.”
During the late 1940s through the mid-1950s over 5,000 Cessna 170s were manufactured and well over half that number survive today. This alone should indicate that this aircraft has certain qualities that make it a desirable aircraft to own and has also gained it recognition as a Neo-Classic in various aircraft organizations.
The Cessna 170 began its life looking much like its little brother, the Cessna 140. In fact, the 1948 C170 is quite often mistaken for the smaller two-place C140 by the casual observer. In 1948, Cessna expanded and stretched the 140 to make it a four-place aircraft and called it the 170. It had no dorsal fin, had fabric-covered wings, vee-type wing struts and three C140 fuel tanks to give it the necessary range for its larger engine. The engine used was a Continental C145 (later designated the O-300A) and would be used throughout the entire production run of Cessna 170s.
The first production model was serialized #18001, but both it and #18002 were experimental and eventually scrapped by Cessna. The first C170 produced for sale to the public was SN18003, which rolled out of the factory doors on February 6, 1948. She made her first trip on February 27, 1948.
Beginning very late in 1948 with SN18730, Cessna began producing the all-metal, slicked-up version with a single strut and a dorsal fin identical to the one used on the C195. The price new was $5,995, and it was called the Model 170A. The plane had an all-metal wing with slightly larger flaps which ran from zero to 50 degrees. The 170A, which was produced through 1951, is commonly called the “straight wing” model because, unlike later 170Bs, the C170A has no wing dihedral. There were very few changes made in the C170A in its three years of production.
The Cessna 170B was introduced in 1952 and continued in production with several changes until production on the series ended in 1956. The most obvious change from the 170/170A is the large semi-Fowler flaps similar to those used on the L-19. The flaps were labeled “Para-lift” by Cessna, but the term “barn door” is the more common description. The flaps originally had four settings: 0, 20, 30 and 40 degrees. Beginning in 1955, Cessna added a 10 degree flap setting.
The dihedral angle was increased to 3 degrees on the 1952 and all subsequent models, and more twist was given to the wing between the strut and the tip. The stabilizer and elevator shape was changed and the aerodynamic balance area was increased. A mass balance, enclosed in the aerodynamic balance section, was added, requiring less control pressure.
The Cessna 172 was introduced in 1956, and tricycle gear took over the general aviation scene. Since Cessna had parts left for some C170s, they continued to produce the C170B until the parts were gone.
As for performance, the stock Cessna 170 will pretty much do what the Owner’s Manual says. It will get into a much shorter field than it will get out of at gross weight. It will cruise in comfort at about 118 mph at 65% power at 4,000’ – 7,000’ and burn about 8 gph with engine properly leaned.
Most C170s will take two adults, two children, 100 pounds of baggage and full fuel and still be legal for a gross weight of 2200 pounds. The C170 will climb 500-700 fpm at this weight and land at about 52 mph.
The Cessna 170 is a good, honest taildragger and has had very few AD notes on either the airframe or engine.