Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Cessna 180


Cessna ads proclaimed 1953 as the "Golden Year of Flying" (50 years since the Wright brothers made their first flight). Amidst all the fanfare, a new model was proudly introduced, called the 180.

Basically a beefed-up 170 with 80 more horses, it was an exciting new airplane from the nose’s new spinner to the new square tail. The 180 was originally heralded by Cessna's marketing folks as "the businessman's airplane," but the airplane quickly gained a reputation for solid dependability and utility in the back country. Over the years, Cessna built 6,193 of them.

Production of the 180 began in 1953 and lasted until 1981. With a square tail, paralift flaps, spring steel landing gear, steerable tailwheel, and all-metal construction, Cessna 180 airplanes all look the same from the outside. The most significant changes over the years were in gross weight and engine. Gross weight increased from 2,550 pounds to 2,800 pounds, and the original Continental O-470-A 225-hp engine was upgraded over time to the Continental O-470-R 230 hp. The 1952 prototype was a modified 170B, with a new engine, a rectangular fin with a dorsal fairing, and reshaped side windows. Other changes include improvements to the steering, cowling, optional wheel fairings, and new wing tip design. Over the years, models A through K were produced, totaling 6,192 Cessna 180s. A complete detailed history is found in Edward Phillips' book Wings of Cessna.

Pilots uniformly report good handling of the 180 in the air, but on the ground, they sing a different tune. Visibility during taxi calls for S-turns, which is expected in a tailwheel. Ground loop avoidance, particularly in gusty conditions, calls for the utmost attention and tap dancing on the rudder pedals. According to Aviation Safety’s 1980-1981 study, 42% of all Cessna 180 accidents are due to ground loops during takeoff or landing.

Buz Landry, president of the International 180/185 Club, a group of 1,480 owners in 23 countries (you have to own one of the two types to join), calls the 180 "the most versatile aircraft ever designed. It flies fairly quickly, carries a good load, and can operate out of most rough and short strips."

In Alaska, where livelihoods and lives depend on airplanes, the 180's reliability and utility made it about as common as long winters. On wheels, floats, or skis, there are more Model 180s in Alaska than in any other state. "You always make it back in a 180," says Bud Morrison, of Woodland, Washington, who figures he has 10,000 hours in 180s and 185s. "It's got manual flaps, a simple carburetor — not fuel injection — and no fussy electronics or systems to break down in the boonies."

The 180 isn't perfect. Without soundproofing, the 180 is a bit noisy. There are airplanes that will fly faster, others that will haul more, and a few that will get in and out of shorter runways. But the 180 does all these things pretty well. Airplanes that do several things well, the "jacks of all trades," endear themselves to people who use them for recreation and business. Others that quickly come to mind are the 172 Skyhawk, Piper's Cubs, and Beech's Bonanzas. Each of these airplanes does several things well, and they're all perennial bestsellers.
For more information, see Cessna 180: Jack of All Trades and Cessna 180

Performance Summary

The 180 is an all metal, four to six seat, high wing, single-engine airplane equipped with conventional landing gear.

This airplane is certified in the normal category. Spins and aerobatic maneuvers are not permitted in normal category airplanes. The aircraft is equipped for day and night VFR flight and with additional equipment, for day or night IFR flight.

The aircraft is powered by a six cylinder, horizontally opposed, normally aspirated, direct drive, air cooled, carburetor equipped engine. The engine is a Continental Model O-470-R and is rated at 230 hp.

Fuel is supplied to the engine from two tanks, one in each wing. From these tanks, fuel flows by gravity through the selector valve to the fuel strainer and carburetor. Total fuel capacity is 65 gallons. This can be increased to 84 gallons total capacity with the optional long-range system.

Electrical energy is supplied by a 14-volt, direct-current system powered by an engine-driven alternator and a 12-volt storage battery.


  1953 Cessna 180 1973 Cessna 180J (Skywagon) 1981 Cessna 180K (Skywagon
Model Cont. O-470-A Cont. O-470-R Cont. O-470-U
No. Cylinders 6 6 6
Displacement 470 cu. in. 470 cu. in. 470 cu. in.
HP 225 230 230
Carbureted Or Fuel Injected Carbureted Carbureted Carbureted
Fixed Pitch/ Constant Speed Propeller Constant Speed Constant Speed Constant Speed
Fuel Capacity 60 gallons
Long Range Tanks: N/A
61 gallons
Long range tanks: 84 gallons
88 gallons
Long Range Tanks: N/A
Min. Octane Fuel 80 80 100
Avg. Fuel Burn at 75% power in standard conditions per hour Unknown Unknown Unknown
Weights and Capacities:      
Takeoff/Landing Weight Normal Category 2,550 lbs. 2,800 lbs. 2,810 lbs.
Takeoff/Landing Weight Utility Category N/A N/A N/A
Standard Empty Weight 1,520  lbs. 1,560 lbs. 1,650 lbs.
Max. Useful Load Normal Category 1,030 lbs. 1,240 lbs. 1,160 lbs.
Max. Useful Load Utility Category N/A N/A N/A
Baggage Capacity 120 lbs. 120 lbs. 170 lbs.
Oil Capacity 12 quarts 12 quarts. 12 quarts.
Do Not Exceed Speed 160 Knots 169 Knots 169 Knots
Max. Structural Cruising Speed 139 Knots 139 Knots 139 Knots
Stall Speed Clean 52 Knots 53 Knots 53 Knots
Stall Speed Landing Configuration 48 Knots 43 Knots 48 Knots
Climb Best Rate 1150 FPM 1090 FPM 1100 FPM
Wing Loading 14.6 lbs./sq. ft. 16.1 lbs./sq. ft. 16.1 lbs./sq. ft.
Power Loading 11.3 lbs./hp 12.2 lbs./hp 12.2 lbs./hp
Service Ceiling 20,000 ft 19,600 ft. 17,700 ft.