With the advent of the light sport aircraft (LSA) in 2004, this new category of simple two-seaters was expected to dominate the primary training market. However, the demand for these wonderful little airplanes fell a bit short of its promise originally. So, when the subject of the shortage of two-seat trainers comes up in conversation, the question arises: “Why doesn’t Cessna just start building the Cessna 150 again?” It’s a fair one, but I’ll explain why not in a moment.
Like so many others, my journey toward a career in aviation began in the left seat of a shiny, polished, aluminum-and-red 1959 Cessna 150. N5709E was the prize possession of the Virginia Tech aviation department and carried me and my friends on our first flights, first solos, and private pilot check rides, and then on to a career in military or commercial aviation. We were not alone. The Cessna 150 taught the post-1950s world to fly. So, how did this remarkable little airplane come to be such a success?
Those pilots who subscribe to the axiom “never fly the A model of anything” will be pleased to know the first model of this small but sturdy aircraft was simply the Cessna 150. Spanning the 1959 and 1960 model years, the original was an extensive update of the successful Cessna 120/140 line. Cessna 140 production had ended in 1951 as the postwar aviation boom flagged. However, by the end of the decade, the training market was beginning to heat up, and Cessna decided to get into the game.
The Cessna 150 prototype squared off the wingtips and tail surfaces of the 140, featured a straight, windowless tail cone, manual 40-degree Fowler flaps, and most important for the training market, tricycle landing gear. The systems were simple and even a bit rudimentary. The stout little Continental O-200A, 100 hp four-banger was started by pulling on a shiny “T” handle at the top of the minimal instrument panel. The handle tugged a cable that engaged the starter. Venturis powered the…