Used Aircraft Guide

November 2008 Issue

Used Aircraft Guide: Cessna 120/140

Affordable, easy-to-fly two-seaters from Cessna with the allure of a vintage taildragger.

The U.S. military trained thousands of pilots during WWII, pilots many aircraft manufacturers naturally assumed would continue flying once they returned home. But the hoped-for "an airplane in every garage" buying boom was never able to sustain itself, even if huge numbers of new airplanes were manufactured. Piper was building Cubs and, soon, Cruisers and Pacers pretty much as fast as it could. With a few exceptions—Beech’s Bonanza, for example—most offerings were taildraggers. The first of Cessna’s to be built in volume was the diminutive Cessna 120, followed in short order by a fancier model called the 140. At the time, the Cessna 120/140s were perfectly serviceable and practical two-place airplanes. They were reasonably priced to buy and economical to own. Although some had fabric wings, they were made mostly of metal, avoiding the periodic need for recovering. The good news is the qualities making them popular in the late 1940s are still present. Today, what little they give up to Piper’s Cubs in panache, they more than make up for in reduced acquisition costs and arguably more-forgiving handling qualities. The 120’s model history is rather short, since it was produced only for four years, from 1946 to 1950. Since Cessna had the training market firmly in its sights, the 120 sold for a mere $3245. That amount is equivalent to slightly more than $34,000 in 2007 dollars. Try to find a new, FAA-certificated, all-metal trainer for that kind of money today. Cessna made the 120 about as simple as airplanes get, with side-by-side seating, yokes rather than sticks, no flaps and no rear window. Standard equipment did not include an electrical system, although a generator was available as an option. Whether they left the factory with one or not, most 120s have an electrical system these days.

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