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No other single-engine piston aircraft is quite like the Cessna Skycatcher. This light-weight two-seater is in many ways its own category.
Designed in 2007 to fit into the newly-minted Light Sport Aircraft category, while retaining a striking resemblance to earlier Cessnas, the Cessna 162 incorporates features of both lighter and heavier aircraft.
The Cessna Skycatcher is nimble and responsive, with overall good handling qualities. Range and power are on par with the Cessna 150, while its lighter weight grants it an impressive climb rate and gives it an excellent roll response, outperforming both the Skyhawk and the Skylane.
Only 275 Cessna Skycather would ever be produced, for reasons that had more to do with unfortunate manufacturing decisions, and less with the design and performance of the aircraft. The Skycatcher is a well-built aircraft that performs well across the board.
Let’s have a look at the Cessna 162. A brief history of the Skycatcher will help us understand the niche it was meant to fill, as well as the complicated circumstances that surrounded its release. Let’s then look at how it fits into the modern setting, including what sets it apart from its competition today.
What kind of aircraft is the Cessna 162 Skycatcher?
The Cessna 162 was announced in 2007 as an airplane that was both cheap and modern, designed to fill a market gap in the newly-minted Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category, which would make it an attractive flight trainer since the LSA doesn’t require the pilot to hold an FAA Medical Certificate. It was very probably also conceived as a replacement for the aging Cessna 150 and 152, and for good reasons, as we shall see below.
Skycatcher Specs And Performance Summary
Let's have a look at the aircraft specifications, below.
What makes the Cessna 162 unique?
The Cessna Skycatcher is a lightweight two-seater that has been described as both sporty and maneuverable. The word sporty is apt since it was specifically developed to fit into the LSA category, a category that was brand new back in 2004.
As such it fills much the same niche as its predecessors the Cessna 150 and 152. What sets it apart is that it adheres to the restrictions of the LSA, at a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds.
It is a single-engine aircraft with a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller. With roughly 23 feet in length and a 30-foot wingspan, it’s a slightly smaller airplane than its older siblings. However, the Skycather was designed and built in the early 2000s, making it a modern aircraft, and giving it an edge over older planes designed in the mid-1900s.
Let’s have a look at some of the unique design features that set the Skycatcher apart, below.
What are the Cessna 162’s Design Features?
From the outside, the Skycatcher bears a clear resemblance to other single-engine tricycle gear planes. This should come as no surprise, Cessna had designed and built over 100,000 high wings after all. But as we shall see, God and the devil are in the details.
This single-engine piston, high-wing monoplane has an all-metal semi-monocoque airframe. Its structure is made from aluminum, with a fiberglass hood.
Under this hood, it carries its 100-hp Teledyne Continental Motors O-200D engine. When the 162 was on the drawing board, the older TCM O-200 was already in use powering a number of S-LSA aircraft. For the new Cessna Skycatcher though, TMC slimmed down the O-200, turning out the O-200D, a carburetor-equipped, four-cylinder engine that’s a whole 30 pounds lighter than the O-200.
Powered by the O-200D is a two-bladed, fixed pitch propeller. First planned as a composite two-blader, the original propeller was nevertheless made out of aluminum alloy. A couple of years later, however, in 2011, McCauley designed and delivered a fixed-pitch all-composite two-blade propeller designed for the Skycatcher. This is the ASTM-certified 1L100 propeller and was made specifically for the Cessna Skycatcher carrying a TCM O-200D engine.
This new propeller quickly became the new standard for the Cessna 162 serial number 108 and on and is available for all Skycatchers as an upgrade.
The Skycatchers wings are made from aluminum alloy, for maximum lightness, and are of a two-spar design. Each wing also carries an integral fuel tank.
Compared to its older siblings, the 150 and 152, the Skycather’s wings have been shrunk down from 160 square feet to 120 square feet, a reduction of around 25%. Yet, exactly because of the 160’s lighter weight, its stall speed and maneuverability have actually been improved.
One noticeable difference compared to the Cessna 152 or the Malibu Colt is the positioning of the wing struts. Only the Skycather has them behind the doors.
This forward positioning of the wing struts makes entering and exiting easier, but also somewhat more precarious since you will no longer have the struts between you and the propeller. Behind the wings, the 162 has a fixed design horizontal tail.
The door design is also unusual, instead of swinging forward, it swings upward. Just as with the positioning of the wing struts, this upward-hinged design facilitates getting aboard, but it also brings its own set of problems.
It turns out that the door latch has a history of malfunctioning, leading to the door opening mid-flight. In the case of forward-hinged doors, the air rushing past during flight would apply pressure to it, keeping it shut. But for the 162’s door, the opposite would happen as the wind would snag the door, blowing it open and often damaging it beyond repair. Replacing such a damaged door can turn out to be a costly affair, costing as much as $5,000.
To address this issue, Cessna has since issued a secondary door latch fix. The price of installing this latch is certainly preferable to replacing an entire door.
As we enter the cabin, we quickly see that this is an aircraft from the last two decades rather than one from the middle of the last century.
Gone are the faded brown and beige tints of old. Instead, the cockpit has a clean and practical look that is markedly devoid of upholstery. The Garmin G300 has replaced analog instruments, lending the instrument panel the crisp and clean look of gunmetal with a brightly colored flight display.
Just like the O-200D, the Garmin G300 (scaled-down from the G1000) was designed with the Cessna 162 in mind. It’s an all-glass flight display system developed specifically for the Skycatcher’s day/night VFR capabilities. It constitutes a vast improvement over the older mechanical instruments of older models as its all-in-one design helps to increase the pilot’s situational awareness.
The leftmost part of the G300 panel sports a 7-inch hi-res WVGA display. Its layout is a display-wide attitude indicator. To the left and right are two tape display overlays for airspeed and altitude respectively, and at the bottom, an electronic HSI.
To the rightmost part of the G300, there is a built-in aviation basemap that renders a realistic-style visual navigation chart, showing major guidelines such as airports, SUAs, cities, roads, lakes, and rivers.
Both are large displays with bright not-quite-primary colors for ease of viewing. Buyers can also rest assured that one screen is capable of showing all info, in the event that one of the screens should fail.
Another noticeable feature is the uniquely-designed light flight sticks, taking the place of more cumbersome yokes. Although some buyers might find that they will need some extra time to get adjusted to this design, they are generally reported to be light and responsive to handle.
An extra perk is that these sticks are mounted to the underside of the control panel rather than the floor, which serves to free up precious leg space for the pilot and copilot.
The cabin has been described as comfortable by some flyers, who mention ergonomic seats, armrests, and even cupholders. Others have pointed to the lack of insulation, (due to weight constraints in accordance with LSA) as a feature that makes for cold winter flights.
Conversely, some might want to avoid flying in hot environments too, since the side windows don’t open, which makes cooling down the cockpit less effective. On the bright side though, it’s easier to see laterally out of the Skycatcher compared to the 150 and 152. A clear improvement of function in this regard.
What is it like to fly the Cessna Skycatcher?
Due to its sporty and lightweight design, the Cessna Skycatcher has been described as responsive and fun to fly.
Though the Cessna 162 Skycatcher is classified as a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) it lies close both in design and performance to general aviation (GA) aircraft. This is because LSAs are made to be both heavier and more sophisticated than craft belonging to the smaller categories of ultralight or microlight aircraft.
That being said, this is a light airplane and the way it operates in the air is still similar to what pilots of other light and ultralight aircraft will be used to.
As such, the 162 spans the gap between these heavier and lighter aircraft categories.
Takeoff and landing
The Cessna Skycatcher is described as fast with a strong climb.
The fact that the 162 has an EW of only 830 pounds means that it gains an edge over the older Cessna 150 when it is outfitted with the same engine.
This slim-down translates to a 25% weight reduction compared to the Cessna 150 and 152 and is noticeable, for instance, in the 162’s comparatively better takeoff performance and climb.
While the Cessna 150 would climb at 400 feet per minute on a good day, the Skycatcher beats it with its average climb rate of 890 feet per minute, almost double the Cessna 150’s. Bear in mind that it achieves this with the same 100 hp power.
This allows this lightweight aircraft to take off from short runways ending in obstacles such as buildings or towers, and effectively climb out of smaller airports surrounded by mountainous terrain.
The 162’s landing distance of 670 feet again makes it a fit for small airports. This ability to land and take off from smaller runways is a welcome feature because the Skycatcher’s flight time per tank (24 gallons) is only three hours. Luckily it runs on Avgas 100ll, which can be found at most airports.
The Cessna Skycatcher’s tail has a ventral fin that limits the plane’s nose-up angle to around 15% during landing. Keep this in mind lest you scrape the tail. The recommendation is to use an attitude landing technique. One pilot advises us to use only a slight backstick pull.
Handling and Cruising
Just as with the climb rate, The 162 outperforms the 150 at cruising as well. At an altitude of 4,000 feet, the Skycatcher is 6-8 knots faster than the older model. We should also bear in mind that this is true even when the 150 carries a 110-horsepower Lycoming engine. It still maxes out at a maximum cruising speed of 110 knots.
While it could be said that a cruise speed of 110 knots is still a bit on the slower side, this is actually advantageous for training purposes since it allows you to stay in the sky for a longer time.
The Cessna 162 has a range of 350 nautical miles and an impressive ceiling of 15,000 feet, an altitude that cannot be reached without the pilot bringing supplemental oxygen along for the flight.
The Skycatcher reportedly has good handling qualities and will not do anything unexpected during flight. This is a plane built by a company with over 80 years of experience in designing high-quality aircraft, and it shows.
The refined way in which the 162 performs in the air is also a testament to the thorough testing performed by Cessna during their qualification process.
For instance, the 162 had some initial spin problems, but these were identified during the testing phase, and Cessna subsequently added a ventral fin and extended the rudder down. After that, no more spin problems were reported.
The Cessna Skycather has an excellent roll response, allowing it to respond quicker than either the Skyhawk or the Skylane. The Skycatcher also has a more sensitive pitch rate than the older models.
The 162 has a stall speed of 37 knots with the flaps at 40 degrees, which is 3 and 5 knots slower than the Cessna 150 and 152 respectively.
Overall, the Skycatcher is a nimble and responsive aircraft.
A Brief History of the Cessna 162 Skycatcher
The Cessna Skycatcher was the new toy on the market when it was launched, a decade and a half ago, but the model never really took off.
Nowadays, sentiments toward it have cooled due to a string of unfortunate choices made by Textron Aviation prior to the 162’s release. Choices that would end up impacting its reception from the get-go.
We will see why shortly, but first let’s have a look at why the 162 was conceived of in the first place.
Raison D'etre of the Skycatcher
When the Skycatcher was announced, it was introduced as a modern and cheap aircraft, perfect for both flight training and personal use. Additionally, it conformed to the then-newly-minted Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category.
What’s more, the previous similar (two-seat, single engine, tricycle gear) Cessnas, the 150 and 152, had been out of production since 1977 and 1985, respectively. So a new updated, modernized model made sense at the time.
The 162 was seen as the quintessential flight trainer. Especially since it was certified within the LSA framework. This meant that it could be flown by pilots without a medical certificate, in contrast to the 150 and 152 which are both heavier General Aviation (GA) aircraft.
All of this to say that it filled a vacuum in the market at the time. It was, so to say, destined for greatness, and attracted more than 1,000 pre-orders. The first delivery took place in 2009. But much would have time to change before then.
How was the Cessna 162 received?
Based on market analyses, Cessna predicted that they would sell 600 Skycatchers a year, and looking back at the initial 1,000 orders, that likely seemed very reasonable.
However, only 275 Cessna 162 would ever be produced, and out of that number, only 192 would ever be sold.
How did this happen? We’ll examine this below.
Why was the Cessna Skycatcher canceled?
The idea behind the Cessna Skycatcher was to create a low-cost aircraft. Articles at the time lauded it as the airplane that would cut pilot training costs in half.
The thinking was that the low price in combination with it being an SLA would make it attractive to beginner pilots and flight schools alike. Cessna first projected a price tag under $100,000, then adjusted this to the slightly higher $109,500. So far so good.
However, this plan never crystalized and the 162 would fail to take off within just a few short years. This was mainly because of two reasons:
- Early on, Textron Aviation made the decision to have the 162 manufactured in China. This was with the expectation of tapping into the Asian market. Unfortunately, this never happened.
- The second reason was linked to the first. The fact that the 162 was put together in China means that components (for example US-made engines) first had to be shipped to China to be installed. The finished plane would then be shipped back to the USA to be sold. All of this extra shipping served to increase the price significantly with the final price skyrocketing by 50% to a staggering $149,000.
All of this angered many buyers and a good deal of cancellations quickly followed. Many buyers had been upset over the decision to manufacture the Skycatcher in China, to begin with, and the steep price increase didn’t help matters.
An argument that merged the questions of both price and manufacturing location was that American buyers thought that a plane constructed in China should not have been so expensive.
To be fair, the market from 2007 to 2013 was economically challenging, and this alone might have been enough to cause the bottom to drop out of piston aircraft production worldwide during this time period.
At any rate, in 2012 the CEO of Cessna, Scott Ernest, declared that the 162 had no future. The Skycatcher project was canceled in 2013, the model was subsequently taken off the official website, and the unsold aircraft were dismantled for parts and scrapped.
Is the Cessna 162 still around today?
The Skycatcher might never have achieved its “destiny” as imagined in 2007, but it also didn’t entirely disappear. There are still 162s on the US market. Let’s have a look at what the current market looks like.
What are the Pros and Cons of the Cessna 162 today?
The pros of getting a Cessna Skycatcher today include that it is still less than 15 years old, meaning that it has few age-related issues and that only light maintenance is required.
The cons, on the other hand, have to do with the fact that so few 162s were ever made. Because of this, spare parts are hard to find.
The Skycatcher also has some fairly expensive upgrades. The 162 was originally planned to come with a composite propeller, but that never materialized. Instead, such a propeller, the 1L100 from McCauley Propeller Systems, was made available in 2010 and will have to be bought separately as an upgrade.
Further, Textron Aviation has to date only approved one ADB-S system, the pricey Garmin GDL 82.
Also, the fact that the Skycatcher is a Light Sport Aircraft means that it’s not as stable as heavier aircraft, and some pilots will find it difficult to fly.
What is it like to buy a Cessna Skycatcher Today?
Though the Cessna 162 was conceived as a training plane, one that beginners would buy. But that never happened. Today, 15 years later, this remains true, mainly because of its still-high price tag and its relative rarity, which makes finding upgrades and spare parts a hassle.
Indeed, simply finding a Skycatcher for sale that is to your liking might take some work. With just 275 airplanes produced and only 192 ever sold, not many Cessna 162 are likely to be available at any one time. Owning one makes you a member of quite a small club.
Perhaps this scarcity, alongside the original price tag, has contributed to keeping the price of the 162 fairly high. It still sells for between $50,000 and $80,000, depending on the wear and tear of the individual airplane.
If your main goal is to get a cheap beginner’s plane, the Skycatcher is not it. Likewise, if ease of maintenance is an important factor, other craft with larger fleets and more abundant caches of spare parts will better meet that requirement.
However, if you are a collector, fascinated by the Skycatcher’s turbulent past, someone for whom a plane’s history and backstory are as integral to it as its technical specifications and design features, then the 162 might just be the airplane for you.
If this describes you, you will already know that maintaining the Cessna Skycatcher will entail increased time spent hunting down spare parts, as well as finding compatible upgrades. But, for someone like you, this will be part of exactly what makes owning the Cessna 162 both challenging and fun.
The Skycatcher’s Main Competition Today
Comparing airplanes, just like comparing anything else, is an exercise in weighing preferred features against each other. The prospective buyer will become adept at evaluating the trade-offs that desired qualities entail in the form of less desirable ones.
Aircraft, unlike cars, tend to last a long time. Because of this, differences in age between models might in some ways matter less.
We have already compared the Cessna 162 to its older siblings, the 150 and 152, above. We have seen in what aspects the 162 is the superior model by virtue of being a more modern and light aircraft.
If the price tag has remained low, the combined benefits would have tipped the scale even more in favor of the Skycatcher. However, it didn’t.
In all fairness though, the Cessna Skycatcher’s price is still thousands of dollars less than many other LSA. And though it is more expensive than the much older Cessna 150 on today’s market, a 2009 Skyhawk can easily sell for around $300,000.
A Small Comparison
In the following section, let’s extend our aircraft comparison beyond the Cessna family and have a quick side-by-side look at the Cessna 150, and the Piper (PA-22-108) Colt.
Both of these are comparable aircraft. The difference is that while the Cessna 162 Skycatcher is still sold for around $50,000, we can purchase the more common (Over 23,000 have been made) Cessna 150 for only around $25,000, and a Piper Colt (2,000 made) for around $35,000.