Aircraft Buying Guide: Cessna 150/152 — July, 2015:

It’s still tough to beat this all-time champion of cheap flying. Boasting the lowest prices and operating costs in its class, the Cessna 150 dominated the flight-training scene for decades after its late 1950s introduction.

Today these sturdy little machines soldier along effectively with minimal fuss, doing the same missions they handled so well in the mid 20th century – basic flight training, time building, and weekend fun flying. And with huge numbers of this ubiquitous two-seater still available on the used market, the 150/152 continues to crank out scores of new pilots every year.

Cessna introduced the 150 for 1959, to fill a void in the company’s line left when the 140 was dropped in 1951. Although in many respects nearly identical to the 140, the 150 improved on its predecessor by adding tricycle landing gear and getting a bump in horsepower, from 90 to 100.

A succession of small revisions followed, starting later in 1959 with a longer TBO, which jumped from 600 to 1800 hours. Then, for 1961, the main gear was moved aft two inches, to put more weight on the nosewheel, which was often said to have felt too light. At the same time, the 150 also got adjustable seats.

The basic 150 design stayed the same until 1964, when it got its wrap-around rear window, giving the plane the familiar shape that most pilots associate with Cessna’s lightplanes. For 1967, a sharply-swept vertical stabilizer replaced the former straight, slab-shaped design, thereby finalizing the plane’s perky, iconic form.

For 1970, Cessna introduced what’s arguably the most interesting 150 variant, the Aerobat. Designed to handle 6 positive and 3 negative Gs, the Aerobat was capable of doing the basic repertoire of aerobatic and unusual-attitude-training maneuvers, including spins, loops, and rolls.

Of course, with the same sedate control feel and mild 100-hp engine as the standard 150, the Aerobat wasn’t a threat to serious competition machines. But as an inexpensive aerobatic trainer, it occupied a unique niche that few planes have addressed.

Through the early and mid 1970s, the 150 got only minor revisions. But by 1977, several factors were conspiring to push Cessna to extensively revamp it. Foremost among the issues was that the 150’s recommended fuel, 80-octane, was being phased out. Also, the 150 had gradually gotten heavier over the years without a commensurate increase in engine output. Thus, the plane’s performance had become somewhat sluggish.

To remedy this, Cessna for 1977 introduced an upgraded 150, called the 152. Among its many differences was its Lycoming 110-horsepower engine, which replaced the 100-horsepower Continental that had powered the 150 for nearly two decades.

The new engine didn’t give the plane a big jump in speed or payload – mostly it restored performance to that of the 150’s lighter 1960s configuration – but it was now rated for 100LL fuel, which had become the only Avgas available at many airports. In addition, the 152 also got a 28-volt electrical system, replacing the 150’s 12-volt system.

Production of the 152 continued with only minor changes through the 1985 model year, after which Cessna took a hiatus from building piston-engine aircraft altogether. This would prove to be the end of the line for the capable little trainer – there was no sign of the 152 in the product mix when Cessna resumed light-plane production in 1992.

But the 150/152 story doesn’t end there. In 2014, Aviat Aircraft and AOPA partnered to explore the concept of “Reimagining” Cessna’s venerable two-seater as an alternative to brand-new aircraft.

Starting with good-condition 150 and 152 airframes, Aviat completely disassembles each aircraft, inspects it, and strips the paint and interior. All mechanical components are then replaced or re-manufactured. Topping the package off are fresh paint, new interior, and stainless-steel exterior hardware.

With companies like Aviat and legions of satisfied owners caring for them, it’s certain that 150s and 152s will be in service for years to come. With combined production of roughly 30,000, there are still plenty of solid ones to choose from.