Years ago, these simple, economical, two-seat, tricycle-gear aircraft comprised the majority of the training fleet. Today, the 150 and 152 persevere and are still well-suited for either training or personal use.
If you haven’t heard of or seen a Cessna 150 or its successor, the Cessna 152, you mark yourself as being very new to aviation. For more than three decades, it was the most popular trainer and the second most-produced aircraft in the world, second only to the Cessna 172.
Over 31,000 of the Cessna 150/152 series aircraft were produced. In the General Aviation boom years of the ‘60s and ‘70s, they pretty much owned the trainer role as the mainstay of the Cessna Pilot Centers. Unfortunately, they are much less common in that role today, being largely displaced by the Cessna 172.
With aviation fuel oscillating between $4 and $5 a gallon, the demise of the two-seat trainer elevates the barrier to entry for aspiring new pilots.
The Cessna 150 was born of Cessna’s desire to have a replacement for the Cessna 140. The conventional gear (taildragger) 140 ended production in 1951. In the mid-1950s, Cessna began design work on what would become the Cessna 150. Type certification was granted in July 1958, with the production of the 1959 model year beginning late in 1958. The aircraft was certified under Part 3 of the 1956 version of the Civil Air Regulations, as were all subsequent variations, including the 152.
After 1985, Cessna stopped all production of its single-engine aircraft. When it restarted in production in 1996, the 152 was not brought back. Perhaps at that time, Cessna felt that the market for a two-place trainer was too small.
They seemed to rethink that with the Cessna 162 SkyCatcher, but for myriad reasons, that program didn’t work out too well. (Read more about the story of the Cessna 162 in the November and December 2019 issues of Cessna Flyer. —Ed.)
It is a pity that in this time of significant pilot shortage, new Cessna 152s are not available, as they are certainly cheaper to operate than the larger aircraft in common use today.
Cessna 150 models
The Cessna 150 went through relatively minor changes over its run from 1959 through 1977. For all models, the engine remained the Continental O-200-A, rated for 100 hp. The O-200-A was a simple and reliable engine.
The 150 has very effective Fowler flaps that can be extended up to 40 degrees using the manual “Johnson Bar” on early models. Flaps became electrically actuated on later models. Full flaps can be a real problem if not retracted on a go-around. At 100 hp, the 150 is not overpowered by any means. Loaded heavy on a warm day, it may not climb at all with the flaps fully extended.
The airplane has two wing tanks of 13 gallons each, which feed together by gravity and the engine-driven fuel pump. In early models, 22.5 gallons were available as usable fuel, and the fuel selector only had an “ON” or “OFF” position. The gross weight of early models is 1,500 pounds.
Initially, the Cessna 150 came in three versions: the standard, the trainer, and the Commuter. The differences were largely in the option package. In 1960, a Patroller version was added, which included plexiglass panels in the doors and extended-range tanks holding 38 gallons, of which 35 gallons were usable.
The 1959 through 1963 models are distinguishable by the “fastback” empennage, which carries aft from the wing in a smooth panel back to the straight vertical fin. The 1964–1965 models received the “Omni-Vision” rear window, which we are all familiar with, but kept the straight vertical fin. The 1966–1977 models have the “Omni-Vision” rear window and the slanted vertical fin.
The first substantial change occurred with the 1964 Cessna 150D, when Cessna made a few structural changes and increased the gross weight to 1,600 pounds. The new rear window configuration also resulted in a larger baggage area, and the baggage area load limit increased from 80 pounds to 120 pounds.
The next significant changes came with the 1966 model year, designated the Cessna 150F. The doors were made larger, as was the baggage compartment. The flaps changed from manual activation to electric activation.
1966 was also the year that Reims in France began producing the Cessna 150. (“Reims Aviation and the French Cessnas,” which appeared in Cessna Flyer in September 2017, gives the history of the Reims-Cessna partnership. —Ed.) I have yet to see one of these in the U.S., but anyone thinking of purchasing one should know that the Reims 150, designated the F150, is not part of the Type Certificate for the U.S.-built aircraft, so the various Supplemental Type Certificates for the U.S.-built aircraft are not usable on a French-built plane.
The 1967 Cessna 150G model got doors that curved out a bit to give greater arm and shoulder room, which was sorely needed, but still none too generous. Most average-sized people will still sit shoulder touching shoulder. In that year, Cessna also certified a floatplane version, though it would seem a bit underpowered for a floatplane unless a larger engine were to be installed under STC.
1969’s 150J model introduced the next big changes. The pull handle, which had heretofore activated the electric starter, was replaced by a key-start. Rocker switches were also introduced as the aircraft began to look more like a modern aircraft rather than a refugee from WWII.
Cessna introduced a new model, the A150K “Aerobat” in 1970, which provided limited aerobatic capabilities. The Aerobat was certified to +6 Gs and -3 Gs. The cabin got a couple of skylights to allow more visibility, and the doors could be jettisoned.
Four-point harnesses were also provided. Over 600 of the Aerobat 150s were produced and were a common sight on the flight lines.
The Cessna 150L model was introduced in 1971 and continued in production through 1974. The only significant change was replacing the leaf spring main gear with the tubular type, which was also extended further out to give a wider track for better ground handling. The 150L was the most produced model of any of the 150s.
The Cessna 150M, introduced in 1975, was the last model of the 150. It was produced through 1977. The 150M model only offered a few minor improvements such as circuit breakers, inertia reel harnesses, and in the last year of production, the selectable flap control which has become the Cessna standard across the product line.
The incremental improvements over the years had eaten into the aircraft’s useful load, which was probably one of the impetuses for the introduction of the Cessna 152.
Cessna 152 models
Three major changes were made to the Cessna 150M to create the Cessna 152. The engine changed from a 100 hp Continental O-200-A to a Lycoming O-235-L2C rated at 110 hp. The gross weight increased to 1,670 pounds, an increase of 70 pounds.
Cessna was apparently motivated to change engines to better deal with 100LL fuel, which was rapidly becoming the standard. The O-200-A was designed for 80/87 octane and had trouble with the higher lead content in 100LL. The O-235 series also had issues with lead fouling, but not as bad. Putting specialized plugs in the lower cylinders, such as the UREM37BY plugs from Tempest, helps with the lead fouling.
Editor’s note (from our friends at Tempest): While many people use the UREM37BY or fine-wire plugs on the bottom cylinders to combat lead/oil fouling, it’s important to make sure that whatever plug they choose, they place the same part number on both top and bottom cylinders. The reason for this is positive and negative polarity. Aircraft use a shielded ignition system which gives us positive/negative polarity, and without rotating the plugs properly every 100 hours, you will begin to see uneven wear on your electrodes, decreasing the life of the spark plug. If you only use UREM37BY plugs on the bottom cylinders, you cannot rotate the plugs properly.
The flaps were reduced to a maximum of 30 degrees, likely as a response to the dangers of trying to perform a go-around without retracting the flaps. The 150/152 were common training airplanes and primarily designed as such. There were a number of crashes where a student-initiated a go-around and forgot to retract the flaps to 20 degrees as called for in the POH. As noted above, the 150 really does not want to climb with flaps at 40 degrees.
The Cessna 152 came in two versions. There was the standard, with different option packages, and there was the Aerobat version. Some aircraft are designated as the Cessna 152 II, which merely denotes an enhanced avionics package.
Like the Cessna 150, the Cessna 152 had standard and long-range fuel tanks. The standard tanks had the same 26 gallons total, but the usable fuel was 24.5 gallons. The long-range tanks had a 39-gallon capacity, with 37.5 considered usable.
Modifications and STCs
Over the years, numerous modifications have been developed for the 150 and 152 aircraft. These include modifications to convert the aircraft to a taildragger, the installation of an O-320-E2D Lycoming with 150 hp, and the auto fuel STCs, which are perhaps the most common modification.
Other modifications include extended-range fuel tanks, gap seals, and other STOL-type conversions. There are also dozens of STCs that fix common issues with the airframe. One fairly common modification for the Lycoming O-235-L2C engine in the Cessna 152 is the Sparrowhawk conversion, which installs higher-compression pistons and a different prop to obtain 125 hp instead of the stock 110 hp.
The Cessna 150/152 series aircraft have been reasonably trouble-free over the years, with the kinds of issues that one might expect from an airplane most often used as a trainer. Wrinkled firewalls from hard landings are relatively common. Of course, any aircraft that has spent any significant time as a trainer needs a careful structural inspection before buying.
Cracks can develop in the spar of the horizontal stabilizer from people carelessly pushing down on the tail surface to raise the nose to turn the aircraft around on the ground. I have seen people do that by pushing down almost at the tip of the stabilizer instead of being gentler and putting hands on the very inboard section or on the empennage itself.
Cessna seat tracks are a commonly known issue. Cessna has gotten tagged for hundreds of millions of dollars due to crashes allegedly caused by defective seat locking mechanisms and rails. It is less of a problem on the 150s and 152s, as the seat can’t go back all that far anyway. Other Cessna singles have a greater potential for the seat sliding back far enough that if the pilot instinctually tries to catch him/herself by the yoke, the plane is likely to pull up and stall—not good on takeoff.
AD 2011-10-09 applies to pretty much all Cessna high-wings except the very early ones like the 120 and 140. It requires 100-hour inspections of the seats and seat rails. As the AD involves removing the seats and taking a number of measurements, this is a procedure that is likely to take an hour or two of shop time to accomplish. (See Steve Ellis’s response on this topic in the Q&A on Page 18. —Ed.)
AD 2009-10-09 requires that the aircraft be placarded against spins or other aerobatics, or alternatively, that a rudder stop kit from Cessna be installed.
A quick review of the market for used 150s shows a range of prices from $20,000 to $70,000 and total times of 2,700 to 10,000 hours. For 152s, the prices seem to run from $30,000 to $95,000, with most of them north of 10,000 hours total time, and some up to 28,000 hours.
It seems to me that the best value point is a Cessna 150M model, which is pretty much the same aircraft as a 152. It also appears much easier to find one without a ton of hours for a much more reasonable price than the 152s command on the market.
These little Cessnas are pretty good trainers. They are a bit cramped for a pair of average-sized folks, or bigger, but for the length of a standard lesson, they are OK. These trainers have relatively light wing loading, so they tend to move about a bit in turbulence and will certainly teach the value of applying proper aileron positioning when taxiing in strong winds. But they are forgiving to land, which is a positive for a training airplane.
My only real complaint about the 152 that I learned to fly in, lo these many years ago, is that it instilled in me a fear of stalls as I could never detect the buffet in the lumpy spring air, and then, all of a sudden, it would fall off on the left wing.
Other aircraft introduced me to the heretofore theoretical concept of an aerodynamic buffet before the stall. Fortunately, this characteristic of the Cessna 152 did not hinder me from obtaining my private pilot certificate.
For someone looking for a fun little airplane to fly on a budget, or to teach a family member to fly in, the 150 is a good choice.
Kristin Winter has been an airport rat for over four decades. She holds an ATP-SE/ME rating and is a CFIAIM, AGI, IGI. In addition, Winter is an A&P/IA and reformed aviation defense attorney. She has over 9,000 hours in various GA aircraft. She flies professionally, instructs, and provides purchasing and operations consulting. She is currently based in Minnesota, which is where it all started. Send questions or comments to .
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“Cessna 162 SkyCatcher: From AirVenture Darling to Dashed Hopes” by Scott Kinney, November 2019
“Cessna 162 SkyCatcher: Pilot’s Review” by Scott Kinney, December 2019
“Reims Aviation and the French Cessnas” by Scott Kinney, September 2017
“The Texas Taildragger” by Michael Leighton, September 2019