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1968 Flying Article


One of our members (Remind me who?) sent the 1968 Flying magazine where they tested the final version of the '68 Cardinal. Evidently there was an older article which this one references.

We start with the text of the article, as scanned, OCRd and cleaned up. Scroll down to see the article in context, and remember that each picture may be clicked on to load a larger version of the image.

The sidebars to the main text are advertisements placed by Cessna within that magazine. Click on any image for a larger version.

Flying Magazine, February 1968

BIG BUNCHES OF PEOPLE are going to dislike Cessna's new Cardinal. Intensely. Most of them will be the competition.

In December, after a brief introduction to it at Cessna's initial press showing, we gave you our first impressions of the Cardinal. We had some reservations.

Since then, we've flown the number-three airplane, 2203 Yankee; for 16 hours and 30 minutes over a long weekend. Thanks to the caprices of weather and our schedule, we saw the airplane at its worst. We flew it 6:40 in winds to 60 knots aloft with surface gusts to 39; 3:30 at night in turbulent air with patches of unreported weather thrown in; 2:20 on solid. instruments, the last 30 of it in icing conditions.

Our reservations are gone-but not for the reasons you may think. In December we cautioned against comparing the Cardinal with other airplanes. To do so is to miss the significance of it altogether, for the Cardinal is an entirely new idea.

But everyone seems to insist. So, since we must, let's.

As airplanes go, the Cardinal is nice. It's an important advance over previous offerings in its class. When compared airplane to airplane, the big thing in its design is the height of the wing. The Cardinal, like the Skyhawk, has the high-wing advantage that allows you to drain sumps (via optional cup and wire prong valves that should be standard) and check the undercarriage without getting down on your knees and dragging your coat-tails through slush and grease on the ramp.

The Cardinal's wing, though, is also low enough so that an average-size pilot can pull fuel cell caps and wet a finger without first hunting for a soapbox. And-hurray!- they've finally removed the fuel strainer drain knob from its silly position on the panel. It's now mounted next to the oil dip- stick, under a little door on the right side of the cowling.

The net effect of this is to put the Cardinal years ahead in eliminating the prime excuse for power failures-inadequate preflight fuel. system inspection. Now if Cessna would only provide a way to look into the engine compartment for oil leaks, chafed wiring, loose baffles and: other potential problems, they'd be reaching for perfection. The Cardinal's cowling is a sculptured work of art in metal and fiberglass. It's mounted to the firewall on a dozen noise-and vibration-squelching cushions of rubber. But you have to practically be an A&P to get inside and: admire that colorful "Blue Streak" 150-hp engine by Lycoming.

Some of the pluses on the nuts and bolts level are extremely soft wing and stabilator tips that spring back to shape should you taxi into a hangar door; an improved latch on the baggage door; a single exhaust stack on the right side so the natural direction of the propwash will curl that ugly soot streak down the belly instead of along the left side; retracting tiedown rings; straight and clean trailing edges in place of corrugations; internal hinges on all surfaces; ground adjustable tabs on the aileron, elimination of that unsightly flap gap on earlier Cessnas; metal-to-metal seat belt latches; fuel shut-off valve separate from the selector; rocker-type switches; rheostats for panel lighting; single-knob cabin air/heat control; prepositioning flap switch.

The list is impressive. About the only debits you'll find are thin skins at the tail that show evidence of a weight reduction program, and, for the first time ever in a single-engine Cessna, they've had to doctor the wing with stall strips.

The pipe landing-gear legs are the biggest hardware improvement. Developed by Steve Wittman, who also gave us the flat spring gear legs of former Cessnas, they've been around on homebuilts for two decades. They haven't been used on production airplanes because of manufacturing prob1ems. A plain steel pipe won't do; Cessna uses a machined, conically tapered tube. Cardinal engineers and a vendor worked more than a year to get them just right.

It was worth it. Few other vehicles, terrestrial or airborne, give as good a ride on the ground. Lock a brake, the gear springs back, swinging the wheel out and the airplane follows it around, turning about a point aft of the front seats..

And it's an exceedingly stable type of gear. We landed, taxied crosswind and downwind; and departed Ponca City, Oklahoma, in winds so strong we could hardly push the Cardinal's big doors open against it, and we didn't bend anything. We landed on Cessna's narrow runway in a gusty 28-knot, 20-degree crosswind with no more technique required than was necessary departing a few minutes later in a squatty low-winger.

In December we mentioned a tendency for the Cardinal to skip on landings. This turned out to be a resu1t of over-controlling at too high a touchdown speed. The Cardinal's stabilator is powerful. Hold the wheel back after touchdown and you'll drag the tail skid. Once we got the feel of it, the skip disappeared. And one gusty night in Dallas, we proved conclusively that the airplane doesn't bounce on a landing.

We also mentioned in December that the gear takes the cross out of crosswinds. What happens is that as side loads build up on the downwind tire, the gear springs back, which turns the wheel into the skid and dampens the embarrassment, almost 1ike fancy crosswind gear.

When the Cardinal is compared to other airplanes left front seat to left front seat, its true significance is slighted most. In fact, if you've faithfully read all the. pilot reports, you're probably wondering what's new. Even Cessna is hedging by continuing the Skyhawk, but with the same 150 Lycoming that powers the Cardinal. The performances are almost identical. For 1,250 more dollars you get a bit more quietness, considerably more comfort and room, and strut1ess styling.

You a1so get visibility-great visibility. And improved ailerons. The Cardinal's ailerons are superb. Even our aerobatic friends like them. We tried and tried to get an aileron stall and couldn't. With the airplane buffeting at the break, you can rock the wheel stop to stop, and all you get is a snap roll and a high sink rate.

At 2,200 pounds and rear seats empty, the airplane is approved for chandelles, lazy eights and spins. We tried some of each and hated to stop. You sit so far forward that you seem to be wearing the wings on your shoulders. Doing chandelles and lazy eights you become a gu1l, or hawk - or a cardinal. But watch that airspeed. The airplane is clean. Let the nose get down and it goes.

Spins are difficult to get into. You must have the wheel full back and kick it into the spin just before the break. Even then, if you relax back pressure the tiniest bit, the airplane pops out into a spiral.

Stall characteristics are superb. The airplane pleads with you, resists you, frightens you, in an effort to keep you out of trouble. The stall warner is a pitiful pneumatic wail, like a doll's voice; stick forces get higher and higher, the nose points up at a scary angle. If you insist on carrying it farther, the airplane sets up such a buffet that the seat literally paddles your backside in warning that a stall is imminent.

We slipped the airplane with no ill effects. The owners manual, however, cautions that slips are prohibited with full flaps due to a downward .pitch at certain speeds.

Slips aren't really necessary. Quarter flaps can be applied at speeds to 103 knots (119 mph), full flaps at 91 knots (105 mph). The main thing on landings is to get the airplane slowed to 65 or 70 knots (75 to 80 mph) in the approach. Otherwise, it'll float. Our instructor friends say overshoots are common on Cardinal checkouts.

After touchdown, a quick swipe at an airfoil-shaped knob brings the flaps up. The old self-centering switch is gone. Now the flaps go to whatever position you set the lever. There's a notch one quarter of the way down the slot. So, on takeoffs, you'll soon get into the habit: You open the throttle, slap the lever down going through 45 knots (52 mph) and rotate.

We're not sure whether this or the new trim location is the best feature. When your right hand is on the throttle, the trim wheel 1s just under your thumb, and you can roll it up or down with a deft flick. Trimming ease approaches that of a button on the yoke.

Good thing, for the Cardinal, in common with all stabilator-equipped planes, tends to be uncertain in pitch. Wheel forces, delightfully delicate at maneuvering speeds, are so heavy at cruise that you soon have a sore left arm in rough air from tugging or pushing each time the plane is knocked off trim speed by a gust. In rough air you'll also feel gusts feeding back through the aileron circuit.

In spite of this, the Cardina1 is a good instrument airplane. Flight instruments are in T presentation (standard on all Cessnas in 1968). Though we don't recommend solo instruments with one radio and no autopilot as a regular order of business, we enjoyed our 2:20 on the gauges from Dallas to Ponca City. Even after we began picking up ice.

With a half-inch of rime on the leading edges, 03 Yankee maintained its usual 115 knots (132 mph) true at 75 percent at 7,000 feet. The windshield stayed clear and we could detect no differences in stabilator responses.

One caution on flying the Cardinal instruments when the temperature is near freezing: Because you sit under the leading edge, it's natural to lean forward and look back down the leading edge for ice-the single most effective head movement to induce vertigo. We had our first experience with "the leans" on this flight.

Of course, neither do we recommend flying in ice without proper equipment. When you start picking it up unexpectedly, though, it's great to know that the plane you're flying gives no cause for panic. We found it pretty hard to lose our cool in the Cardinal in any case. Each time we flew in moisture, it entered the leading edge intake and came out the overhead vents as a refreshing spray.

When critically compared, airplane to airplane, the Cardinal stacks up as we've come to expect of a new design; it's a better machine with a higher price tag. When measured against the Skyhawk at night, however, the Cardinal comes up second best. Landing and taxi lights are so far recessed into the left wing tip that they don't light up ramp and taxiways as they should.

Panel lighting is good - so far as it goes. It doesn't go far enough. We had to resort to a flashlight to read the engine instruments and tachometer.

Reflections from ground lights off the backside of that long, slanted windshield are fierce over a large city. One night, over sparsely settled Oklahoma, we climbed into an overcast thinking the reflections of scattered lights below us were stars above.

The Cardinal 'hardly seems anything toc terrorize the competition. They'll stretch their cabin next year, or add another window, or switch to BTO power levers and be back in favor with aviator types. But this is just the significance of the Cardinal; its success does not rest on pilot acceptance alone.

Up to now, the personal airplane business has been trying to grow by tugging at its own bootstraps. The game has been to entice people to learn to fly. Then, once they begin to fancy themselves aviators, we entice them further with planes that appeal to pilots.

But look what Cessna has done. In December, we said the Cardinal is the finest automobile flying. It's low, with super wide doors that swing out 90 degrees so you can approach it upright in front of the leading edge, sit down, swing your legs in and go. In fact, it's easier to get into than some automobiles.

The interior is big, comfortable and well lighted. The luggage compartment is enormous. And those crank-out windows not only lend an automobile touch, they keep the passengers from getting half nauseous from the heat even before you take off.

The exterior is the thing, though. Cessna won't reveal who their stylist was, but it's certain he's a genius. If you'd never heard of the Cardinal, and were to see it briefly in profile, you'd be hard pressed a moment later to say whether the wing is high or low. Cessna has deemphasized the "plane" in airplane.

As a result, you seldom hear comments about how it looks as an airplane. A middle-aged gentleman in Dallas told us it looks just like Chevrolet's Impala. In Tahlequah, Oklahoma, where we took it to see the National Collegiate Parachuting meet, one of the college kids looked at that squared-off, boxy rear end, the sloping windshield, the big rear window, and said, "Gee, a fastback Mustang that flies."

Obviously, the Cardinal was not enticing them on a pilot-to-airplane basis.

Obviously, they weren't seeing an airplane, with all the complications of giving up their present leisure activities and guiding their interests in a new direction that flying presupposes. They were seeing a better way to pursue their present interests - the next logical move up in getting from here to where the action is.

When viewed in this light, .it's not so important that the Cardinal is only a little faster than the old 110-knot (126-mph) Skyhawk. The thing is, here's a going-hunting or going-to-visit-relatives machine capable of almost doubling a man's turn-pike cruising speed.

Nor is it important that the lighting isn't perfect. That can be fixed. The thing is this airplane has a CG range so wide you can hardly load it wrong. (03 Yankee could carry full fuel, 120 pounds of baggage, two 200-pound passengers in the rear seats, no one in the right front seat and a 66-pound pilot and still be within CG range.)

And finally - to forestall the thing pilots will complain about most - it's not so important that the Cardinal doesn't take off and climb like a 310. The thing is, with only 150 hp the Cardinal will use but 1,730 feet of Aspen, Colorado's 6,500 foot runway, even on the warmest skiing day, and it'll climb 295 feet per minute after liftoff. Besides, everyone knows bigger power options are on the way.

So, our reservations are gone, not just because the Cardinal is a better airplane. But because it's the biggest threat yet to the two-car family.

Flying Magazine, February 1968

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