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6 Answers

Too Short To Fly A Cessna 172

Asked by: 8354 views General Aviation

    My husband has been flying Cessna 172s for seven years now. Primarily because, that is what our local flight school has to offer for rental. I recently decided he shouldn't be the one having all the fun. I want to start taking lessons but, my feet do not reach the rudder pedals. Aside from us buying a plane or looking for a school with different airplanes, is there a fix for this frustrating dilemma? I really like the 172.

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6 Answers



  1. Kira on Dec 11, 2011

    There is a type of booster seat that you can buy from a pilot shop. http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/pspages/booster.php It is two foam cushions that will help you sit up and forward (or just more forward depending on how you position it). Also, the seats in Cessnas do adjust, so I would suggest putting the seat all the way forward and then putting the booster seat behind your back. You can also add extra pillows or cushions to help you get the right fit. A student of mine is 5 feet tall and fit fine in the 172 once she had her booster set up.

    Good Luck!

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  2. Earl Kessler on Dec 12, 2011

    I have a student who is just over 5′ tall. He has had some custom blocks made for the pedals of his airplane. This solved his problem and could be a solution to yours.

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  3. Bill Trussell on Dec 14, 2011

    I would also recommend the blocks for the pedals and cushions to make up for any height you may need.  Make sure you are comfortable with the arrangement and that you tie your devices down so they do not shift or move in any way during any movement.  A bit of a story here… I took my commercial pilot check ride with a lady who was barely 4 feet 6 inches tall.  There were a number of issues for her with seats and seatbelts but that did not stop her.  She belonged to a very elite group of women who flew B29s to Europe during WWII and she used whatever it took to fly.  She flew a lot of aircraft over there with no issues.  What I ride I had with her, and I even passed!  Have a blast.

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  4. LaPointe on Dec 19, 2011

    Luz,
    I am 5′-0″ and close to finishing my private pilot’s licence.  I struggled for many hours until my fourth instructor realized I wasn’t seeing what I needed to see to fly the plane.  Here’s the fixes I’ve had to implement:

    You need to position yourself at the “design eye” for the aircraft.  Ask your instructor what she sees when she looks out the front screen at the cowling.  Which rivets?  How many of them?  Are they close together or well separated?  Repeat, looking out the side window.  Is the underside of the wing level with her eyes?  What about the window gasket?  How much space is there between the top of her head and the cabin ceiling?  Raise the seat and install cushions on the seat AND the seat back, to get your eyes to the same position as your instructor’s eyes.  Tie the cushions to the seat so they don’t shift during flight.  (I can assure you they move!)In a Cessna 172 model N, I use 3/8″ of padding on the seat and 1-1/2″ on the back of the seat.  I made the pads out of anti-fatigue mats and kneeling pads, so they don’t compress much.  In the pilot’s seat, my head is about a hands-width below the cabin ceiling.  My eyes are slightly below the underside of the wings.  On the cowling, I can see the horizontal and longitudinal rivets.Be aware that the cabin  dimensions are slightly different in different model Cessnas.  I and my instructors believe that the Cessna 172 model M and seems smaller.  Also note that the seat upholstery compresses with time.  You’ll be sitting lower in older seats. 
    Check that your cushions do not interfere with the flight controls.  Can you fully extend and rotate the yoke?  Does it interfere with a clipboard/kneeboard?  Try different combinations of seat and back cushions to find something that works without interference.  I can’t use a clipboard on my lap or knee board during flight.
    Now go flying.  Can you confidently use the brakes?  Try shoes with a substantial heel, like a wedge high heel or a work boot.  If you need to loosen the seat belt to brake with the tips of your toes, you need rudder pedal extensions.  Rudder pedal extensions were a big help to me.  Ask the school to install them, and see if they cause a problem for the taller pilots.  They are an approved modification, but they must be recorded in the airplane’s logs.
    Finally, check that you can comfortably reach the engine controls, especially the throttle.  Neck or shoulder pain after a lesson indicates that you are straining.  I’m currently considering if I need a slight extension to the throttle control.

    Knowing what I know now, I’d recommend trying some other planes, especially a Cessna 150, to see if there is something more comfortable.  

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  5. StudentCFI on Dec 30, 2011

    I have a student and she is a relatively short person.  Like the others have suggested, she used a booster seat and it seems to work well.

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  6. Peri Worrell on Aug 27, 2012

    I am 5’2″ and over 200#, much of the weight between my throat and my waist. I learned, like most of us, in 172s of different vintages. I just passed my Private checkride and I am shopping for my first airplane. Last week I went and looked at at 172…no model letter, an original 1956 172 :-). I loved the plane, it was in great shape, the logs were amazingly detailed back to the original owner, and I was ready to make an offer, so I asked the owner to take a turn in the pattern with me in the pilot seat.

    To my dismay, when I was familiarizing myself with the controls, I discovered I could NOT fly the plane. With the seat all the way forward so I could reach the pedals, I couldn’t reach down to pull the MANUAL flap lever without pushing the yoke all the way forward with my (ahem) chest! Embarrassing. I apologized for wasting the owner’s time, and walked away. Live and learn!

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