The 10 Most Popular Aircraft in General Aviation

Have you ever wondered what the most popular aircraft are in general aviation? We all watch the air shows. We all see the loud, fast roaring jets on TV and the glitz and glamour of flying the fast movers and big rigs.

But what about the unsung heroes? The little guys? No, I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about the airplanes that are responsible for training thousands and thousands of great pilots.

Yes I’m talking about general aviation aircraft. I’m talking about the “spam cans.” They don’t get all the fame of the fighter jets, but if you hear an aircraft buzzing overhead it’s most likely one of these unsung heroes of aviation that you’re hearing.

Let’s pay some gratitude and give a little bit of appreciation for the top 10 most popular aircraft that have been produced in general aviation.

Note: the ranking system I used came from this Wikipedia article that shows the numbers based on production of each aircraft. My popularity rank is based on number of aircraft produced. I figured that was a pretty safe stat to use for this.

1. Cessna 172 Skyhawk

Cessna 172
Image – By FlugKerl2Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Ahh, the good ole 172 Skyhawk 🥰. It’s literally the most produced aircraft, ever! I have spent a fair amount of time in the Cessna 172R. I got my instrument rating in a 172, instructed in a 172, and took many special flights in them. It has a special place in my heart!

It’s a great training aircraft, and also a great utility aircraft. I took my wife (then girlfriend) on several cross-country flights when I was training. Back then I took her on several flights. Many were in a Cessna 152 and many in a 172. To this day she rants about how much she hated the 152s and loved the 172s because of the room 😁. Good times!

It’s not just a great trainer either. There are many pilots who own 172s and use the for personal use. There’s even a very good sized Facebook group  dedicated to the 172, with over 22,000 members (myself included), as of May 2020.

Details

Number built: 44,000
First year in production: 1956
Last year of production: Present
Seats: 4

2. Piper PA-28 Series

Piper PA-28
Image – By Ahunt at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, Link

The Piper PA-28 is not one, but a series of aircraft that use many different names depending on the particular model. Some examples are the Cherokee, Warrior, Arrow, Archer, and Cadet. There are also a fair amount of variations of each of those!

These are also extremely popular training and utility aircraft. I spent some time training in the Arrow II for my commercial certificate. It was also the first complex aircraft I flew. First plane where I got to do my GUMPS checks 👍.

Details

Number built: 32,778
First year in production: 1960
Last year of production: Present
Seats: 2 & 4

3. Cessna 150/152

Cessna 152
Image – By FlugKerl2Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Like the 172, the Cessna 152 has a special place in my heart as well. It’s what I became a Private Pilot in. If you don’t mind cozy flights, are not a large person, and have a flight instructor with your same dimensions or smaller, I can’t recommend the 152 highly enough for initial pilot training. It probably won’t get more affordable and it flat-out gets the job done!

If you like cozy travel with one other (petite) person, it can make a great little plane to own as well!

The Cessna 152 was introduced in 1977, and was an upgrade from the Cessna 150, which first flew in 1958. The 152 improved on the 150 with increased engine TBO (time between overhaul), a reduction in flap position range (limited to 30 degrees, as opposed to 40), and an additional 70 lbs to the max gross weight.

Details

Number built: 31,500
First year in production: 1958
Last year of production: 1986
Seats: 2

4. Cessna 182 Skylane

Cessna 182
Image – By DoodybutchOwn work, CC0, Link

The Cessna 182 is a very popular plane as well. It’s basically a slightly larger, more powerful version of the 172.

My personal experience with the Skylane came from an early age. Probably around the age of 14 or so I actually began flying the 182…in MS Flight Simulator 95’! Meigs Field in Chicago is where I did a lot of (virtual) flying in my younger years, and it was fun! I always enjoyed flying around Chi-Town, buzzing around the skyscrapers, then going back to land at that legendary airport that (sadly) no longer exists 😞.

Details

Number built: 23,237
First year in production: 1956
Last year of production: Present
Seats: 4

5. Piper J-3 Cub

Piper J-3 Cub
Image – By D. Miller from MI. USA – IMG_4731, CC BY 2.0, Link

Ahh the little Cub. What a great little plane. Haven’t ever flown one, but if air is in my lungs, and the opportunity presents itself I will definitely take a few flights in a Cub. The Cubs have cult followings much like the previous airplane’s mentioned in this list.

Details

Number built: 20,191
First year in production: 1938
Last year of production: 1947
Seats: 2

6. Beechcraft Bonanza

Beechcraft Bonanza
Image – By Bill LarkinsBeech Bonanza Takeoff, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Here we have the Bonanza from the Beech Aircraft Corporation, known for its distinctive V-tail. It was introduced to the public right after World War II, and was a competitor of the Cessna 195 at that time. This is the first aircraft in this list that has 6 seats.

Details

Number built: 17,000
First year in production: 1947
Last year of production: Present
Seats: 6

7. Mooney M20

Mooney M20
Image – By ArpingstoneOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Next in line we have the famous Mooney aircraft, from Mooney International Corporation It also has a distinctive tail that appears to be leaning forward, but is actually perfectly vertical in level flight. I always know a Mooney when I see one but haven’t been fortunate enough to fly in one yet. Well, I take that back. I do believe I’ve had a shot flying it in MS Flight Simulator.

Details

Number built: 11,000
First year in production: 1955
Last year of production: 2019
Seats: 4

8. Piper Pacer

Piper Pacer
Image – By Phil Vabre – http://www.airliners.net/photo/Piper-PA-22-150-TD-Tri-Pacer/1845912/L/, GFDL, Link

Another one of Piper’s famous aircraft is the Pacer models. It is similar to the Cubs and is known for having a spacious cabin, impressive speed, and a distinguished bungee aileron and rudder control system.

Details

Number built: 10,610
First year in production: 1950
Last year of production: 1964
Seats: 2 & 4

9. Piper PA-18 Super Cub

Piper PA-18 Super Cub

Image – By Jack Snell, License CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s a Cub, but more…Super! The engines in the Super Cub are more powerful than the J-3.  It happens to be a very popular option for towing banners. If you’re on the beach, and you see a banner behind a plane advertising the All You Can Eat Shrimp specials at Sharky’s, look closely and see if it’s a Super Cub!

Details

Number built: 10,222
First year in production: 1949
Last year of production: 1983
Seats: 2

10. Aeronca Champion

Aeronca Champion
Image – By Armchair Aviator’shttps://www.flickr.com/photos/fun_flying/6156734818, CC BY 2.0, Link

Also known as the “Champ,” this taildragger holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Details

Number built: 10,000
First year in production: 1946
Last year of production: 2019
Seats: 2

Honorable Mentions

Why stop at 10 when there are so many other great small airplanes?? Here are an extra 4 of the most produced GA aircraft, just because I couldn’t stop at 10!

11. Cessna 210 Centurion

Cessna 210
Image – By ArpingstoneOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Details

Number built: 9,240
First year in production: 1957
Last year of production: 1985
Seats: 6

12. Beechcraft Model 18 “Twin Beech”

Beechcraft Model 18

Image – By Spotter lannuonOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Details

Number built: 9000
First year in production: 1937
Last year of production: 1970
Seats: 6-11

13. Cessna 206 Stationair

Cessna 206
By ArpingstoneOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Details

Number built: 8,509
First year in production: 1962
Last year of production: Present
Seats: 6

14. Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six

Piper PA-32
Image – Public Domain, Link

Details

Number built: 7,842
First year in production: 1995
Last year of production: 2007
Seats: 6

Summary

I hope you enjoyed this list! I enjoyed making it and reminiscing of my time in a few of these fine aircraft. Once again, they may not be the fastest, or the coolest, but they are all special to many, many pilots!

Which one is most special to you, and why? I’d love to hear your comments below. Let’s share stories!

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