> Cardinal 30304 copyright © 1998-2022 Adam J. Wilt  
A 1969 Cessna Cardinal C177A search

Cessna Cardinals are great planes. They offer light, well harmonized controls with quick response, yet are stable instrument platforms (and excellent instrument trainers). You enter and exit through big, fully opening doors with no wing strut to get in the way, and sit at the leading edge of the wing, so you have superb visibility all around. The cabin is beamy and quite comfortable; overall you'll be hard pressed to find a small plane as ergonomically accommodating as a Cardinal.

The 177 was introduced in 1968 with the laminar flow wing and a 150 hp engine as a 172 replacement. Unfortunately it was underpowered, and the stabilator tended to stall in the flare (which combined with the sensitive pitch responsiveness -- a far cry from the more truck-like 172 -- led to a lot of porpoising and pranged nosegears). The laminar flow wing also tends to stall more suddenly than the fatter wing on the 172, so a wing stall in the flare tends to drop the plane unceremoniously onto the runway instead of mushing down more gradually. The Cardinal's reputation never recovered from the bad first impression it generated with these factors.

In 1969 the engine was boosted to 180 hp (177A), and all Cardinals (including those already shipped) were given a slotted stabilator to eliminate the flare stall problem. In 1970 the wing was replaced with the fatter, slower, but more benign 172 airfoil section, and a constant-speed prop was added (177B). In 1971 a retractable version (177RG) was added to the lineup with a 200 hp fuel injected engine. Both fixed-gear and retract versions were discontinued after 1978.

N30304 is a 1969 177A that owned me from 1996 to 2009. The '69 is the best of the Cardinals: the speed and handling of the laminar flow wing and the power of the 180 hp engine, with the simplicity and relatively low maintenance of a fixed pitch prop and fixed gear. When I point this out, other Cardinal owners gnash their teeth in frustration, and I'm often beaten up just out of spite, but it's true nonetheless.

As of January 2022 I'm told that N30304 is still flying in the San Francisco Bay area.

N30304 in its red-and-blue trim, Austin, TX N30304 at the (now decommissioned) Robert Mueller Airport, Austin TX, October 1996.

When I first saw N30304, it sported this red and blue trim coloration. The red had faded badly, and in patches it was wearing off.

I was in Austin to test-fly (and then purchase) this plane. Immediately, three days of dense fog set in. I regretted having put off my instrument training.

N30304 in blue-and-blue trim, Visalia, CA N30304 at Visalia, CA, enroute to NAB '98 in Las Vegas NV from Palo Alto CA.

I replaced the red with bright blue, and also redid the wheel pants. The inner sides of the wheel pants were done in flat black to reduce cockpit flashes from the World's Brightest Strobe, visible just under the second 3 in N30304

N30304 airborne, 2006
N30304 airborne in November 2006, coming back from Lincoln Regional airport in northern California to Palo Alto.

The plane had just been repainted by Kracon, with my own design. Yes, it really looks like that; those are highly-saturated custom-car colors, without Photoshop enhancement.

New windows, too, installed by Lincoln Skyways.

All the work was professionally done and I'd use 'em again if I had the need.

Copyright © 1999-2022 by Adam J. Wilt.
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updated 2022.01.10.