While looking for something else on Google I came across this question from a nervous private pilot student expressing concern that his Cessna 172 training airplane was "flimsy."
Flimsy? It's certainly not sexy, and it's definitely tiny and low performance compared to a triple seven, but I don't consider it more fragile. You can stall a C172 onto the runway from high enough to hurt your butt without bending the gear or wrinkling the fuselage. You can fly it through a tree, buckling a wing strut and half tearing and twisting a significant portion of the horizontal stabilizer, yet still fly it home. You can land it on the nose so hard that the fuselage does buckle, the ends of the propellers turned back like hooks, and the poor thing will still fly a circuit and return for a safe landing. An insurance adjuster once told me that in all the claims he has investigated, the only ones where there were deaths were where the pilot had stalled or spun the airplane. The ones who flew it through trees survived. The airplane will tolerate errors of about 30 percent in approach or climbout speeds, and you can fully deflect the rudder at cruise speed without damage.
I believe the aluminum skin of the triple seven is thicker than that of the C172, but not by a lot. All aircraft are built as lightly as their designers dare to maintain the necessary strength, but honestly if I had to choose between "flimsy" and "robust" for the C172, I'd choose the latter.
The student got some good responses and some not-so-good ones, as other misinformed students chime in. I like this description of a landing approach in which a student feels he nearly died: "the instructor flew very low over some trees in a fierce wind, dropping the aircraft onto one side and heading for the ground." It's a pretty good description of a correctly executed crosswind landing. The crosswind technique in a Cessna 172 requires you to bank the airplane into the wind and apply opposite rudder in a way that makes the airplane feel off balance. And of course if you want to land, heading for the ground is an excellent plan. You might be surprised at how many students are nervous about descending low enough to actually land at the airport. Getting them to put the nose down and leave it there until the flare is sometimes a bit of a battle.
Of course I wasn't present as the maligned instructor performed that particular landing, but it's likely that his only error was in not briefing the student on what to expect in a crosswind landing situation. The first lesson is too early to treat a crosswind landing as a full-on demonstration, but any student, or even a passenger, deserves a simple heads up such as, "We will be landing tilted into the wind. This is normal. I'll put the left wheel down after we're on the runway." It turns what can be a scary situation into one where the passengers are impressed by your control because you put the wheels exactly where you said you would.
For anyone operating small aircraft, the whole thread should be a lesson in what students or passengers see and feel that frightens them if the instructor doesn't explain. I had a passenger in a C172 endure fifteen minutes of silent terror through not identifying a banging sound as rain until I happened to say "isn't it cool the way the rain streams off the windshield without any windshield wipers?" If you fly airplanes, and there is something in your work environment that looks bad and that you can't comfortably explain, find out the explanation and/or get it fixed, even if your flight instructor didn't.