AkzoNobel breathes new life into vintage Cessna

April 18, 2024

A team from AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings has helped a US Professor bring her 1965 Cessna 172F back to life, transforming her once ‘ugly duckling’ into a beautiful airplane in its original color scheme.

As a Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University researching and writing about women in early powered flight, it was perhaps inevitable that one day Barbara Ganson would learn how to fly to experience some of the challenges the early pioneers faced first-hand: “If I was going to write about flying, then I thought I needed to learn how to fly myself,” she explains.

Inspired by record-setting aviator Gustavus McLeod, the first person to fly over the North Pole in an open cockpit biplane, Barbara began taking lessons, qualifying in 2008. In 2012 she portrayed America’s first licensed woman pilot Harriet Quimby in a flight across the English Channel to celebrate the centenary of this aviatrix’s crossing in 1912.

While training she acquired her own aircraft, a 1965 Cessna 172F with two other partners before buying the airplane herself outright. The Cessna 172F is special in that the U.S. Air Force selected the F model in 1964 as its lead-in aircraft for military student pilots. Her airplane was also ‘low-engine-time’ aircraft: “Its six-cylinder Continental engine is very smooth,” she says, “but it had probably the worst paint job on the airfield, and we had to remove 9lbs of birds’ nests from its tail. It was very much the ugly duckling.”

The first passenger she carried was 90-year-old Helen Wyatt Snapp, a former Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP): “I didn’t tell her I’d never flown anyone else before, but Helen wanted to fly down to Key Largo with me for a special event with 99s, an international women pilots’ organization. Helen pushed her seat far back in the airplane and off we went.

“As we were coming in to land at Key Largo, we spotted a calm air watersprout at the end of the runway. As such we decided to head back to Hollywood, Florida, where I kept the airplane. I landed well with just one tiny hop!”


The aircraft had originally been used for missionary work and was painted all white. It had been used to give sermons using a PA system and flying to remote areas in the deep South. Barbara saved up money and got hold of an original manufacturer’s sales 1965 brochure to see what designs it might have had when new. She heard of Chris Newburn at Haskell Airport in Oklahoma, who does not like to fly but loves to paint them. 

“Chris recommended AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings and I got in touch with the team. They sent me a color chart and helped me match their paints to the paint scheme I was looking for.”

The result is a celebration in color. To a base white has been added a Toreador Red and Papaya: “I chose a traditional design, and it is wonderful to see such a creative design and color applied by a real artisan like Chris. I had not come across AkzoNobel before but Chris said they were the best paints to work with so I was happy to go with his recommendation.”

Now, Barbara’s ‘ugly duckling’ has been transformed into a beautiful airplane, and she now keeps the airplane inside a hangar: “AkzoNobel were really helpful throughout the process and I now have an airplane that sticks out on the airfield for all the right reasons. The quality of the paint job is amazing.”

Barbara’s latest book, Lady Daredevils: American Women and Early Flight will be published by University of Illinois Press hopefully in the coming year.  

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