Cessna 182 Skylane

The Skylane has endured because it offers a rare combination of affordability, ease of operation and utility.

The overwhelming success of the Cessna Skylane can be summed up in one word: practicality. Although its not the best at any one thing-flying fast, hauling a lot, short field work, economy, low ownership cost-it does each of those we’ll enough to be a sensible choice for many owners who really use their airplanes for going places.

That, more than anything else, may explain why nearly half a century after it was first introduced, the Cessna still sells a couple of hundred 182s a year which, in the world of reduced GA expectations, counts for strong demand. Amazingly, Cessna recently announced that the venerable Skylane is now being delivered with a state-of-the-art glass cockpit, the Garmin G1000.

Model History
When it introduced the 182 in 1956, Cessna did what it does best: It built on its experience with previous designs. Just as the 120/140 taildraggers became the tri-gear 150 and 152, the taildragger 180-itself still a popular airplane among bush operators-became the 182. The modifications to the 180 needed to make it a tri-gear included a redesigned and relocated exhaust and a redesigned fuel vent system. Wet wings were used to hold fuel.

One thing Cessna never did sort out with this re-jiggering was a tendency toward nose heaviness. To this day, the airplane requires aggressive re-trimming on final and occasionally in the flare to prevent wheelbarrowing; many 182s have been pranged over the years because of it. Some several times.When the airplane appeared in 1956, the average price was just under $17,000.Thats equivalent to about $115,000 in 2005 dollars.

Power was provided by a 230-HP Continental O-470-L an engine that proved to be such a worthy choice that some variant of it was retained until the airplane went out of production in 1986. To the modern eye, the original 182 looks like a relic, with its straight tail and no rear window. Gross weight was 2550 pounds, compared to the modern Skylane max takeoff weight of 3110 pounds.

Cessna embarked upon a continuing improvement program, introducing new model designations every couple of years. The 182A saw redesigned gear with a wider track and a lower stance, with the mains 4 inches shorter and the nose gear 2 inches shorter. The 182A got an external baggage door and a 100-pound higher gross weight.

In 1958, the Skylane name was applied-prior to this, the airplane was simply called the 182-and a deluxe version with wheel pants, standard radios and full paint instead of the trim-over-bare aluminum of the basic 182. The 182B, with cowl flaps, came out in 1959. A swept tail was added in 1960 to make the 182C; it was basically a styling move, since the swept tail degraded spin recovery and reduced rudder power. The gear continued to be a bit of a problem, so in 1961, it was lowered again, by another 4 inches, on the 182D.

As it did with other models, Cessna put a rear window (Omni-Vision) on the airplane in 1962, with the 182E. This airplane was a significant upgrade over the earlier 182s and these are often thought of as modern Skylanes. The fuselage was widened 4 inches and the cabin floor lowered by 3/4 inch to make more interior room.

Electric flaps became standard, the panel layout was updated and the adjustable stabilizer of the original gave way to a trim tab. The gear was beefed up (again) and the gross weight was boosted to 2800 pounds. A different engine variant, the O-470-R, was fitted. The 182E also had a redesigned fuel system, with bladders and the availability of auxiliary fuel which raised capacity to 84 gallons.

Cessna also made changes that werent as obvious. To save weight, it used thinner aluminum for the skins and converted from sheet aluminum to roll aluminum, which was cheaper. That also yielded an airplane with more surface imperfections, which ended the days of polished metal airplanes. Full paint jobs became standard, to hide the dimples. The new airplanes were only 10 pounds heavier than the old ones but performance actually suffered, with reduced climb, takeoff performance and service ceiling.

The 1963 182F sported a thicker, one-piece windshield and back window, a standard T-panel and an increase in horizontal stabilizer span of 10 inches.Flap pre-select also became standard. From the F model forward, until the S arrived in 1997, changes were less dramatic. The G model had an available kiddie seat for the baggage bay while the 182H got an alternator to replace the generator.

The next significant upgrade was with the 1970 182N model. Gross weight was increased to 2950 pounds and the spring-steel gear was swapped for tapered tubular steel legs that allowed more fore-and-aft movement.

Track was widened again, to 13-1/2 feet, improving ground handling somewhat. In 1972, a leading-edge cuff was added to the wing to improve low-speed handling, resulting in the 182P, a variant that stayed in production through 1976. The dorsal fin was extended and the cowling was shock mounted.

In 1981, the 182R got another gross weight boost to 3100 pounds, and an increase in standard fuel capacity, to 88 gallons, stored in wet wings. The bladders, which had been a problem, were dropped in 1978. Cessna also switched over to a 28-volt electrical system. A turbocharged version was added to the line in 1981, the T-182RII, powered by a Lycoming O-540 producing 235 HP. Production ended in 1986 with the 182R.

In 1997, when Cessna re-entered the market, it introduced a newly re-tooled Skylane for the next century. The changes were substantial, some cosmetic, some not. The biggest change was dropping the reliable O-470 for a 230-HP Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5; no surprise there, since Cessna and Lycoming share the same parent company, Textron.

This engine swap solved the carb icing problem but the fuel specifics on the Lycoming brought no help with economy. Further, the Lycs are known for lunching cams at the mid-time point, which the TCM engines don’t typically do. Also, the Continental is a smoother-running engine, in our view.

Cosmetically, Cessna did away with the old Royalite instrument panels, replacing them with painted metal. The interior-seats and cabin panels-is much improved, as is the instrumentation. Interior surfaces are now treated with epoxy-based anti-corrosion materials.

The latest 182 also has sealed wet wings, not bladders, making us wonder if owners will encounter leaks as the sealants age, as Mooney owners do. To get water out of the system, the airplane has no fewer than 12 separate drains, five on each wing tank and two at the bottom of the cowling. Although gross weight of the airplane is 3100 pounds, its typical empty weight is substantially higher than earlier models so it carries less than, say, an early 1980s RII. Speedwise, the normally aspirated model is respectable, cruising at just under 140 knots on 16 to 17 GPH. As reader John Reynolds reports, the turbocharged 182 is capable of the mid-160 knots in the teens.

Maintenance-wise, the 182S has proven the target of a number of Cessna service bulletins, with most of the work being covered under warranty. Thus far, weve heard no significant beefs related to unusual maintenance problems.

The market may have been more we’ll delineated when the 182 appeared but its a jumble now. There are so many used and new airplanes available, its hard to know what to compare the 182 to. The Skylane still offers lots of interior space and an unusually flexible payload/range combination that explains its enduring appeal. Late-model Skylanes fetch good prices on the used market and of late, theyve been hotter than ever.

For equivalent capability, buyers seem to favor Cessnas over Pipers, but less so than in the past. An average-equipped 1979 Skylane will fetch about $103,000 to $110,000, while a 1979 Piper Dakota will bring $99,000, despite the fact the Cessna cost less when new. Since our last Used Aircraft Guide on the Skylane, that price Delta has closed up.

Which Skylane model? That depends entirely on budget. Frankly, the latest models-the 182S-have started their depreciation slide and are looking to be better values than ever, at $160,000 to $170,000. These are well-equipped airplanes and are quieter and more comfortable than the earlier Skylanes.Generally speaking, most buyers seeking a practical, use-it-often airplane wont want a museum piece so that argues for a 182E or later. If your budget allows up to $120,000, the 1981 T-182 strikes us as a better combination of speed, value and hauling ability than any other airplane we can think of.

Performance, Handling
If fast is your mantra, the Skylane wont be your airplane. Flogged to the limit, these are 135-knot airplanes but more like 130 knots burning about 12 GPH. Range varies with year and tankage, of course, but typically, you can easily fly 900 still-air miles in the 88-gallon versions. Thats more endurance than most owners can muster.

Skylanes are prized for short and rough field ops and deservedly so. The prop is we’ll clear of the ground and the gear is high enough to keep antennas out of the muck. If need be, the wheelpants can be removed. A late-model 182 will get over a 50-foot obstacle in only 1115 feet; add a third more for safety margin and youre still comfortably under 2000 feet. Initial rate of climb is good, thanks to the high horsepower but it was better in the early models than the later ones, thanks to significantly higher gross weights.

But later models-the 182P and forward-have greater fuel capacity and higher gross weights and thus offer more loading/range flexibility. This, more than any other factor, makes the Skylane a first choice as a family airplane. Its not much good to blaze along at 160 knots if you can only carry three people. Although the CG range in the 182 series is adequate, the airplanes tend toward forward CG; ballast or bags in the baggage compartment help. Speaking of which, the baggage compartment is large and easily accessible through an exterior door. (The seals, when old, may leak and should be replaced.)

Handling? Were not talking a Miata here. The 182 is a big, stable airplane and it takes some effort to break it loose from anything other than straight and level. And even if you do, its draggy profile means that speed builds slowly enough that only a somnambulant pilot could lose it in a dive.The Skylane is heavy in pitch, so timely trimming is a must, especially prior to or during the landing flare. Get lazy in the flare and the Skylane can slam the nosegear onto the pavement, buckling the firewall and leading to a huge repair bill. Roll forces in the 182 are nothing unusual; think of a Skyhawk with stiff cables. In a turn, the Skylane will want to overbank if left alone but so slowly that you should never get behind it.

As far as roll trim goes, fuel load and balance are important in the 182, particularly in airplanes with long-range tanks. The fuel system will self-siphon between tanks if the airplane is not parked on a level surface, so its possible to have an imbalance that wont improve in flight. Even Cessnas excellent L-R-Both fuel selector wont prevent the tanks from draining at different rates unless a single tank is selected.

Transitioning from a Piper or smaller Cessna to a Skylane is a Ralph Kramden experience: you’ll definitely feel like a bus driver, albeit a regal one. The seats are high and upright and relatively comfortable. Although visibility is good forward and out the windows, the panel and glareshield are tall, requiring short pilots to use a booster seat. Heating is good for the front-seat passengers, less so for the rear. Wing root vents provide plenty of ventilation but also leak air during the winter, leading some pilots to tape the inlets. Cessna fixed this in the newest Skylanes, which are tight, quiet and warm.

Engine, Maintenance
In all of general aviation, there are perhaps a handful of engine-airframe combinations that are nearly perfect. The 182/O-470 pairing is one of them.Four variants of the engine were used, the L, R, S and U. The S (1975-76) has been the most troublesome because of its revised piston ring configuration, intended to cope with the introduction of low-lead fuel. The U variant (1977-on) is desirable because of a 2000-hour TBO, though earlier engines are upgradeable from their 1500-hour TBO. Its a rare Continental that makes it to TBO without some form of top overhaul but as big displacement engines go, the O-470 is more likely than most to get by without a top. Because of its high population and simplicity, the O-470-series is relatively inexpensive to overhaul. One persistent weakness of the design, however, is the tendency of the carburetor to ice up. In carb ice conditions, you have to be on your toes in using carb heat, and the accident history shows this.

In its singles, Cessna wisely adhered to the KISS theory for the fuel system. But early models still had their problems. The bladder fuel systems found on 1962 to 1977 Skylanes didnt fit we’ll in the wing bays, resulting in the possible formation of a diagonal wrinkle across the bottom of the bladder. Combine that with water leaks due to deteriorated O-rings in the flush fuel caps and you can see the problem; the wrinkle acts as a dam to trap water that the pilot couldnt remove during pre-flight sumping. On rotation, the water would spill over the wrinkle, reach the fuel pick-up and choke the engine on climbout.

The FAAs response (AD 84-10-01) was to mandate the installation of additional drains and the inspection of the bladders for wrinkles. This is better known as the rock-and-roll AD, for it also directed pilots of airplanes not so modified to go out to the wingtip and shake it up and down to get the water to slosh over the wrinkles. This Marx brothers-like procedure is certain to cause serious doubt in the minds of nervous passengers.

Otherwise, the Skylane is relatively free of serious ADs. A few have cropped up recently, but theyre one-time directives. 98-1-14 calls for replacement of mufflers; 98-1-1 mandates inspection and possible replacement of the alternate static air valve. Also of note are 97-21-2, inspection of certain cylinder installations, 97-15-1, replacement of specified cylinders and 96-12-22, recurrent inspection of the oil filter adapter.

Mods, Clubs
The Skylane may hold the record for having the most modifications available and many of them are good. The big ticket items are engines, replacing the stock O-470 with a Continental O-520 or IO-550, another TCM product with a good reputation. P.Ponk does the 520, contact www.pponk.com or 360-629-4812.Peterson Performance Plus (www.260se.com, 316-320-1080) offers an impressive STOL package and O-470 engine upgrades.

Air Plains (www.airplains.com, 800-752-8481) does O-520 and O-550 conversions for the Skylane. For another STOL package, see Sierra Industries at www.sijet.com or 830-278-4481. Texas Skyways offers the O-550 upgrade; check them out at www.txskyways.com or 830-755-8989.

In the June, 2001 issue of Aviation Consumer, we reviewed the Horton Flight Bonus speed package; contact 800-835-2051 or www.airsport.com/general3.ihtml?id=150. More speed mods are available from Knots2U at www.knots2u.com or 262-763-5100 and Maple Leaf Aviation at 204-728-7618. Met-Co-Aire has drag reducing wingtips; see www.metcoaire.com and phone 800-814-2697.

If you want to slow down instead of speed up, contact Precise Flight (www.preciseflight.com or 800-547-2558) for a speed brake kit. Vortex generators are available from Micro Aerodynamics at 800-677-2370 or www.microaero.com. If six hours of endurance isn’t enough, see Monarch Air and Development for aux tanks and improved fuel systems. Contact www.hartwig-fuelcell.com or 541-459-2056. For more aux tanks, see Flint Aero (www.flintaero.com and 619-448-1551) and O&N at www.onaircraft.com or 570-945-3769. Last, don’t forget props from Hartzell; three-blade conversions are available. See www.hartzellprop.com or 937-778-4200.

There are a couple of Cessna groups. We highly recommend the Cessna Pilots Association, 805-922-2580 and on the Web at www.cessna.org as the first stop in obtaining information before purchasing a Skylane. These guys have been at it for years and know the brand well. Find more support at the Cessna Owner Organization at 888-692-3776 or www.cessnaowner.org.

Owner Feedback
I have owned Skylane N735VR for over 20 years; it is a 1977 182Q. I do not ever expect to own another airplane. The 182 serves my travel needs and is a very comfortable form of transportation for my family and employees. We have flown from Alaska to the Bahamas. We have made at least one trip across the U. S each of the last several years and are planning to join the Cayman Caravan this summer.

The engine and avionics have been upgraded over the years. I have been flying behind an IO-520-D engine for almost 10 years and a full GPS IFR panel with TIS, TCAD, Stormscope, GPSS, EHSI and AM/FM/XM for five years. We fly out of an airport at 6000 feet above sea level and the additional power is very comfortable on hot days at gross weight.

I have adopted a proactive approach to maintenance which results in about a $120/hour cost, including all fuel, oil, maintenance, replacements, taxes, insurance, hangar, charts and databases. I also put away $20/hour for engine replacement. I am about 70 percent through my third engine. Both the prior O-470-U engines made TBO. Maintenance includes 25-hour oil changes, oil analysis and filter inspection. I do all the owner-maintenance allowed and have participated in owner-assisted annuals for the last 15 years. I was originally introduced to owner maintenance by the Cessna Pilots Association, through their hands-on classes. The type associations are a valuable asset to any aircraft owner.

I have upgraded front seats by Oregon Aero, which make long cross-country trips much more pleasurable. I recently had the yokes leather-wrapped, which also adds to flying comfort. I have not installed any of the airframe speed modifications, but I have replaced the bladder tanks with fiberglass tanks, which has minimized my concern for fuel contamination. I hope to be flying for another 20 years and expect to be in the same Skylane.

Ken Foster
Lake Tahoe, California

I have owned an F model (1963) Skylane for 18 years and before that was in several flying clubs obtaining experience in Cessnas, Pipers, Beechcrafts and a Rockwell 112TC. My 182 has always been dependable, easy to fly, with reasonable maintenance and annuals and affordable insurance.

Modifications over the years have included Cleveland wheels and brakes, fuel bladders, Plexiglas, Texas Skyways 520 and three-blade prop, Shadin fuel flow, Insite GEM, Garmin audio panel, two Narco 12Ds, S-TEC 30 with altitude hold, vertical compass card, Horizon tachometer, digital flap and voltage indicators, alternator and strobes.

Im based at Granby, Colorado, airport elevation 8200 feet MSL and departures out of the valley require climbing to 13,000 feet, so climb is important. A light airplane and the 520 are good things to have, especially in the summer. The original 470 was adequate, but the 520 gives me more options and payload. Annuals run $350 to $500, owner assisted in my hangar.Insurance runs $1400 a year.

Cruise is 145 knots at 8000 feet at 23 inches and 2600 RPM, burning about 13.3 GPH and 25 degrees rich of peak. I have put about 2500 hours on the airplane in the 18 years I have owned her and traveled to both coasts, Alaska and central America with few failures: Two alternators, one starter, leaking fuel bladders -never park a 182 outside for any length of time without topping off the fuel tanks-right side cowl flap fell off somewhere in Montana, and the assorted dead batteries and flat tires.

Sure, I would like to own a faster or sexier airplane, but there is a definite tradeoff for speed, payload and comfort. Besides, I know 68U very we’ll and nothing surprises me anymore.

Bob Liddle
Via e-mail

In the past three years, Ive owned two Cessna Skylanes. The first was a normally aspirated 2002 factory demo with 70 hours TTAF. I recently upgraded to a new 2004 Turbo Skylane with the G1000 avionics. I spent a considerable amount of time researching other aircraft, including a Mooney, Cirrus SR22, Cessna P210, Saratoga and even an early Malibu Mirage. As the sole owner of the aircraft, cost was the biggest factor in my decision. The Turbo 182 gave me the best bang for my buck for the combination of avionics (new G1000 panel), performance, range flexibility, payload and ongoing operational costs.

I routinely fly from my home strip in Charlotte, North Carolina to the midwest, the northeast and occasionally to the Bahamas. Average trips are 400 to 500 miles. For these kinds of trips, I found I needed the altitude capability that a Turbo provides. The Turbo 182 easily gets me into the teens or low flight levels to get on top in the winter and provide more options in the summer to navigate around the daily thunderstorms throughout the Florida panhandle and the Ohio Valley. Plus, I have the option to fly low into strong headwinds or go high to benefit from tailwinds.

The Turbo 182 has a certified maximum operating altitude of 20,000 feet. Ive been pleased with the climb performance; I consistently get an 800 FPM climb all the way to 20,000 feet with full fuel and two passengers. Climb performance on the normally aspirated 182 was around 700 FPM up to 8000 feet where 500 FPM would carry me into the low teens before climb performance would degrade to the point where it wasnt worth the fuel burn to go higher.

Cessna made some speed mod changes to the 182 airframe in 2001. The cowling, wheel pants, wingtips and antennas have been changed for better aerodynamics. I wish they would get rid of the wing struts, but that would be a major engineering change that Ive been told would be too costly for recertification.

These changes have helped make the 182 a little more competitive for speed. My 2002 Skylane would cruise at 144 to 146 knots up to 10,000 feet burning 15 GPH. My 2004 Turbo Skylane does its best work above 10,000 feet.I usually flight plan for 10,000 to 17,000 feet at 160 knots.

To get these speeds, Im at 28 inches/2400 RPM burning 17 GPH. If I want the best the Turbo Skylane can do, I need to climb above 17,000 feet at 27 inches/2400 RPM, 17 GPH and Ill see around 164 to 173 knots, but my range is reduced to about 500 miles with 45-minute reserve.

Handling of both the normal and Turbo late model 182s is the same.Control forces are heavy, which makes for a stable IFR platform. Its capable of shooting an ILS at 140-plus knots which helps ATC mix you in with the big iron at larger airports. When landing, the 182 is a little nose-heavy, so you have to add in a good amount of trim to grease it on the mains.

Im a 1300-hour-plus instrument pilot with over 700 hours in Skylanes.Insurance for the 2004 Turbo 182 is almost the same as it was for the 2002 C182. My annual premium averages $2300. Annual cost on the 2002 C182 ran approximately $3000. The 2004 Turbo C182 is less than a year old, however, I expect the costs to be similar when it gets its first annual.

Cessna has had almost 50 years to perfect the assembly and operation of the Skylane and it shows in the quality of work. The IO-540/TIO-540 is de-rated to 230/235hp in the Skylane. The engine provides plenty of power and the Turbo stays cool all the way to 20,000 feet.

Other than minor Service Bulletins, I have not had any major maintenance issues with either of my late model 182s. Plus, almost any mechanic anywhere in the country can service a Skylane. Nice to know if you have mechanical problems when you are traveling.

I don’t recommend this, but Ive done the math on aircraft ownership. I averaged 250 hours a year on the 2002 Skylane. The all-inclusive insurance, mortgage, maintenance, parking, hangar, fuel, cleaning, maps, GPS database, filling the O2 bottle and so on hourly cost to operate averaged $120/hour.Thats not a bad deal if you carry two or more passengers, not a good deal if you fly alone. But as a pilot, its worth every penny for the benefits and freedom to fly anywhere, anytime.

After spending a considerable amount of hours flying both a 182 and a Turbo 182, the Turbo, although expensive, is the best deal for a new or used late model aircraft on the market. The only thing missing on my Turbo Skylane is anti-ice capability. In a recent Aviation Consumer article, I found that TKS is available for the 182 and is an aftermarket option I will be considering.

John Reynolds
Charlotte, North Carolina

I have a C182J with a Horton STOL installed. I think it is a marvelous air SUV. If you must haul a bit more and go a bit faster, I like the C337, but its more spendy.

If you are in a hurry and must get there soon, don’t go for the C182. But if you like to fly to out of the way places, maybe use auto fuel, haul a bit, then the C182 is the airplane for you. I personally think my C182J is the best of all models, from the controls and cockpit to the big flaps and slipping capability.

Wayne Irwin
Via e-mail

Also With This Article
“Cessna 182 Skylane Charts and Specs”
“Accident Scan: Johnny Cant Land”