Cessna 182 Skylane

One of the first Cessnas to return to production, a new Skylane will set you back over $200,000. Used ones are a better value.

Cessna really got the basic four-place, fixed-gear single formula right with the two mainstays of its line, the 172 and 182. Both designed more than 40 years ago, both are now back in production and selling remarkably well, albeit not as we’ll as Cessna had hoped (in 1999 Cessna delivered 452 Skyhawks and 248 Skylanes). Without doubt, these airplanes are classics, and are some of the all-time most popular light aircraft ever built. Production of the 182, by the time the line closed down in 1986, had topped an astonishing 22,000, a mark beaten only by… you guessed it: the Skyhawk, and the 150/152.

Both 172 and 182 share a trait that has guaranteed their success over the years: theyre quite ordinary. Nothing exciting here, just good, basic transportation. You get there with a minimum of fuss and bother, reasonable comfort and relatively low cost. The trip may not be all that fast, but speed is not why people buy these airplanes. Skylane buyers want room, good load carrying, stability and generally benign handling. If you want to go fast, go get a Mooney and put up with the cramped quarters.

The new Skylane, which we flight-tested for the December, 1997 issue, is a significant update over the old one. Gone is the trusty old Continental O-470, replaced by a derated Lycoming IO-540 producing 230 HP. The panel is now all-metal, with an excellent layout. Also gone are the infamous fuel bladders, replaced by sealed wet wings with no fewer than 12 sump drains. Judging by the one we flew, Cessna is doing a good job with build quality, too… though there have been a few rumblings from the field on that score.

The rub is that a new Skylane costs about 200 grand, which is a lot of money for a 130-knot airplane. Actually, thats not all that bad when you consider inflation; the relative cost of the older Skylanes was almost as high when they were new. Cessna is certainly selling enough of them, even at that price, to keep the line open for the foreseeable future.

But what about the old Skylane? Is the new one that much better? Probably not, according to our survey, which shows that Skylane owners are very happy with their airplanes.

Cessna followed its basic evolutionary formula with the 182. Just as the 140 and 170 sprouted nose wheels to become the 150 and 172, the Cessna 180 was given tricycle gear to become the 182. The nose gear, of course, means that the 182 cannot match the performance figures of the 180, but from the outset it was clear that the public wanted tricycle gear airplanes.

The prototype first flew in September, 1955. The modifications to the 180 needed to make it a trigear included a redesigned and relocated exhaust and a redesigned fuel vent system. Wet wings were used to hold fuel.

An early problem has plagued 182s ever since: nose heaviness. The nose gear loads were buckling the firewall, and it had to be beefed up. In addition, the nose gear was shortened to reduce the tendency to land nose gear-first. To this day, the airplane requires aggressive re-trimming during the flare to prevent wheelbarrowing, and many 182s have been pranged over the years because of it.

The airplane hit the market in 1956, with an average price of a bit under $17,000. Power came from a 230 HP Continental O-470L. The O-470 was an excellent match to the airframe, and was retained right up until the end in 1986. Like other Cessnas of the time, it had a straight tail and no rear window. Gross weight was 2,550 pounds (the new Skylane has a max. takeoff weight of 3100).

The following year a few notable changes were made, resulting in the 182A. Experience with the original 182 showed that it was a bit tippy on its gear and prone to being blown over while taxiing. The gear was redesigned as a result, with a wider track and much lower stance, with the mains four inches shorter and the nose gear two. The 182A also had an external baggage door and a 100-pound higher gross weight.

In 1958 the Skylane was introduced (prior to this, the airplane was simply called the 182), a deluxe version with wheel pants, standard radios and full paint instead of the trim-over-bare aluminum of the 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 straight tail degraded spin recovery and reduced rudder power (there’s no way to get a 182 to go fast enough to benefit from swept surfaces). The gear was continuing to be a bit of a problem, so in 1961 it was lowered again, by another four inches, on the 182D.

The modern Skylane
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. The fuselage was widened four 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-470R, 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 were less visible. All those upgrades were adding weight, so the company decided to use thinner aluminum for the skin. At the same time, a shift from sheet aluminum to roll aluminum was made for economic reasons. These factors conspired to produce more surface imperfections, which prompted the company to fully paint all of the airplanes to cover them up.

The change had its desired effect, that of keeping the weight gain to a minimum. The new airplane was only 10 pounds heavier than the old one. Nevertheless, performance suffered somewhat, with reduced climb, takeoff performance and service ceiling.

The 1963 182F sported a thicker, one-piece windshield and back window, a further rearrangement of the panel into a standard T, and an increase in horizontal stabilizer span of 10 inches. Flap preselect also became standard.

With the 182F, the airplane had reached a stage of development where further changes were less dramatic. The G model had an available kiddie seat for the baggage bay. The 182H got an alternator to replace the generator.

The next significant upgrade was with the 1970 182N. The gross weight was boosted again, to 2,950 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. Less significant changes included relocating the landing light to the cowl and Paralift wing tips (styling again; they don’t do anything).

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 (moving the landing lights had been a bad idea; vibration was causing them to burn out).

In 1978, the 182Q got another gross weight boost, to 3100 pounds, and an increase in standard fuel capacity, to 88 gallons, stored in wet wings once again (the bladders had been a problem). Cessna also switched over to a 28-volt electrical system.

A turbocharged version was added to the line in 1981, powered by a Lycoming 540 producing 235 HP.

Production ended in 1986 with the 182R. In a weird coincidence, production that year was 73 airplanes, the same number produced in 1997. Interesting to note that in 1986 the sale of 73 airplanes in one year was deemed insufficient to keep the assembly line open, while in 1997 its considered pretty good.

There isn’t a lot of competition for the Skylane, the closest being the Piper PA-28-235/236. The Skylane offers good interior space, good range/payload ability, benign handling, fair performance at altitude, rocklike stability, and the ability to operate easily from relatively short, unimproved strips as we’ll as high-traffic metro airports.

The market likes the Cessna better than the Piper. An average-equipped 1979 Skylane will fetch about $105,000, while a 1979 Piper Dakota will bring only $80,000. This is despite the fact that the Cessna was more than $8,000 less expensive than the Dakota when new.

The right Skylane for you depends on the mix of cost, load carrying and performance you want. Early models perform better and are cheaper to buy, but suffer from lower gross weights. Cessna had problems with paint in the late 70s and early 80s, leading to some filiform corrosion difficulties. Generally speaking, most pilots will prefer a 182E or later.

Performance, handling
Count on 130-knot cruise speeds, burning 11 to 13 GPH. Range at 75 percent power, with IFR reserves, is about 900 miles in the 88-gallon versions, which translates to a lot of endurance. Our ground school instructor was a state police pilot for Connecticut, who flew a 182. He spoke of the safety cushion that range gave: Hey, if the weather closes in, I can just go fly to Ohio.

Short field performance is quite good. A late model 182 needs only 805 feet of runway and a total of 1115 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle on takeoff. Landing over the obstacle takes 1350 feet, using only 590 feet. Rate of climb in earlier versions is good for the class, over 1000 FPM. It degraded significantly with later versions, however, due in large part to the significantly higher gross weights of the later models. Similar loading results in similar performance.

182P and later models have greater fuel capacity and higher gross weights, and so offer more options for loading. Those options, by the way, are quite extensive: the 182 is close to being a load-it-to-the-gills-and-go airplane. Even in the 88-gallon versions, payload with full fuel is almost 800 pounds, which is four FAA standard people with 30 pounds of luggage each. The CG range is ample; however, many Skylanes are close to the forward limit, so filling the front seats might require some ballast in the baggage compartment.

The Skylane is a relatively big airplane, with heavy control forces. It is also about as stable as lying on the floor with your arms outstretched. It really takes some effort to get it to do anything but fly straight and level – which, of course, is why pilots like it so much for instrument flying.

Its draggy enough that allowing to get nose-down by accident doesnt result in a rapid speed buildup. This same characteristic makes letdowns without shock cooling easier than in slicker airplanes.

Heavy control forces (particularly pitch) mean that proper trimming is extremely important. This is particularly true during the flare: nose-first landings have always been a chronic problem, one that is exacerbated by the airplanes nose-heaviness and a high cowling that limits forward visibility somewhat when getting the nose up high enough to land properly.. Be certain to carefully check the firewall during any prepurchase inspection.

As evidenced by repeated redesigns of the landing gear to improve stability, ground handling can be tricky, especially in earlier airplanes. The 182, like all high-wing airplanes, is sensitive to proper control position and flap setting during taxi.

Fuel load and balance are important to handling in the 182, particularly in airplanes with long-range tanks. The fuel system permits siphoning between tanks if the airplane is not parked on a level surface, so its possible to have an imbalance. Also, even Cessnas excellent L-R-Both fuel selector wont prevent the tanks from draining at different rates.

The Skylane is quite roomy and the view is good, making it popular with passengers. The baggage compartment is large as well, making for lots of loading options.

One characteristic of note, however, for shorter pilots is the tall panel and glareshield. Its likely that small pilots will need booster cushions in order to be able to see out the windshield. Also, the top edge of the side window frame is relatively low, almost level with the top of the glareshield.

If there was ever an engine/prop/airframe combination that Continental can be proud of, the 182 is it. 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 (see the May issue for more on this), though the bottom end of the engine is nearly bulletproof.

Fuel system
The design of the fuel system in terms of simplicity and ease of management is admirable. Having said that, however, the bladder fuel systems found on 1962-77 Skylanes are the stuff of legend.

Basically, the problem was that the bladders didnt fit in the wing bays quite right, resulting in the possible formation of a diagonal wrinkle across the bottom of the bladder. Water getting into the tanks (thanks to deteriorating O-rings in the flush fuel caps) could become trapped on the bottom of the tank behind the wrinkle, which acted as a dam. The pilot would drain the sumps, find no water, and take off. As soon as the airplane rotated, the water would spill over the wrinkle and get in to the fuel pickup, making its way to the engine just in time to cause a loss of power at the worst possible moment – during climbout.

The FAAs response (AD 84-10-01) was to mandate the installation of additional drains and the inspection of the bladders for wrinkles. Better known as the rock and roll AD, 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.

A few Skylane-specific ADs 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, club
We highly recommend the Cessna Pilots Association, (805) 922-2580; on the Web at www.cessna.org.

There are a lot of mods available for the 182. Among the most popular are STOL kits, from Horton, Bush and Petersons Performance Plus, which in some versions also includes an engine swap. Petersons also does bushplane conversions.

Speed mods of various types are available from Horton, Met-Co-Aire and Maple Leaf Aviation. Engine swaps to the IO-520 or IO-550 can be had from Air Plains Services, and a turbo can be bolted on by Rajay Turbochargers. Finally, auxiliary furl tanks are available from Flint Aero and O&N.

Owner comments
I bought my Skylane, a 1964 model, very early on: I had only eight hours total time. Id taken a demo ride in it, and fell in love; I bought it two days later, and went on to complete my private, commercial and instrument in it.

Ive flown from my home strip in Chagrin Falls, Ohio to most parts of the lower 48 as we’ll as the Bahamas. It gave me no problems, and, as I recall, the costs were comparable to those of owning a luxury car. The only incident was leaving Chagrin Falls in subzero weather. The oil congealed in the oil cooler and my oil pressure dropped, but I was able to get vectors back to the airport.

Two years after buying the airplane I discovered two bad jugs. Rather than replace the engine, I traded the airplane for another Skylane, keeping the radios and giving the dealer $10,000 to close the deal. The second airplane served me well, again with no problems, but I sold it some years later.

I was without an airplane until 1992, when I bought another Skylane after moving out west, this one a 1977 model. I still feel its the best all-around airplane you can get. It can handle the 11000-foot MEA to Phoenix and the 14000-foot MEA for the Oasys Two departure from LAS. The turbulence descending through the LA basin clouds is as rough as it gets, but the Skylane handles it along with the rain and stays on course.

Its the same airplane as always to fly, but a 20-year-old machine to maintain. There have been things that never happened on the other two 182s. Both bladders had been serviced before I bought it, but one went bad again and I had it replaced. I also had to get a new alternator. There is still some Royalite around the cabin vents and every time I descend through a downpour the vents shake, rattle and drip, and some Royalite chips off.

I simply love to travel in my Skylane. I even get occasional favorable comments from the airline pilots. Its a pretty airplane, with a STOL kit, droopy wing tips, air deflectors on top of the wing and a sharp blue and white paint scheme.

I quit justifying costs. If you need to go somewhere for the least money possible, go commercial. Thats how I see it. Owning that Skylane is a real expense. Hangar rent in Long Beach is $450 a month. Auto fuel is lower than it has been for years, but avgas is still in the $2.00 range. Phoenix is $2.10 and Las Vegas is $2.75.

But to me, the expense is worth it. Looking down on Route 15 on a Friday afternoon, both lanes are packed with cars heading for Vegas. The reverse is true on Sunday. Im real comfortable, secure and cruising along at 130 knots above it all. And one of our best customers is located on one edge of Sky Harbor. It doesnt get much more convenient than that – a one-day trip out and back in the Skylane, no sweat.

As long as Im healthy enough to pass my medical and enough money to fly my own airplane, it will be a Skylane. It just doesnt get any better, and I love it now just as much as I did when I had my first one.

Name withheld

My partner and I bought our 1973 C-182P in November 1993 with 1500TT and 530SMOH. Since then weve flown it approximately 600 hours. Based in Boulder, Colorado, at 5300 feet, buying a 182 was an easy choice. We are both 100 percent satisfied with the airplane and never miss an opportunity to spread the 182 faith, even in line at Oshkosh waiting to sit in the Lancair Columbia demo.

Normal cruise is about 60%: 20″ and 2200 RPM, the most oversquare we can get at 7000 to 9000 feet. We run autogas, except when its unavailable, and the airplane burns 10.7 to 11.0 GPH when leaned 25 to 75 degrees rich.

The 600 hours have cost $53 per hour, plus about $20 per hour for fuel. That seems high, but that includes installation of a GPS ($4500) and a few other upgrades. Mostly, though, we have paid for the previous owners neglect. In the 1980s the airplane flew 30 hours or less a year, and often went 15 months between annuals. The major overhaul was cut-rate. 1500TT doesnt necessarily mean pristine, even when hangared in a dry climate.

Annuals cost $1200 to $1500 plus big-ticket repairs. Ours have run $1300 to $9000. The airplane is 25 years old, so we expect to find worn out parts, and its better to get them during the annual than be AOG later on. A $300 annual is no bargain; an airplane should leave annual better than it went in.At the prepurchase/annual, we bought a cylinder overhaul, prop and governor overhauls, welded exhaust collector, flight and engine instrument overhauls, aileron hinges, and some avionics work. Since then, weve installed new magnetos and harness, a rebuilt carburetor, engine and cowl mounts, engine baffle seals, and new vacuum pump. None of these items had been touched in 20+ years. In 1996, at 1000SMOH, we needed a top overhaul. Several exhaust valve guides were worn oval, causing burned valves and low compressions (30s). This was not unexpected at 1000 hours on an O-470 with the original bronze guides. Oil consumption was a quart in 10 hours before the TOH, even though the cylinder choke was mostly gone, and is unchanged. We kept our original cylinders and went .015 oversize. Hard to say what the top cost, being part of a big annual inspection, but $4300 is a good guess. Because we purchased the airplane we’ll below book, some of these costs could be considered deferred.

Last year we replaced the original fuel bladders ($850 each plus 16? hours labor) and installed Monarch fuel caps. At this years annual it was replacement of cracked fairings ($300), starter and master solenoids, master switch, and noise filters.

With a list like that, you may think the airplane is a dog. Not at all. We have had only two AOGs, both caused by the carb heat control. In a few years, we’ll have new paint and interior, and the airplane will be pretty close to cherry status. All thats left on the standard list of 182 squawks is the seat tracks.

Insurance is $1000 and tiedown $400 a year, and the pitot/static checks are $175 every two years. Our KX-175B and KI-214 cost about $150 per year, the KR-86 ADF, KN-62A DME and KT-76 TXP have never needed work. We ripped out the worthless KX-145 and KI-205, replacing them with an Apollo SL-60 and Map 360. We highly recommend these excellent units.

After four years, we believe weve gotten the catch-up maintenance done. Were hoping for another 500 hours before a major overhaul, which might give us time and money to take care of the P&I.

Dave Finamore
Louisville, Colo.

Stolid, steady, dependable. The 182 simply cant be beaten on all around performance vs. cost. If you gotta go with your hair on fire, buy something else. If you want a comfortable, safe, reliable form of transportation that wont break the bank (relatively speaking), the Skylanes the ticket. The control forces are heavy, of course, which also makes it a stable, forgiving instrument platform.

Unlike many others with four seat cushions, its an honest 4-place airplane. The old saw about being able to fly if you can close the doors isn’t far off the mark and it would take dedicated effort and extreme creativity for any sort of normal operation to load it out of the envelope.

Similar creativity would be required under most circumstances to get it into a departure stall. Landings can be magnificently slow and short with the ponderously large 40 degree Fowler flaps. The Skylanes one well-known Achilles heel is up front under the cowling. Keep it off the nose gear and the 182 will plod on under otherwise adverse circumstances. Drop it hard up front and youve got a major problem.

The other thing to watch for in the 182 is carb ice, of course. Normally the airplane is quite gentlemanly about warning of same in cruise, however, as the manifold pressure needle will wiggle, trying to get your attention. Beware long, power-off letdowns without clearing the engine and without carb heat. Otherwise, its a wonderfully competent, forgiving aircraft.

Our two-person partnership has expended rather large sums in recent years on physical and cosmetic upgrades, including a blueprint overhaul, new fuel bladders, Plexiglas, interior and paint. None of these items had bitten the dust yet and all were done at more than get by levels and prices. On the other hand, weve got essentially a new airplane for a fraction of the capital expenditure for an officially new one and with a depreciation hit long years in the past. In fact, this airplane has an agreed value right now more than twice the original 1974 purchase price.

Obviously, the potential downside of an older aircraft is long-latent problems coming to light (then again, the old ones don’t seem to have as many ADs, do they?) The worst surprise we have encountered was this last annual, when the interior was pulled completely for replacement. Both lower door sills had corrosion and, since this was a structural item, the plane was immediately unairworthy. Even worse, this was a made-to-order part that Cessna allowed as how theyd get around to sending to us in five months. Fortunately, we were able to find a replacement elsewhere for the worse of the two sides and were able to patch the other, with replacement to occur at next annual.

Fixed gear helps keep the maintenance within reasonable limits. Our annuals (absent minor catastrophes like the door sills) have averaged generally in the vicinity of $1500-1,700. Insurance is roughly $1200 per year. Avionics repairs for a well-equipped but aging stack have averaged less than $1000 a year. Miscellaneous repairs and replacements during the course of a year have been unremarkable.

Essentially half the value of the airplane has been expended in upgrades and improvements in the last few years, so total cost by hour flown would be highly misleading. Eliminating those capital improvements, non-gasoline operating costs (including hangar and the like) have averaged a little over $40 an hour.

Jane Garvey
via e-mail

After considerable research and searching for the plane of my dreams, I bought a Skylane in April of 1997. It was over TBO by a couple hundred hours, had not been annualed for two years, and looked pretty rough but, the rumor was that it flew straight and was a strong plane and we were looking for a bargain. It had a relatively new interior and showed no signs of oil leaks or unreasonable wear and tear. It had no accident history. We had an IA/AP do a pre-purchase inspection, we’ll worth the money, and decided to buy the aircraft.

It took a couple months to shake out all the bugs and we discovered a few problems that were pricey (we had to replace the mags) but all in all the plane lived up to the rumors. The O-470R engine, we’ll over TBO has lasted more than a year while putting on an additional 300+ hours and has compressions of mid 60s.

With regard to flying the aircraft and travelling with it, it has certainly lived up to my expectations. I has substantially more room than the 172. Leg room in the rear is spacious. Long trips are comfortable even with four people and gear. You can pack the 182 with gear and dogs and go hunting an fishing in the backcountry as easily as flying to Salt Lake City to pick up a friend at the airport. She is as good a backcountry airplane as a cross country cruiser.

I just completed the annual and cost was minimal ($713) including oil and filter change and new Brackett filter. Cost to fly the aircraft we figure at about $30 plus per hour. We put away $40/hr to cover maintenance, annuals, etc. Next month we will be putting in a new engine and have chosen to replace the O-470R with a carbureted IO-520 and a three blade Hartzell scimitar prop. A little more power, rate of climb and cruise speed can only make this plane better.

A few people have suggested that to put such an investment in a 1962 aircraft is illogical. But if youre not looking to sell the aircraft and want high performance and greater safety in a plane you intend to keep and fly, I feel this is the way to go. I know of no other plane that does as many things as we’ll as the 182, carries four adults and gear and operates as economically. If you can only have one aircraft and also want to fly backcountry, this is your airplane.

via email

Also With This Article
Click here to view charts for Resale Values, Payload Compared and Prices Compared.
Click here to view the Cessna 182 Skylane features guide.