Live the likes of new-age airplane companies like Cirrus and Diamond one thing: They have resisted the overwhelming urge to fit their airplanes with folding gear. But manufacturers of the 1960s and 1970s had no such resistance, including Cessna when it added retractable gear to the venerable 182.
Was the effort worth it? It did add about 15 knots of cruise speed without too much of a hit in fuel burn. But it also introduced a complex, maintenance-hungry gear system that owners say will work acceptably well if looked after. Owners generally like the airplane and it sold well initially from its introduction in 1978 until the bottom dropped out in the early 1980s. By 1986, the model was gone, along with the rest of Cessna’s piston production.
Cessna introduced the R182 Skylane RG in 1978, making almost 600 of them that year. The total run, including the turbocharged version, would reach 2032 through 1986, when a mere nine were built before Cessna took a powder from the single-engine market. That’s not many airplanes compared to all the M20 Mooneys or Bonanzas out there, so the choice on the used market isn’t as wide as with straight-leg Skylanes. Prices of the newest models hover around the $100,000 mark.
To create the model, Cessna took the popular 182 and gave it a variation of the folding electro-hydraulic gear used on the 200-HP Cardinal RG, which had been introduced two years before. The R182 II Skylane RG (that’s the correct type designation, not 182RG) got a bigger Lycoming than the 182s 230-HP Continental O-470; the retractable came with the Lycoming O-540-J3C5D, which required adding four inches to the length of the cowling.
The turbo option was offered on the 1979 model, when Cessna first began building the line with integral fuel tanks instead of those troublesome bladders, which leaked and trapped water in wrinkles. The integral tank never needs resealing or repair. Some 727 R182s and TR182s or TurboR182 IIs were built that year. Fewer than half that number were built during the 1980 model year and the total fell off each year thereafter.
Aside from the switch from bladders after 1978, Cessna made only minor changes in the airplane through its eight-year run. The alternator and over-voltage sensor were swapped for an alternator control unit and the high-voltage warning light was switched to a low-voltage light in 1979.
The next year a new latch and pin system was introduced to reduce the notoriously drafty fit of the doors-there are two on the Skylane, which is as celebrated for its ease of entry and loading as it is reviled (or patiently accepted) for its so-called “gappy” Cessna construction and fit.
In 1980, an avionics cooling fan became standard and the oil cooler was relocated from the left forward baffle to the firewall. Also, the battery was moved from the firewall to the less hostile environment of the tail cone, where access is also easier. A new muffler for better cabin heating, especially in the rear seats, addressed another Skylane complaint.
(Photo: Marc Ulm.)
In 1983, Cessna replaced the amber gear-up light, which stayed on if the gear did not lock down, with a red gear-in-transit light, which stayed on whenever the gear motor was running.
With the gear tucked up, the Skylane will build up speed when the nose drops. It helps that the first 10 degrees of flaps can extend at 140 knots. In 1983, Cessna beefed up the flaps further so they can be lowered to 20 degrees at up to 120 knots.
The wing root ventilators were redesigned in 1980, but they are known for getting loose with age, spraying water into the cockpit in rain and popping open all by themselves. Duct tape over the wing inlets is the standard field solution.
Skylane windshields also tend to leak and the R/TR182 is no exception. The only solution that works is removing the windshield and resealing it. Watch for shops that use silicone sealant instead of the proper felt stripping. Windshields expand and contract; hardened silicone does not.
The R/TR182 has no main gear doors. But it does have nosegear doors and early on they occasionally caught the cowling skin and got stuck. A 1983 redesign addressed the problem. In 1984, the airplane got new composite fuel caps and rear-seat shoulder harnesses as standard equipment. Dual controls became standard instead of optional that year, but whos seen any single-control Skylane RGs around?
The Skylane retractable is a solid cross-country airplane with a 150-knot cruise commonly reported at a fuel burn of 12 to 14 GPH. With its 88-gallon usable standard tanks (on 1979 and later models), it can go far. Its range and its 1200- to 1300-pound useful load give it lots of flexibility as a good hauler.
Those big tanks, which provide better range than early Mooneys and Bonanzas, leave less of a useful load than a 250-HP Piper Comanche with full tanks-but that comparison doesn’t do justice to the airplanes flexibility.
With full fuel, four FAA grownups can go on a long trip-close to 1000 miles-and share a single overnight bag. Fly with less fuel and you can carry just about anything you can fit into the airplane and still fly for hours. We’ve said it before and cant resist saying it again: Your bladder cant last as long as the fuel supply when you cruise an R182 at lower power settings, say 55 to 60 percent.
Another big attraction is that the R182, with its big, fat wing, big flaps, high flap extension speeds and good prop clearance, is just as handy getting into and out of smaller airports and rougher fields as it is keeping up the speed on the ILS into a Class Bravo airport, even as it drops full flaps at the last minute and gets out of the way at the first turnoff.
Try that in a Mooney. A few owners do complain, however, that because the tires on the RG are smaller and inflated to higher pressures than those on the fixed-gear Skylane, it can be a little squirrelly in crosswinds and harder to control on the runway.
Its 235 horses also take some pilots by surprise when they pour on the coal: A Mooney or Arrow pilot used to 200 HP might be surprised by the left-turning tendency of the Skylane RG at full power and high pitch. These traits, and the heaviness of the elevator, may explain a number of runway and go-around crack-ups over the years.
Comparisons are not made between the R182 and the Bonanza, which pilots do not consider a lower-priced choice in the used market. So Aviation Consumer a few years ago conducted a side-by-side flyoff between the R182 and a 201. It found the R182 had the better climb rate and more dexterity getting into and out of a variety of airports. The Cessna hauled more, both in weight and volume, and was a little faster than the sleek 201, but of course at 20 to 40 percent more gallons per hour.
The turbocharged version is significantly faster after its easy climb into the low teens, where it can achieve 165 knots TAS and more at higher altitudes. The normally aspirated R182 climbs well, too, with 1000 FPM typical at lower altitudes at gross weight and standard temperature. The turbo, its adoring pilots have told us, will lope up to FL 200 at 1000 FPM the whole way up.
In the air, the 182RG is a gentle, forgiving beast with a solid ride and feel. An Avcon writer used it to practice airwork for his CFI certificate and found it gentler than a 172, unwilling to bite even in a fully cross-controlled stall. Still, it requires some skill to fly well. It is not a feet-on-the-floor airplane like the Cherokee and its derivatives.
(Photo: Gustavo Carujo.)
Pilots who don’t use as much rudder to help roll out of a turn as they used rolling in will wallow all over the sky. (They never seem to notice how far the ball slid outside the cage.) The RG likewise needs nimble and firm rudder work on and near the runway to keep the nose straight on takeoff and in crosswinds.
Most notorious is the heavy elevator feel, something you’d expect pulling back on a DC-3 yoke. The heavy pitch and the Skylanes brick-like descent rate with full flaps and gear out-something you’d expect of the Space Shuttle-have led to a fair number of hard landings and runway loss-of-control accidents. Don’t try to land power-off with full flaps; the timing of the roundout and flare will be so critical as to invite a hit or a drop. Keep some power in. Watch out especially for forward-CG landings, with full fuel and only two aboard in the front seats. And before buying a used Skylane RG, check the logs, gear and the firewall carefully for evidence of damage.
The Skylane cabin is famously roomy and easy to access with a wide door on each side and windows that open on both, in most models. The baggage door is low to the ground and convenient. That big box of a cabin, however, flexes and the door and windshield fit can get sloppy over the years. That makes for drafts and water leaks. The original seats are okay except for their cheesy plastic and fabric. They are adjustable in height and seatback angle with lots of parts and pieces. Watch out for broken adjusters as well as worn seat tracks, the subject of a well-known AD affecting many Cessna singles.
A look at the past Service Difficulty Reports confirms that landing gear malfunctions and problems continue to top the list of R/RT182 maintenance woes. Out of 73 SDRs submitted between 2000 and 2010, 20 percent had to do with sheared bolts, failed downlock pins, cracked pivot assemblies, stuck doors and the like in the gear system, a figure consistent with the last time we looked.
Owners who wrote us recently had no serious complaints about the gear. Pilots who know how to avoid hard landings, we suspect, probably have landing gear systems that work just fine (as long as a previous owners mistakes have been properly repaired).
The next most common issues found in the SDRs were engine issues of various sorts, including worn or stuck valves, magneto woes and carburetor trouble. This pattern hasnt changed much over the years.
Other complaints over the years have included instrument lights that flicker out, leaks around the windshield and wing root, turbos leaking oil, shearing vacuum pump drive shafts, poorly aligned aileron hinge cotter key holes, failing Bendix starters, cracked exhaust stacks and worn alternator mount bolts.
Be aware that in the past, the RT182 had more than its share of bugaboos. Recent history and owner comments suggest, however, that at least some of the old RG problems have been ironed out. There have been no ADs specific to the RG series in recent years.
Mods, Owner Group
The Cessna Pilots Association is a great source of information for all Cessna owners. A membership is $55. Visit www.cessna.org to sign up. AOPAs member section (www.aopa.org/) has a great summary of the hundreds of mods available for the Skylane, some of which can be applied to the RG series, including kits for drag reduction, STOL performance, replacement tanks, and caps for the 1978 bladders, and caps and backup vacuum and electrical systems. Well-respected speed mods come from Horton STOLcraft in Wellington, Kansas (800-835-2051 and www.hortonstackdoor.com) and Knots 2U, Ltd. of Burlington, Wisconsin (262-763-5100, www.knots2u.com). If there are still RGs out there with the old bladders, Monarch Air and Development, Inc. in Oakland, Oregon, has the fix (541-459-2056, www.airsport.com).
The Paramus Flying Club has owned and operated a 1979 Cessna 182 RG since 2003. The members collectively log around 200 hours a year on this aircraft.
Despite its higher cost, a handful of members prefer this aircraft to all others in the fleet. They cite its speed, its power and the safety margin that that provides, and its versatility as primary factors.
With retractable gear, the 182RG is a full 15 knots faster than our fixed-gear 182. And with 88-gallon tanks and 1200 pounds-plus useful load, this is indeed a very versatile aircraft. Members also note the intangibles-one pilot noted the “unmistakable growl coming from under the cowl” while another opined that somehow “this feels more like a real plane-maybe its the raising and lowering of the gear.”
As might be expected, control forces are much heavier than a Cessna 172. Proper trim is critical to flying this aircraft well. And executing maneuvers where trim adjustment is not practical, or go arounds with the airplane set to landing trim, require quite a bit of muscle. As with all Cessna 182s, the RG feels nose heavy, especially in the flare, which can lead to bounced landings or worse if one is not careful.
On the plus side, the inertia of the heavier aircraft makes for a more pleasant ride and a better instrument platform. Members also note that the 182RG makes a great training platform for those looking to move up to bigger and faster complex aircraft.
The cost of annual inspections have been consistently around $4500 to $5000 over the last five years. We allow for an additional $6000 to $8000 per year for other maintenance-oil changes, 100-hour inspections, the inevitable repairs and so on. Insurance is expensive but still possible to get even in a club environment, although it does come with experience, training and currency requirements. On the plus side, time in the 182RG has made it easier for some of our members moving up to bigger aircraft to get insurance.
Overall, the operating cost for the aircraft is about $145 per tach hour–$70 for gas and oil changes, $50 for maintenance (excluding annual), and $25 for reserves (engine overhaul at TBO, paint, etc.).
As might be expected of an aircraft of this vintage, there have been a number of maintenance issues. Like many 182s, ours drains the left tank first even with the fuel switch set to both. The transponder had to be relocated-proximity to the heat
vent ducting was causing it to overheat and malfunction. A persistent nose-gear shimmy was ultimately traced to a faulty nose gear bungee, which was in turn damaging the rivets holding the nose gear assembly. Left unrepaired, this could have resulted in a nose gear collapse. (We corrected this, but only after a number of expensive false starts, which included a shimmy-damper replacement which may not have been necessary.)
Most seriously, the aircraft began leaking exhaust into the cabin, tripping CO monitors on several occasions. After a lengthy investigation involving two shops, the problem was remedied. However, why the problem suddenly developed was never explained. Finally, the factory original autopilot has been inop for a while now, and will need to be replaced.
Nevertheless, our 182RG has been a rock solid and predictable performer, taking on whatever our members can throw at it-from local weekend getaways, to commercial certificate training, and long-haul cross country trips. It even went to help out in the relief effort in Haiti, where it performed like a champ in the warm tropical environment ferrying personnel and supplies over the 10,000 foot Central Range of Hispaniola.
Paramus Flying Club
In 1981, I sold my Cessna 172 and purchased a 1978 Cessna 182RG for $36,000 so I could fly IFR for business travel, and until recently, I never found reason to trade up (that is 29 years in the same airplane!).
Now my use is primarily family travel and a 182RG fits the mission because it carries 780 pounds with full fuel. I can fly my family of four with lots of luggage, or two couples with light baggage. With the backseat removed, the cargo area is impressive with a nearly flat floor stretching from the front seats to the baggage compartment.
Ive carried firewood, bags of crawfish, sculpture, industrial test equipment and a small surfboard. Two passenger doors are a bit high and awkward for the uninitiated, but this arrangement is still much better than walking on the wing. Plus the high wings provide a roof for loading in the rain.
The aircraft typically flies 150 to 155 KTAS at 4000 to 6000 feet and 140 to 145 KTAS at 10,000 to 12,000 feet. I’ve been up briefly to 14,000 feet, but it gets pretty sloppy. At 70 percent power, fuel consumption is 12 to 13 GPH at 50 degrees rich of peak.
The fuel bladders were replaced when they were about 10 years old, but I’ve had no leaks since then. Fuel capacity is adequate for the size of my personal bladder. I plan maximum 4.7-hour legs.
Dispatch reliability has been very good, with only one trip postponed due to an oil leak in the cabin on departure because of a hole in the oil pressure gauge line (that was exciting). I usually put it in the shop for repairs once or twice a year. Annual inspections run from $2100 to $3000 (up from $500 in 1982). Repair and maintenance costs average $2100 per year over the last eight years.
The original engine went to 2000 hours TBO without a top overhaul or any other major work. The overhaul (1992) cost was $15,500, including engine balance, battery, prop, carburetor, exhaust system, magneto, fuel pump and vacuum pump. I’m on the second engine and it looks likely to go the distance, too, despite spending a lot of time in the hangar for a few years.
I’m a born skeptic, but in 2001, I installed a plug to let me use an IES DeSulfator battery conditioner whenever the airplane is in the hangar. The result is that the life of the pricey 24-volt batteries has improved two- or three-fold. Now I’m a believer. I had to pump the gear down by hand once and that was fixed simply by replacing the hydraulic pump motor brushes. Parts are readily available except for one 30-day delay for a Cessna made to order hydraulic line.
The airplane is a stable IFR platform and a few inadvertent and scary encounters with ice yielded no bad handling characteristics. The plastic interior trim is painfully fragile when it gets old, but replacement is not a big deal. Insurance cost is about $1200/year for $1 million liability, $100,000/passenger, $91,000 hull.
In summary, this model provides a respectable speed, good reliability and impressive cabin load capacity for a reasonable acquisition cost. More important, operation costs are reasonable. It does not have the snazzy look of a Bonanza, Arrow, or Mooney, but for my money, it provides the best value on the performance vs. cost curve. If a general aviation plane can be called practical, this is the one.
I have been the owner of a 1978 Cessna R182 for 40 months as of February 2011. I have been pleased with the selection of the R182. First, it handles big and tall people well. I am seven-feet tall and over 270 pounds. It has great head and shoulder room for the front row. It has very good load-hauling capacity. I almost never have to worry about weight and balance.
My expenses for maintenance the first year were $7724, second year $6198 and third year $5270. These maintenance costs include my annuals, which alone are about $2800. These numbers do not include an engine reserve.
My insurance for this fourth year will be $1357 for $1 million/$100,000 with a hull value of $115,000. I have 558 hours total and 471 hours in the R182. I upgraded to a Garmin 530W, GTX330, Century NSD360 HSI and digital encoder, and plan to do more upgrades over the next several years.
The R182 flies well. It does not taxi well, probably due in part to its relatively small tires. But I did not buy an airplane to drive. The small tires make it harder to steer than many singles, but you get used to it. I have a Horton STOL kit, so my stall speed dirty can be as low as 37 knots. At first, the nose-heaviness was something to get used to, as I had a harder time “slicking” my landings. But now, its almost second nature.
It had two gear-up landings before I bought it, by the first owner, but you would never know, except for the documentation. My R182 had a factory remanufactured Lycoming O-540 with just 65 hours on it when I bought it. I use Aeroshell 80W in the winter with a pint of ASL Camguard, and Aeroshell 100W in the summer, also with Camguard. Due to its short/soft field performance, I enjoy visiting many grass landing strips.
My R182 is on its fourth prop control cable since 1978. Its not a major expense, but its about one new prop control cable every eight years. That’s too frequent. Cessna had me file a Product Condition Report. I have not heard a response. They claimed it had nothing to do with the fact my cable passes near the engine exhausts, which I hear can melt the Teflon coating inside the cable. Cessna has an updated design which re-routes the cable over the top of the engine and not below it, which they say is just an ease of operation concern.
Its three times the cost. If my new prop cable cant make it more than 10 years, Ill get the MacFarlane part or switch to the new service kit. For my R182, parts availability is wide. Membership in a club like Cessna Pilots Association is a must. The parts locators and resources connected on this website are invaluable.
Charlotte, North Carolina
I bought a 1981 TR182 in 2006. After five years of ownership, I have concluded that this aircraft is the best tricycle 100 series Cessna has ever built. I was fortunate to buy from a gentleman who put it in perfect condition before I bought it, making my ownership experience very economical. Changing the oil and filter on this model is very easy and can be done by removing just the passengers side upper cowl.
An owner can change the oil and filter in jig time, since the filter and oil drain are so accessible. Annuals and associated minor repairs inevitably found at each annual have been $2000 or less, not including my optional upgrades. Insurance for a hull value of $130,000, hangared, has been about $1200 per year. The gear has been absolutely trouble free. Gear-related expenses have been zero. The first upgrade I added was a JPI engine monitor with TIT and fuel flow. It is the singular most valuable and important upgrade I have ever done and critical for proper operation of this bird, in my opinion. I quickly found out that my CHTs were way too high due to old and partially functioning baffles. Replacement of all my flexible baffles solved this problem along with a modification of the metal baffle on number 1, which took that hot cylinder from hottest to fourth warmest.
I have gone through the ignition system, IRANed the mags, checked resistance in the wiring harness and replaced the coiled spark plug leads on all six cylinders, plus replaced all the plugs with new Unison massives. After this maintenance, my cruise fuel flow was reduced by 1.5 GPH for the same speed. I cruise at 60 to 65 percent power setting with the prop pulled back to the bottom of the green, leaned to peak TIT or, when conditions permit, 10 degrees lean of peak. This yields 150-knots at a fuel flow of 10.5 GPH at 9500 to 11,500 feet. This gives you an amazing (no reserve) range of about 1300 statute miles on 88 gallons of usable fuel. Leaning to best power at the same altitudes gives speeds of 165 knots with higher fuel burns.
TR182s have factory-installed oxygen systems which make high-altitude cruising a convenient matter of just plugging into the overhead oxygen ports. This ship will cruise over 20,000 feet at 200 MPH. My bird has a useful load of 1100 pounds, so with full fuel, two adults and two kids, plus some bags, we can get half-way across the country.
The TR182s are factory turbonormalized, possibly the first turbonormalized factory set up in the industry at the time. The TR versions were only produced from 1979 to 1986, so they are more rare than fixed-gear 182s of the same vintage. The turbo setup is simple. The wastegate is manual with a straightforward mechanical linkage which needs minimum maintenance-mostly lubing, but it does require the pilot to understand and be aware how it works.
The POH does not explain proper operation well. Any owner should join the Cessna Pilots Association to learn more about the proper operation of this capable aircraft. Its too bad Cessna doesn’t bring this excellent design back into current production. It is a versatile, economical and fast strutted-Cessna with a trouble-free gear system. Virtually every A&P can work on it. Maintenance, insurance and operating costs are very economical for a retract. I think I may just keep mine forever.
Tahoe City, California
I have owned my 1978 R182 for six years and 850 hours now. In my opinion, there is no better GA aircraft built by Cessna and may even be the best all-around airplane in the fleet.
The airplane has been reliable, reasonably fast, economical, roomy, stable, virtually immune to loading out of CG and can carry a serious load. With full fuel (74 gallons) I can carry 800 pounds in the cabin at 150 to 155 knots on 13 GPH. I used to have a 180-HP 172 and on a trip, the R182 uses the same amount of fuel, but arrives much faster and more comfortably.
The landing gear has had a bad rap in the past, but properly maintained it is great. There are only two hoses in the gear system and the rest is hard piped. The actuators get rebuilt every six years, which consists of replacing O-rings and seals and flushing the hydraulic fluid. Properly maintained, the system is as trouble free as any retract. The engine is the reliable O-540 rated at 235 HP and with proper maintenance on the engine will easily go to TBO.
There is room in the cabin for four people and the comfort is better than most GA airplanes. Two doors helps entry and exit from the plane.
It is a great IFR platform and heavy on the controls, especially pitch. It is not unusual for me to leave North Carolina, fly to Pennsylvania or Georgia for a business meeting, and return in time for dinner at home. It is a great traveling machine.
This airplane is not as numerous as others in the fleet and will compare well to Mooneys, Comanche 260s and Bonanzas. With the current values of these airplanes, they are a true bargain in the market.