The venerable 182 can be tweaked, tuned and twiddled ad infinitum. Here’s a catalog of some of the best mods.
Even the new Skylanes from Cessna
Aircraft owners are a restless lot, forever casting about for the one upgrade, gadget or gizmo that will render their airplanes truly perfect Leading the list of upgradeable rides is the venerable Cessna 182. Although more dowager than doxy, what the Skylane lacks in sex appeal is more than offset among its devotées by its comfort, useful load, ease of maintenance and all but complete lack of pilot-humbling quirk.
Skylanes tend to be the defensive linemen of light singles; large, powerful and relatively slow. Consequently, it’s not surprising that there’s something of a cottage industry aimed at souping up and cleaning up the Cessna 182. The typical Skylane is a poster child for parasitic drag. The most common structural speed mods are fairings of various flavors and flap gap seals.
Top prize for the cleverest name goes to Maple Leaf Aviation’s “Fancy Pants.” Maple Leaf asserts a 6 to 8 MPH gain from just its nose strut fairing. Other smoothers they offer include snugger wheel fairings, brake covers and a wrap for the exhaust pipe. They’ve even got covers for the bolt heads on the landing gear. Fancy Pants for all three legs list for $599. Pricing and product information for a variety of other fairings is available on their Website. After extensive experience with Pipers, Knots 2U is starting to nose under the Cessna tent. Currently, their high-wing offerings are limited to flap gap seals and vortex generators, but they’ve acquired the Davids Aviation speed mods, which are currently being tweaked. Gear and cowl fairing kits are supposed to be available next winter.
Flap gap seals are one of the more cost- effective mods for the 182. Most owners report a couple of knots in cruise but a definite improvement in climb and low-speed handling. Knots 2U’s 182 flap gap kit lists for $425, with an estimated 7 hours installation. Horton, Inc. is in the flap gap business, too and will sell you a set for $220. For another $10, you get aileron seals as well. They estimate 8 to 10 hours installation time for both. Horton also has speed mods, having acquired the late Charlie Siebel’s Flight Bonus STCs, which Horton has converted to fiberglass instead of the original plastic. One difference in the Horton approach to fairings is that they don’t just cover the original nose gear torque link. Instead, the link is replaced completely for a smoother, more compatible fit and finish. It’s not cheap, however, costing between $2500 and $2900, depending on model.
In older 182s, that clunky gear step can be replaced with one incorporated into a gear leg fairing. Owners report the full smoothing package from Horton gains them up to 20 knots more than pre-mod. A salad bar of options can be mixed and matched, with commensurately variable pricing. A complete catalog is available on request.
Obviously, the other way to make it go faster is to put more ponies under the cowl. For around $30,000, Air Plains Services will mate a Hartzell three-blade Scimitar propeller with a Gold Medallion or factory reman IO-520. The lower cost version is limited to the full 300 HP for five minutes but allows 285 HP full time. The second iteration permits a continuous 300 HP for about $5000 more.
P. Ponk Aviation’s Super Eagle engine conversion (officially the P.Ponk O-470-50) modifies a stock Continental O-470 engine. Available for the Cessna 182H through 182R, they exchange the O-470 cylinders for 520 jugs housing tightly balanced low compression pistons. Engine displacement increases by 50 cubic inches and they claim an increase of up to 45 HP. Crank counterweights are reconfigured and the carburetor and case are modified. A plus for washed-in-the-blood O-470 fans is that there’s no “I” inserted in front of the “O” when P. Ponk is finished and no significant change in operating procedure.
is upped to 2000 hours. Each installation is different and the bottom
line depends on a variety of factors, but P.
Ponk advises that a ballpark for a basic overhaul and
modification is around $18,000.
All but the O-470 upgrade will require replacement of an older prop in favor of a three-blade. Their O-520 is marketed as producing an airspeed which matches the model number and the manufacturer’s performance charts show rate of climb and service ceiling rising commensurately. Basic engine prices (with exchange) run around $24,000 for the O-470, $25,850 for the O-520s and $30,980 for the O-550. If you need a new prop, add $6700 to these figures.
Performance Plus combines a 260 HP IO-470-F engine with extensive
STOL alterations, including what’s for all intents and purposes a
small horizontal stabilizer mounted on the cowling. According to
Peterson, cruise rises to 153 knots and stall diminishes to 35 knots.
Climb, takeoff and landing values change significantly as well.
At 65 knots over the fence and with 40 degrees of Fowler flap hanging out, the Skylane is a good short field airplane out of the box. Nevertheless, the folks who want to all but hover on short final can look to the various STOL kits. In general, STOL alterations will be more noticeable in pre-1972 aircraft which did not have a cuffed leading edge
One mod from P.Ponk cleverly
A venerable name
among the manufacturers of STOL modifications is Horton. For $949,
you get leading edge cuffs (wing lights are accommodated),
stall fences, aileron seals and new fiberglass droop wingtips.
Installation requires 32 to 38 hours, not including paint.
Owner Don Elton added the Horton STOL and flap gap seals at the same
time. “Airspeed was a wash afterwards,” he advised. “I suspect the
flap gap seals gave back whatever airspeed was possibly taken away by
the STOL kit.” The total effect did make a noticeable improvement in
landings, however. “Flare too high and no one but you will know as
the STOL kit makes the arrival smooth and soft.”
We nudged a
little on this issue, but the Sierra rep insisted this capability
works across the board, from go around to
flare. They claim 15 to 25 MPH slower approaches and as much as 40
percent less runway needed.
always thought of the gear on a 182 as speed
brakes—permanent ones. So we were surprised that someone had
gone to the trouble of obtaining an STC for speed brakes for the
Skylane. Nevertheless, if you fly jumpers or routinely fly
Micro Aerodynamics makes vortex generators for the 182. Kit cost is $1450. For that, you receive 80 wing VGs, 40 on the vertical stabilizer and another 40 on the underside of the horizontal stab. They claim an 8 percent reduction in stall speed (around 4 knots at Vso). Installation time is estimated as a day.
Odds and Ends
One of the few
type-specific mods for the 182 that isn’t related to speed—at least
not directly—is replacement fuel tanks. Of course, if the bladders
trap a slug of water that dislodges into the engine at an inopportune
moment, speed should be reduced quickly to best glide.
Monarch makes rigid, engineered plastic replacements which eliminate the water trapping wrinkles. Because they don’t expand, the replacement tanks hold a bit less gas. Standard tanks are $2495 while long-range cells are $200 more. The Website has installation manuals available and it would be a good idea to discuss that end of the cost with your mechanic before ordering.
Maple Leaf Aviation promises 6 to 8 MPH
Last but not
least, any 182 driver who hasn’t replaced those horrible “juice can”
wing root vents needs to take a long look at the alternatives.
look a lot like the original plastic jobs but owners report that they
close off tightly and greatly improve ventilation in summer. At just
$75 a pair, even the most parsimonious owner should be interested.
In the Wings
After many years of watching the upstarts and casualties, we tend to be leery of the bleeding edge of GA technology. Occasionally, we see real home runs, such as GAMIjectors or 550 engine conversions.
And last but not
least, one ambitious company (Aerospace Systems & Technologies Inc.,
888-865-5511 or www.weepingwings.com) wants to equip the Skylane (and
others) for known ice with the TKS system, which weeps glycol-based
fluid through porous titanium panels on the leading edges of the
wings and horizontal and vertical stabilizers.
In summary, we’ve pointed out primp, polish and power for Skylanes in the cost ranges from pocket change—at least as aviation goes—to more than many birds cost new.
The ultimate value of modifications, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If it’s worth it to you, by all means go for it. Just don’t hyperventilate if you don’t get a dollar for dollar return at resale.
by Jane Garvey
Jane Garvey is an Aviation Consumer contributing editor and a Skylane owner.