Thoughts and Observations about

Cessna 182 Ownership

Updated May, 2008

 

Cost to Buy   Cessna 182's, like most other popular singles, have increased in value over the years.  I am one of two current partners on this 1981 Skylane, and I have owned this plane since 1987.  I don't know what it cost new,  but I paid $59,800 for it when I purchased it, as the second owner.  As of 2004, when I sold half interest in the plane, both Vref and Blue Book estimated the value to be about double that amount (in the neighborhood of $120,000) with the equipment it contained at that time.  That was before our recent avionics and panel upgrades.   I had done the "usual" upgrades, over the years, like updating the radios with Narco Cessna replacements, updating the original ARC autopilot with a two-axis S-Tec System 50, adding a panel mounted GPS, a WX-8 stormscope, a GEM engine monitor, a good stereo intercom, and a few other odds and ends.  Today it's worth about $150,000 with new paint, panel, and avionics.
     
     
Cost to Fly and Maintain   Annual Inspections for a 182 generally cost between $900 - $1000, plus any needed repairs, which have been minimal over the years.  Total annual maintenance costs have averaged about $1500 per year.    The Continental O-470 engine has been very rugged, needing little attention.   TBO was increased to 2000 hours sometime in the late 80's when Continental beefed up the casing on the -U model of this engine.  (Earlier models of the O-470 engine, found in some early model C182's, remain at 1500 hours TBO.) A remanufactured O-470-U engine will cost something in the neighborhood of $20,000 plus installation. 

With a two-owner partnership, we "rent" this plane to ourselves for $66/hour (plus an hourly reserve for future engine overhaul).  That rate allows us to about break even on maintenance and fuel at today's prices (which are currently hovering around $4.50 per gallon).  We feel that the Skylane offers a lot of airplane, and a lot of performance, for a comparatively small operating cost.

     
     
Insurance Costs   When I was flying this plane alone, I was paying about $1500 per year for insurance, with the hull valued at $120,000.  Adding an additional owner and pilot increased the cost by about $200, and after increasing the hull value to $150,000 (to accommodate our new paint and avionics package), we paid USAIG just short of $2000 last year.
     
     
Performance   The O-470-U engine is rated at 230 HP and drinks about 11.5 gph of fuel at 80% power.  That gives us in the range of about 140 knots of speed (give or take a knot or two).   The Skylane is an extremely stable airplane to fly, with predictable rates of decent, making it a perfect IFR platform - especially for pilots just transitioning to an Instrument rating.   It is a little heavier at the controls than it's smaller cousin, the C172, but not significantly so.  Some people have criticized the Skylane for being a bit nose-heavy on landings, but I have never noticed this - especially when the aircraft is properly trimmed.  With a two-blade prop, the Skylane climbs at about 900 fpm.   With it's huge flaps, this plane needs surprisingly little runway length for landings and take offs.  You can also get it nice and "dirty" for quick descents at slow speeds. 

Where this airplane shines is in its hauling capacity, with a useful load of just over 1200 pounds.  And with a rather large cargo area behind the rear seat, there is plenty of room to stick almost anything inside, that you can fit through the doors.   It handles pretty much the same, whether you keep it light, or load it to the max. 

Cessna quotes the range on the Skylane at 820 NM, but with its 88 gallons of usable fuel, the Skylane will actually travel about 1000 NM, or a little over 7 hours, before it falls out of the sky from lack of fuel.  Either way, the range of the plane far exceeds the comfortable flight range for most pilots or passengers.  

     
     
Cabin Comfort   I am both big and tall, in stature.  With its large side doors, a cabin height of 48" and a cabin width of 42", the Skylane is by far the most roomy and comfortable single engine plane I have ever flown.  The seats adjust fore and aft, and up and down, to accommodate any size pilot.  All seat backs recline, including the back seats.   The heater works great, as well, which is appreciated on winter flights.  My only complaint about cabin comfort is that Cessna could have paid a little more attention to vent air configurations and appliances.  There are after-market improvements to help with this, however.  Also the newer C182's ("S" model and later) are a little better in this regard.
     
     
Available Mods  
Over the long run of the C182, there have been many third party modifications approved for both the engine and the airframe.  Of the one's we've added, our favorite mod has been the RMD wing tip lights that you can see here.  Combined with the original front cowl lights (on the "R" model and before) we have a total of 400 watts of light pointing forward - more than enough to see anything on the ground, and be seen near a busy airport at night.  (We have the lights wired to a Precise Flight PulseLite system, which when turned on, makes the wing tips and cowl pulse alternately.)  We have also added flap gap seals, which we've found to lower the stall speed by about 5 knots in the landing configuration, as well as offering a knot or two of extra speed in cruise, due to reduced drag.   In our opinion, flap gap seals should have been part of the original design on the Skylane.  Our upgraded wheel pants from "Knots-2-U" have also boosted our speed by a couple of knots, and look really great.   We replaced the original tail beacon with a new Whelen red/white strobe beacon.  The strobe beacon is significantly brighter and draws much less current.  Here is a complete list of upgrades and enhancements we've made.   
 

Both McCauley and Hartzel have STC's for upgrades to a 3-blade prop for "R" model and earlier Skylanes that came with two blades.  There are several options available for upgrading the Continental O-470 Skylane engine to increase performance.  One of the most popular among Skylane owners is the P. Ponk conversion, which retro-fits the 470 engine with O-520 cylinders, thus increasing the engine displacement by 50 cubic inches.  The end result is essentially an O-520 which is carbureted and derated to 265-275 hp.

     
     
"Must Have" Additions   Preferences aside, here is a list of the top 10 additions that EVERY Skylane owner ought to have.  I would consider each item essential to owning and enjoying one of these airplanes...
   
   Flap Gap Seals    Supplemental Avionics Cooling Fan
   Rosen Sun Visors    Alternate Vacuum Source (If flown IFR)
   Carburetor Temp. Gage    Storage Console Between Front Seats
   GEM Engine Monitor (or equiv.)    At Least One Good ANR Headset
   Upgraded Windshield Air Vents    Membership in Cessna Pilot's Assoc.
     
     
A Plane of Compromises   The Cessna 182 is not the best at all things.  It is not the fastest climbing or fastest cruising single, it does not do aerobatics, it won't carry 6 people, and it's not as cheap to fly as the smaller Cessna's or Pipers.  But we like this plane because it does a fantastic job of  "making compromises".   You simply won't find a 4-place single, with a larger cockpit, that will carry more weight on under 12 gph of fuel, at a "reasonable" speed, while being extremely stable and relatively forgiving and easy to fly.   The Cessna 182 is a proven model that has been a leading seller in the single engine market for about half a century, now.  If you are looking to buy one, there are plenty on the market to choose from.  With a few choice mods, an upgraded panel that includes the latest avionics, and a new quality paint job, we feel that we own a "better than new" 182 for about half the price of a new one. 

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