The 2011 Crossover Classic is the third sweepstakes project I’ve managed, plus I’ve had a front row seat on several others. And every full-restoration project posed its own set of challenges. So it is with the Crossover Classic.
Sometimes, there are surprises in the work flow: a rare part must be replaced; a substandard repair must be made right; or, in some cases, a frail, yet critical out-of-production assembly can’t be located in salvage yards, online, or from the manufacturer. So a delicate fix must be carried out. (Such as the time when we had to re-weld the aluminum air intake box on the “Win-A-Six” Cherokee Six.) Sometimes, an older airplane’s personality just seems to have a mind of its own, and resists being dragged into modernity. Sound odd to anthropomorphize an airplane? Ask any owner. They’ll tell you that airplanes do have personalities!
With the Crossover Classic, we wanted the airplane to be the very best restoration project yet. That’s a worthy goal, but there are risks. There is always the compulsion to add more and more features and equipment. But there are down sides. These include extra complexity, extra weight, and extra time in the installation and completion shops. This latter is of critical importance in the Crossover Classic’s situation.
AOPA used to give its sweepstakes airplanes away in the February after the year of the restoration. This meant we had about a year to do all the work (although many were finished well before that deadline). Now, we give the airplanes away at AOPA Summit, which this year falls in September. Suddenly, we lost precious months.
The decision to forego the Robertson STOL kit modification was in part a result of this consideration. A short takeoff and landing (STOL) kit uses aerodynamic devices of varying complexities to improve slow speed handling and reduce takeoff and landing distances. In this case, there were other factors. And none of them, by the way, should be construed to reflect adversely on any of the fine vendors who have so generously participated in this project.
No, the decision was prompted by our standing back, pausing, reflecting, and re-evaluating a project that seemed heading into more complexity than was warranted. The airplane already has a 300-hp engine (70-hp more than the stock C-182P’s 230-hp), and 12-gallon wingtip fuel tanks, not to mention an ultimate panel retrofit–centered around Garmin’s G500 PFD/MFD, JP Instruments’ EDM-930 engine data management display, and Cobham/S-TEC’s System Fifty-Five X autopilot.
Would adding the STOL kit to the mix mean the autopilot would work harder during approaches flown at low airspeeds, as are possible with the STOL kit? Could the extra fuel weight at the wingtips cause a pilot to chase roll inputs while trying to track a course at those slower airspeeds? Were we on the verge of creating a sort of new, hybrid airplane? That’s too many questions, and that’s why we decided to keep the airplane simple.
Besides, with the Teledyne Continental’s 300 horsepower, a strong argument can be made that a STOL kit simply wasn’t necessary. Trust me: the airplane leaps off the runway in very short order, and a Vx climb will have you staring at a windshield full of sky, doing at least 2,000 fpm. (A Vy climb will produce the same result). Thanks to the C182’s big, stable, standard-issue wing, approach and land with full flaps at the proper airspeed, and you’ll make the first turn-off in style at most airports.
There’s a lesson here for those considering major restorations of their own: Don’t get carried away. Four big work packages is plenty, and any more will only add more surprises–and cost!