Narrowing the Hunt

The October 2010 issue of AOPA Pilot contains the first of what will be a series of articles about AOPA’s sweepstakes Cessna 182 (a.k.a. “Crossover Classic”) and its metamorphosis to a raving beauty. As you’ll see in the article (“Skylane Seeking,”), finding a good 1970s airplane poses huge challenges.

Here’s the nitty-gritty on the details of my search. I used Aircraft Shopper Online, Barnstormers, and Controller as starting points. At these sites you can see all sorts of Cessnas, most of them Skyhawks, but a batch of Skylanes as well. I picked out a half-dozen promising candidates and called their owners—or their brokers. Of course, the ads promised the usual mantra: Always hangared, complete logbooks, no damage history.

Don’t believe it. Especially the part about damage history. A couple ads were up-front about damage. Usually the damage had to do with busted nosewheels, bent firewalls, and propeller strikes (and subsequent engine inspections for related internal damage). Seems that Skylanes, being naturally nose-heavy when loaded with two up front and little in the way of bags, need a good pull in the flare to make absolutely, positively certain that you don’t make a “three point” landing, or—heaven forfend!—nosewheel first.


One of the airplanes we checked out had a crack in a critical landing gear component: the fitting between the stur and the wheel assembly. Somewhere along the line, someone stop-drilled the crack—an illegal repair in itself on such a component—but the crack propagated beyond the stop-drilled hole. This made the airplane unairworthy.


Check out the airframe logbook entry for another 182 we examined, then rejected. Look at line four…. “left wing tip bent up at 50 degree angle.” The seller first said the airplane hit trees, than added that it might have hit a deer at one point. In each case, the assertion was that the damage was “light.” Good thing the mechanic was diligent in his entries.

One ad fessed up and said the airplane had been through three firewalls! Firewalls get bent when nosewheel assemblies transmit the shock of a nose-first arrival through the engine mounts. One of the first things our pre-purchase inspector, Don Sebastian, looked for was a bent firewall. Sebastian says another way to check for nosewheel- and firewall-related damage is to measure the gap between the prop spinner and the cowling. Is the gap uniform for the entire circumference of the spinner? If not, the engine is, in effect, sagging in its mounts. Any firewall/nosewheel assembly/engine mount damage is usually a deal-killer, Sebastian says. It would cost too much, parts would be hard to find, and the repairs mean a lot of down time. Expert insight like this is why we hired Sebastian to check out our airplanes.

Closing in

It seems that all this searching may soon end. We’ve located a suitable airplane in Middletown, Ohio, that just may work out. Problem is, the owner is ambivalent about selling it. It’s a classic approach-avoidance quandary.

I was talking to renowned Skyhawk broker George Van Bortel about some owners being overly sentimental about their airplanes. So George tells me a story. Seems he took a buyer’s airplane as a trade-in, but the buyer was reluctant. Got emotional. Said he wanted to fly his old airplane just one more time. For old time’s sake, just once around the patch.

Van Bortel says, “OK,” and the pilot gets into his old airplane, takes off, and flies away! He went back to his home field! In effect, he stole his own airplane!

Air Plains anticipation

Whatever we buy, I’m looking forward to flying it to Air Plains Services at the Wellington, Kan., airport. Air Plains will be yanking the old engine and replacing it with a factory remanufacted Teledyne Continental Motors IO-550D engine of 300-hp. That’s 70 more horsepower than the stock engine! Carolyn Kelley of Air Plains tells me that some of their customers see true airspeeds of 160 knots once this very popular conversion is installed. Extra range, too, owing to the Flint tip tanks—which will also be part of the Crossover Classic’s conversion.

Please stop back often for updates on the project. Time flies, and sometimes breaking news may appear here before it does in the magazine.

  • Cullen Duke

    Mr. Horne,

    Just curious – would you have ever considered a 182RG? If you saw one that was better than any other fixed-gear 182, would the RG have been a deal-breaker? If so, can you explain? Thanks and appreciate the articles and blog. Can’t wait to hear my name called about a year from now!

    • thorne

      RG would be nice, but too expensive up front–and we like to give away airplanes that pilots of any experience level can feel comfortable in…..


  • Terry Welander

    As the Architects say, form follows function. As function is king, the C-182 is one of the most beautiful aircraft on the planet.
    The C-182 has lots of room, lots of power, good view, and good avionics, even the old stuff; better than any commercial airliner;
    although somewhat more expensive, but probably worth it.

  • Scott

    Nice bird. I am hoping to some day get a complex / high performance rating to my current SEL license. A 182 would work out quite nicely.

  • George

    I’m surprised AOPA posted a picture of an A&P’s cert. number in a public article! Not good.

  • Tom

    I had Air Plains do the IO550 conversion on my 182P and it is the better than anyone could expect. Even after 1 1/2 years it is exciting every flight.

  • thorne


    Join AOPA, or renew, or sign up for automatic renewal for extra chances at winning


  • thorne

    Thanks. We all peg the hot-meter around here