Why the Cessna 182 is so Excellent?

January, 30, 2022
Cessna 182 Specs
Cessna 182 Skylane

Tracing its roots to the pioneers of aviation, the Cessna Aircraft Company is best known for manufacturing small, piston-powered aircraft, providing both the novice and the most advanced aviators with a variety of aircraft models that can cover different kinds of mission.

Its founder, Clyde Cessna has made incredible contributions to aviation not only by founding one of the most iconic and enduring aircraft manufacturing companies but also by laying out the design of high-efficiency general aviation aircraft and the early monoplane design.

Owing to its versatility, reliability, and quality, the company had established benchmarks for the industry by becoming very popular and attracting loyal customers. 

This line has some of the friendliest aircraft ones can fly. From the ever-popular, multi-purpose Cessna 172 to the classic Cessna 182 Skylane, the iconic Cessna 180 and 185 Skywagons are beloveds by backcountry pilots and the two-seat Cessna 152 trainer amongst many more. 

Talking about the 182, it is safe to call it the Jack of All Trades. Its good hauling capability, dispatch reliability and relatively comfortable cabin keep buyers confident and comfortable with a long-term Skylane ownership.

Winding the clock back to 1956, we reach the beginning of the Cessna 182’s evolutionary history. It found its origin when the company was doing what its best at: learning from previous designs and scaling them up. 

That explains the 182’s resemblance to a giant Skyhawk, which itself looks like an inflated 150. Evolving from the 180 taildraggers, the 182 was the company’s second tricycle gear aircraft which was an immediate success like its sibling, the 172. 

Beginning as a tricycle-undercarriage development of the Cessna 180, the 182 has had one of the longest production runs for any General Aviation aircraft.

Having said that, the Cessna 182 has gone through many iterations since its introduction in 1956 and has been produced in a whooping 23 distinct variants. 

It is a single-engine piston, four-seat, high wing, light aircraft with almost 24,000 models produced. So what exactly makes C182 the Mr. Popular? Its flexibility and ease of operation made it quite a star. 

Built from metal, mostly aluminum, the C182 holds pride in its rigidity, durable airframe and strong body, which was later covered in full paint. Known as Skylane, the company allowed variations in two design features which the owners could mix and select according to their needs and most importantly, their budget.

The first one was the landing gear. With the new tri-gear, the 182 did develop a nose-heavy tendency and the company never did sort this out. 

Fixed landing gear increases drag which consequently brings a performance penalty but we do know that every airplane is a compromise. 

The retractable gear is very impressive but that too comes with a cost: increasing the aircraft’s overall weight and maintenance costs. Well, now that’s a given for any additional moving parts added to an airplane.

The retractable gear variants R182 and TR182 were offered from 1978 to 1986 with 10-15% improvement in climb and cruise speeds over their fixed-gear counterparts. 

We can also think of it as 10-15% better fuel economy at the same speeds, at the expense of increased maintenance costs and decreased gear robustness.

The second factor is the engine type, and owners can choose between Continental and Lycoming. In the first Cessna 182s, power was provided by a 230-HP Continental O-470-L, an engine that proved to be such a worthy choice that some variant of it was retained until the airplane went out of production in 1986. However, they were quite susceptible to carb icing. The Lycoming, on the other hand, solves that problem and has been installed in the later variants.

Let’s take a look at the design characteristics and features of the C182. 

Prized for short and rough field ops, the original 182 was nothing less than an antique with its straight tail, windowless back and trim-over-bare aluminum body.

This was then upgraded in the later models with improvements including a rakish swept tailfin, the classic rear Omni-vision window that everyone loves, a wider fuselage, an enlarged baggage compartment, higher gross weights and landing gear changes.

As new design features were introduced every couple of years, Cessna embarked upon a continuous improvement program. The next variant, 182A got an external baggage door, a redesigned gear and a 100-pound higher gross weight. In 1958, 182 got its popular second name Skylane attached with it and later the 182B with cowl flaps came out in 1959. 

The addition of a swept tail in 1960 upgraded it into the 182C. This upgrade was nothing more than a styling move since the swept tail degraded spin recovery and reduced rudder power. 

The next variant, 182D had lowered the landing gear. The 1962 182E was considered a modern Skylane with a significant upgrade over the earlier 182s as it came with 26 new design features such as the rear window, an updated panel layout, a trim tab and electric flaps. 

Not only this but the gross weight was boosted to 2800 pounds and a redesigned fuel system with bladders raised the fuel capacity to 84 gallons. It was also fitted with a different engine variant, the O-470-R. 

From the F model forward, until the S arrived in 1997, changes were less dramatic. The G model had a child seat for the baggage bay, while the 182H got an alternator to replace the generator. 

The next significant upgrade came with the 1970 182N model in which the gross weight was increased to 2950 pounds and the spring-steel gear was swapped for tapered tubular steel legs that allowed more fore-and-aft movement. 

In 1972, a leading-edge cuff was added to the wing to improve low-speed handling, resulting in the 182P, a variant that stayed in production through 1976.

With the 1981 182R, the gross weight was boosted to 3100 pounds and fuel capacity to 88 gallons, which was now stored in wet wings instead of bladders. 

A turbocharged version was added to the line in 1981, the T-182RII, powered by a Lycoming O-540 producing 235 HP.

Production ended in 1986 with the 182R and when it re-entered the market in 1997, Cessna introduced a newly retooled Skylane for the next century. The biggest change was dropping the reliable O-470 for a 230-HP Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5.

When it comes to the interior, the old Royalite instrument panels were replaced by painted metal and have an excellent layout. The cabin and the baggage compartment are quite spacious with a nice view, perfect for flying a family to enjoy the great weather at the beach in great comfort.

Speaking of passengers, the C182 can accommodate a useful load of 1,110 lbs. However, its maximum payload is 950 lbs. and a Full Fuel Payload of 588 lb. The Maximum Takeoff Weight has exceeded to 3,100 lbs. in the modern variants. 

When it comes to the power plant, the aircraft has been powered by different engines throughout the variants. In all of general aviation, there are perhaps a handful of engine-airframe combinations that are nearly perfect. 

The 182/O-470 pairing is one of them. The initial models from 182 to 182D were all powered by a carbureted 230 hp (172 kW) Continental O-470-L engine, followed by another engine variant of Continental, the O-470-R for the 182E till the 182P model. 

The S and U engine variants were then incorporated in the next models till the 182R Skylane, after which the company dropped the reliable O-470 for a 230-HP fuel-injected Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5 in the 182S. 

The later models were also equipped with Lycoming. Owing to its relative simplicity, the O-470 series is relatively inexpensive to overhaul. 

The dimensions of 182 include its height of 9 feet 4 in, length of 29 feet, with a wingspan of 36 feet which is the same as C172. Not only the wing planform, but some wing details such as the flap and aileron design are also the same as its sibling C172.

It has a service ceiling of 18,100 feet and a maximum climb rate of 924 fpm. The maximum range is 915 nm which is about a third of the United States. It offers a 20 knots increase in cruise speed over its predecessor, providing a more efficient ride. 

Although a cruise speed of 140 knots doesn’t make it a speed demon and trips may not be all that fast, but speed is not why people buy these airplanes.

The design of the fuel system in terms of simplicity and ease of management is admirable. On each strut, there are foot mounts for easy access enabling pilots to refuel with ease.

Widely liked and used by a multitude of civil operators, cadet organizations, and flight schools worldwide, the C182 is powered by the GARMIN G1000 NXi which is the latest technology in integrated cockpit avionics. 

It’s hard to imagine a communication and navigation system with more talent. It includes the standard features such as the IFR High and Low Charts with Night Mode, Integrated VFR Sectional Charts, Selectable Visual Approaches and Standard Garmin Electronic Stability and Protection (ESP) and Under Speed Protection (USP). 

With simplified maintenance, Cessna never looked back once it switched to Garmin as it essentially brings all the tricks of airline cockpits to the ranks of general aviation. 

The one trait which has guaranteed the success of both the 172 and 182 is simplicity. They are basic and ordinary airplanes for the purpose of transportation with a minimum of fuss and bother, reasonable comfort and a relatively low cost. 

Skylane buyers and owners look for ample room, good load carrying, stability and generally benign handling when they buy the aircraft, and definitely get the best of it. 

Cessna 182 is a titan of general aviation’s golden era. Its ability to go into some quite short strips is one of its most impressive facets. Its excellent short field characteristics make it an awesome choice for exploring unpaved airstrip operations.

Furthermore, unlike most piston-powered airplanes requiring a longer run to take off than to land, it comfortably and easily takes off from shorter runways.

For a four-seat airplane, the C182 can carry a lot and this has earned the aircraft a really good reputation. The fact that even with full fuel there is still enough room for carrying passengers makes it a true four-person airplane. 

Its useful load and versatility have proven to be one of the biggest assets in owning a 182. Combining this with its amazing fuel efficiency and range, you get to experience the complete perks of this airplane. 

Its IFR stability is worth mentioning. It is reputable and has earned the most respect due to its forgiving nature.

With typical Cessna simplicity, these forgiving machines ignore major indiscretions and bring you home safely. The aircraft has a quite reasonable climb and cruise. 

It’s not speed, climb, payload, reliability or short-field performance that makes it an all-rounder airplane, but all these parameters combined makes it an excellent performer. 

Its parts are easily available at basically all the maintenance shops, which is critically important for any aircraft owner. 

So what exactly is the downside of the mighty 182? Nose heaviness has always been a problem for the 182, and has plagued the aircraft since the beginning. 

To this day, the airplane requires aggressive re-trimming during the flare to prevent wheelbarrowing. 

Cessna 182 comes with a price tag of around 550,000 dollars for a new model whereas a used model can be bought in the 100 to 200,000 dollars range. With this in mind, it can be hard to believe that way back in 1956, the very first new Cessna 182 was on the market for only $17,700. 

Every aircraft is suitably recommended for specific uses and operations depending on its characteristics, features and performance. 

When we apply this principle to this aircraft, the high wing design provides excellent view and visibility of the ground and therefore makes it suitable for operations such as aerial surveying.

Additionally, high wings also provide increased ground clearance and help to avoid obstacles, especially when landing on grass or rough surfaces. 

This also makes it suitable to be used as a training aircraft where student pilots can learn to fly the aircraft in different conditions and surfaces, especially since it has shorter takeoff and landing distances.

As it also has a much better useful load and can carry more people, this also makes it suitable for operations involving more passengers e.g. air taxi, personal family use or for tour operations. 

With greater fuel efficiency, the 182 has a longer range than the C172 and can fly continuously without the need for refuelling. Apart from this, it is some 15-20 knots faster than the 172, making it suitable for tours and trips. 

When owning an aircraft, everything comes down to a tradeoff. An airplane might be faster than another, but it might not be able to carry much load. It might be able to fly much further, but it might not land short. 

With the C182, one has to make the least amount of tradeoffs as it will do a little bit of almost everything. From its fuel efficiency, good range and impressive short-field performance, to its amazing stability, comfortable cabin and useful load capacity, 182 is one of the only 

aircraft that will perform, if not the best, in every aspect an airplane is expected to perform. 

To conclude, Skylanes are almost universally regarded as wonderful machines, blessed with docile handling, reasonable performance, good reliability, and in some cases full fuel, four-place capability. Being the master of simplicity, 182 has and will continue to attract the aviators looking out for simple, reasonably comfortable, 2+2 transport with good performance and manners. 

However, to achieve the best performance in any aircraft, it is vital to study all the parameters carefully and rigorously. Simultaneously, safety and good judgement are always recommended to all the pilots to keep the aircraft operations within the safety envelope.