Skylane Prepurchase Advice

The House of Rapp must show up at the top of some frequent Google search used by prospective Skylane owners, because I field a lot of inquiries about the airplane.  In fact, I received one such query today.

As a C-182 driver and previous owner I was wondering if you could comment authoritatively regarding the following comment from a back issue of Aviation Consumer:

“To this day, the airplane [ 1998 Cessna 182 ] requires aggressive re-trimming during the flare to prevent wheelbarrowing, and many 182s have been pranged over the years because of it.”

The statement “aggressive re-trimming during flare” conjures up all sorts of scenarios in the minds eye that I can’t quite sort out. Does this mean in the last few seconds you have to reach down and bump the trim nose up or suffer an iffy score from the landing judges? How bad are we talking here? Would a stiff arm suffice for controlling pitch in the flare? Would keeping a little power in help minimize the nose-drop tendency or is that a bad idea?

It seems to me, that any pre-occupation with trim might, at such a critical phase of flight, result in an over-trimmed configuration and place you in a perfect situation for a departure-stall if a go-around is needed.

I don’t have much Cessna time (all PA-28 variants) and I don’t fiddle much with the trim on short-final and never in the flare. Which is why the comment surprised me.

I’ve been thinking about buying an airplane and the 182 is on the short list. Any other squawks a buyer should know about?

I understand what Aviation Consumer was getting at, but they either didn’t phrase it very well, or they just don’t have much Skylane time.

The C182 has a heavy nose, owing to 6-cylinder O-470 engine and sizeable constant speed prop hanging out there. The situation is made worse by the typical loading configuration (two people up front, nobody in back), which leads to a forward-ish C.G. location. Pilots who use poor technique can and do land them nose-first. Early 182s fell victim to bent firewalls because of these nosegear first landings. Later 182s have a beef-up kit installed.  You can see a diagonal “I-beam” installed on the firewall to strengthen it. You’ll also find this on a lot of older 182s if they’ve experienced a wrinkled firewall in the past.

In my mind, the problem stems from poor pilot technique. Many people never really learn to land an airplane properly and don’t take care to ensure a solid mains-first landing. This may be okay in a Skyhawk or Cherokee, but when they transition to the Skylane, this manifests itself in nose first landings, as the pilot never really learned to give appropriate respect to the fragile nature of nosewheel assemblies. The nosegear is attached to the engine mount, which is in turn mounted to the firewall. Make a hard landing on that poor nosewheel, and the weakest part will give.  The firewall is often that part.

Prop strikes, while possible, are rare because the nosegear assembly is designed to prevent a prop strike even when the nose strut is flat — a certain amount of clearance is built into the design. Anyway, because of this heaviness, many pilots learn to trim the airplane nose-up on final approach so they don’t have to pull so hard on the yoke in the flare. I subscribe to this method and used it for years with no problems. Could I just strong-arm it? Sure, but then I lose the subtle tactile feel I want when landing the airplane.

The reader is correct in noting that with the airplane trimmed nose-up (and I used FULL nose up trim, to the point where I had to use forward pressure on the yoke to keep the nose down until the flare), you have to be careful when executing a go-around. Adding full power with the trim set that way will lead the airplane to develop a very nose high attitude. However, as long as the pilot is aware of this tendency and is ready and able to use forward pressure on the yoke for a few seconds until he/she can feed in some nose-down trim, I don’t see it as a problem. I practiced go-arounds with full nose up trim — a useful exercise no matter what you’re flying — and never had a problem.

On the other hand, I know pilots who simply strong-arm the airplane, and that’s fine if that works for you. Just make sure you don’t land the airplane nosewheel-first. Each person should try the two techniques and select the one that works for them. And if you do bounce it for some reason, don’t try to salvage the landing, just go around. The first bounce rarely breaks the plane, it’s the subsequent ones — often greater in amplitude — that do the job.

As far as other squawks, check for corrosion from loose sound-deadening pads. The adhesive was known to retain moisture if it came loose from the airframe. I’d also check above the headliner, in the tailcone, and inside the wings for corrosion. None of these airplanes had any corrosion proofing unless they were ordered with the optional sea-plane provisions.

Check the fuel cells for age and condition– they only last about 20 years and are about $1500 each to replace. They last longest if you keep them full, as the fuel prevents the nitrile material from drying out.

In the powerplant department, I like to see an airplane that’s been run, not sitting. Inactivity is the #1 enemy of a piston engine. I’d also look for any looseness in the induction system tubing (often overlooked in inspections), any rubbing of the lower cowling assembly on the crossover tube under the prop, and check the cowl flap hinges for looseness. Especially the right cowl flap, which gets beat up by pulses from the exhaust system.  As previously mentioned, check the logs for any firewall damage.

Check the prop for overhaul date. It should be overhauled every 6-8 years or so. A failure of the propeller can kill you. If a blade or portion thereof fails, the vibration will be severe. Severe enough that it can rip the engine off the mount. Once that happens, the CG shifts so far aft that the aircraft will be uncontrollable no matter what you do. Constant-speed props are frequently ignored as long as they maintain RPM. It’s not uncommon to see props in service that have not been overhauled in 15 or 20 years. Big mistake. Huge.

Do a thorough AD search. And have a 182-savvy mechanic do the compression tests. They have to be done with the engine HOT, using a compression tester with a master orifice for calibration, and using proper technique. TCM engines are different from Lycomings in that respect. That stuff about a 60 psi baseline is wrong. You establish your own baseline using the calibration tool, and it’s often down in the low 40s! You WILL have leaks, the only question is where are they coming from. If it’s past the rings, fine. If it’s coming through the exhaust valve, that’s a problem.

Overall, the 182 is probably the best plane out there. It represents the best combination of useful load, wide CG range, cabin size, aftermarket support, STC availability, and low acquisition (and insurance!) cost of any airplane in existance. It also has impressive short field capability, low speed performance, great climb rate, and outstanding visibility. The O-470 is a phenominal engine. Smooth, powerful, dependable, and easy to maintain.

You can’t go wrong with a Skylane, trust me.

A final note:  if you’re in the Socal area, I highly recommend Dave Palacios of DP-Air for your prebuy. He knows Skylanes, and owns one himself. Dave did the work on my Skylane for several years, including replacing the aforementioned fuel cells, a dirty and difficult job.

  7 comments for “Skylane Prepurchase Advice

  1. GC
    January 31, 2006 at 5:46 am

    Thanks for this bit of information. I’m getting closer and closer to the day when I own my own airplane, and a C-182 is what I’m leaning towards when the day finally comes. I’ve got a few hours in them (about 100, mostly in RG models) and I’ve always thought they flew very well, albeit DIFFERENTLY than the C-172. It’s this difference in flying qualities that I think might have lead whoever wrote the article for Aviation Consumer to conclude what he did.

    The funny thing is that I find (by spending a LOT of time observing light aircraft landings over the years, both from inside and outside the airplane) that wheelbarrow-and-porpoise-type accidents, especially in Cessna types, result primarily from improper pilot technique. I believe (as it appears you do) that many pilots are simply afraid of the full-stall landing and the practice required to master them. Porpoising is more likely to happen if you tend to land three-point in a tricycle-gear, but if you’ve got that yoke full aft in your lap as you touch down on the mains first, that type of firewall-bending accident isn’t very likely to occur.

    At any rate, I’m going to clip and save your entry so I can use it to educate myself in another year or so when I’m ready to go out and actually purchase a C-182 of my own.

    (You wouldn’t be interested in being a partner on a yet-to-be-found, well equipped used C-182, would you?)

  2. Ron
    January 31, 2006 at 11:35 am

    I’m glad the article was helpful. You’re right, it’s primarily poor technique.

    You know what would really help? Tailwheel training. It those aircraft, you have to get the stick all the way back when you three-point the airplane, and then keep it all the way back as you rollout and taxi.

    Thankfully, I see a lot of people wanting to learn from day one in tailwheel airplanes now, and in general they turn out to be quite skilled. I’ve seen a few of these guys transition from tailwheels to nosewheel airplanes. It’s always an easy transition, because they were forced to master the basics since their training aircraft was unstable on the ground. When people transition in the other direction, however, deficiencies in their training and/or technique quickly become apparent.

    As for the partnership, keep me in mind. I’m moving into a Pitts S-2B right now for aerobatic competition, but it’s not much of a XC aircraft. 🙂

  3. GC
    January 31, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I agree with your thoughts on tailwheel training. I learned in tricycle gear, but really honed my skills only after earning my tailwheel endorsement. I think tailwheel training of some kind is a must for all pilots.

    As for the C-182, I’m still a year or so away from taking the plunge. But when I do, I’ll let you know. You’re in Southern CA, right? What airport? I’m within a short drive of VNY and WHP.

  4. Ron
    January 31, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    I’m based at SNA, John Wayne Airport. Hangar space — and even tiedowns — are basically nonexistent out there. I do have a hangar at Corona, though. At least, for the moment. The guy who’s subletting my hangar is moving over to Chino, so unless I get another sublet in there pretty quick I might have to let it go.

  5. Tim
    February 2, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Great advise about landing this great aircraft. I have over 1000 hours in this bird. A steep approach helps, in my opinion, plus just a ‘tad’ of power so the a/c doesn’t drop ‘like a rock’ as you near the runway. Those switching from the C-172 to the C-182 are surprised by the heavier feel and the fact the a/c really doesn’t float down the runway without power. Trimming makes the approach much easier unless you have really strong arms. Additionally, I routinely use one notch (10 degrees) of flaps for take off. Have alot of wind here in Kansas…bird does very well. A/C is just a joy to fly!

  6. Barbara Dunlap
    February 26, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    I did most of my private pilot training in our ’02 Turbo 182 and just got my ticket flying that airplane. One CFI suggested ballast in the baggage area; we keep 155lbs of bottled water tied down with the cargo net in areas A & B. He also liked the full nose up trim and so do I. We fly between Monterey and Port Townsend, WA. and love our ride.

    A sluggish wastegate has been the only mechanical issue. Anyone else?

  7. AS
    November 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

    This is a very informative article, and I must agree that the C182 is without a doubt the best single in the world! I have over 5,000 hours total time with 1,500 hours flying the Skylane, and the Skylane RG. As noted she tends to be nose heavy on landing – especially the RG.
    I am not an advocate of full nose up trim during landing for a few reasons; 1) it can cause a very high climb angle during the Go-Around so much so that if not on top of it the pilot can induce a departure stall close to the ground.; 2) It is poor pilot technique to rely on full nose up trim to land such an easy airplane to land; 3) It is just not necessary. I have found during pre-flight too many times in a rented or company C182 founding the trim left at full nose up. If not corrected for takeoff the unaware pilot is in for a sporty takeoff and surprising takeoff.
    I use a simple technique I developed while flying the C182RG early on in my C182 piloting career. I simply use two spins on the trim wheel as I come over the runway threshold. This equates to about 1 half full wheel travel. It causes a little nose up requiring slight forward pressure. Relaxing the back pressure during the round-out gives the perfect nose up attitude desired during the flare touching down on the mains every time. Of course, like any airplane flying the speed profile is important for creating the perfect landing.
    To all you pilots using full nose up trim, be cautioned you could be setting yourself up for a bad day. My advice is to develop a good piloting technique for landing your Skylane. Full nose up trim is not the answer for a good pilot and just not necessary.
    Happy flying

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