Former 182 owner and longtime A&P/IA Steve Ells offers many practical suggestions for operating a Cessna Skylane in this last “leg” of his four-part series on the 182.
“The pilot is no more than the manager of this tool and its champion. The pilot is the inspiration for flight and the airplane is the vehicle.” —Richard Coffey, “The Skylane Pilots Companion”
The Cessna 182 is a damn fine airplane. I owned N777LJ, a 1966 Cessna 182J, for about four years.
While the recommendations in this article may vary (at times, widely) from those written in both the engine and airframe manufacturer’s manual and handbooks, I wrote them based on my own experiences, the experiences of other very seasoned pilots and owner-operators, the writings of Richard Coffey in “The Skylane Pilots Companion” and John Schwaner in “Sky Ranch Engineering Manual,” the research of trained specialists, and suggestions from experienced C-182 owner and pilot Mike Jesch.
Weight and balance
Although 182s have wide CG envelopes and can carry a pretty good load, they all tend to be nose-heavy. Always be aware of the possibility of an out-of-limits forward CG, especially after any engine upgrade and when taking off with full fuel and big folks in the front seats.
In early models (before 1965), it was not uncommon to run out of up elevator power in the flare for landing; this resulted in touching down nosewheel first, which, if rough enough, would result in a bent firewall. In 1965, Cessna extended the horizontal stabilizer and elevator span by 10 inches.
I, being a mechanic and a man that believes “if you have it with you, it won’t be needed,” always tied down my 60-pound toolbox in the baggage compartment, especially when I was flying by myself.
I never ran out of elevator, and was always comforted by having my tools available—although I can’t remember ever needing them during my 182 time.
It’s wise to create an airplane-specific checklist that better reflects the equipment installed on your airplane. For instance, if aftermarket speed brakes have been installed, a pre-takeoff operational check is not on the Cessna checklist in the owner’s manual or POH.
Every engine has a “sweet spot” oil level. After some experimentation, I found that the sweet spot for oil was nine quarts in the Continental O-470-R engine in my 182. Any more than that would blow out of the engine breather tube and end up on the belly of the airplane.
I was very wary of water egress into the bladder-type fuel tanks of my 1966 182. In my opinion, every bladder-equipped Cessna 182 owner must take every step possible to prevent water from entering the fuel tanks. This means replacing the original flush-style fuel caps with either the small Cessna raised flange two-tab caps, or the Monarch-style caps.
If you suspect that water may have gotten into the bladder, don’t hesitate to do what’s commonly known as the “rock-and-roll” preflight. This procedure is detailed in AD 84-10-01R1 and calls for the pilot to lower the tail to within five inches of the ground and move one wing or the other up 10 inches and then down 10 inches a minimum of 12 times.
This technique is supposed to cause any water to flow to the wing sump drain valve. Drain the sumps before you raise the tail. You’ll need to recruit some help. (More about Monarch fuel caps and the rock-and-roll procedure can be found in part three of Ells’ series published in the November 2016 issue. —Ed.)
During walkaround, grab the trailing edge of each cowl flap and try to wiggle it. You don’t want much back-and-forth movement since this indicates a worn flap hinge. New cowl flaps are very expensive; cowl flap hinges, not so much.
First off, treat your engine with care. Change the oil at 25- to 35-hour intervals or every four months, whichever comes first. Install a full flow oil filter and change the filter at every oil change.
It’s been proven that fine wire spark plugs do save a little money in the long run and are more resistant to lead fouling, so if you can afford them, use them.
An all-cylinder engine monitor is a valuable tool that aids management tasks: when setting power, when leaning, and during engine troubleshooting and problem diagnoses.
Learn how many primer shots and what amount of throttle it takes to get your big Continental or Lycoming to come to life… gently! Just about the worst thing you can do for either of these two engines is to start them with a power setting that results in the engine roaring; gentle starts are key.
After start, set the power to get 1,000 rpm. That speed will allow for a gradual warm up and get the oil splashing around inside the engine.
After the engine stabilizes, reach over and pull your mixture control out to lean the engine. Pilots who learn to limit excess fuel will reduce the buildup of combustion chamber lead deposits, save fuel and won’t induce rapid combustion chamber temperature changes.
Partially burned fuel that is pushed past the compression rings into the engine case is one of the causes of sludge and carbon formation.
Always lean on the ground—idling with a rich mixture is the quickest way to foul spark plugs. That’s because the lead scavenging additive in 100LL is only active at higher combustion temperatures (900° F or higher). Since the additive doesn’t work at lower temperatures, leaning is the only way to reduce lead fouling at lower power settings.
Continental bulletins advise preheating an engine that has been exposed to air temperatures of 20° F (-6.6° C) or lower. (See Continental service information letter SIL03-1 for more information. —Ed.)
Lycoming service instruction SI 1505 says preheating is required at temperatures below 10° F (–12° C) except for -76 engines, where the low limits are 20° F (–6.6° C).
Many pilots believe both of these temperatures are too low, so my advice is to start preheating whenever temperatures drop below 40° F (4.4° C). Preheating reduces wear. As engines age, preheating becomes more important to reduce engine stresses during start.
Pay particular attention to the engine during the first start of the day. If there’s any hiccupping, or if one or more cylinders are slow to pick and start firing, it’s time to check for a sticky exhaust valve.
A slightly sticking valve needs to be looked at immediately, since a valve that sticks in flight will create a very noisy (read: expensive) and potentially dangerous situation. Sticking valves occur more often in Lycoming engines than Continentals.
Wait until the oil temperature gets to 100° F (38° C) before doing your pre-takeoff “mag check” runup. It’s perfectly okay to do the mag check with the mixture leaned—you can’t hurt the engine. If it’s too lean, the engine will slowly lose power; just push the mixture in slightly and continue the checks detailed on the checklist.
There should be an rpm drop-off for each magneto; if there’s no drop-off, it means the magneto is not being grounded during the test and that the mag is “hot” at all times. Do not pull it through by hand if you suspect it’s hot.
During the propeller governor check, don’t let the rpm drop down more than 100 rpm. This test is to determine if the governor works; a couple of 100 rpm drops is all that’s needed. Do three or four of these small drop tests if the oil is cold.
Please don’t jam the throttle to the firewall at the start of your takeoff run—especially if you’re taking off from a long runway. Cylinder cooling airflow is very slight below 40 mph. It’s good practice to advance the throttle to mag check rpm after brake release, do a final check on engine parameters and, if every indication is in the green, gradually add full power.
Sometime during the full-power run on the runway or soon after takeoff, look to see where the needle on the dial of the EGT gauge is (or, if you have an engine monitor, what temperature is showing on one of your six cylinders). Make a note about the needle position and/or EGT temp and which cylinder the number is from.
That needle position or temperature on that same cylinder is your target when leaning before takeoff at a high altitude airport. Once you get used to what it takes to lean to that number, you’ll be able to set the proper takeoff mixture during high altitude takeoffs without the need to conduct a high rpm run up prior to takeoff.
Don’t do partial-throttle takeoffs. The carburetor and fuel injection systems in 182s are designed to provide extra fuel flow while at full throttle to provide cooling and prevent detonation during high power operations.
All of the engines installed in all Cessna 182 models are approved for continuous full power operations. There are no engine operating limitations except for temperature and pressure limits. However, Cessna manuals suggest that power be reduced to approximately 75 percent, 23 inches and 2,400 rpm during cruise climb. Use the power setting you need to fly safely.
Mike Jesch, who flies heavies for a
living, flies the heck out of his P. Ponk-engine 182. He likes to set 10 degrees of flap for takeoff. He explains that “the rotation and lift off just feel better and more natural to me.”
Unless noise is a concern, there’s no reason to reduce power soon after takeoff. Most of the noise comes from the propeller so if you need to reduce noise to be a good neighbor, reduce the rpm.
Check temperatures during climb. Although the engine manufacturers cite very high limits for CHTs (500° F for Lycoming; 460° F for Continental), it can be wise to set 400° F as an upper limit. My recommendation of 400° F is based on research that shows the aluminum used in cylinder heads begins to degrade at temperatures over 400. As I remember, these effects are cumulative.
Tools to reduce and control CHTs are: (1) reduce the angle of climb to increase airflow over the cylinders; (2) open the cowl flaps and (3) and richen the mixture.
Once at cruise altitude, there are a couple of tricks used by Continental-engine 182 pilots that have proven to better atomize the fuel in the induction system and better mix it with the airflow. This lessens the spread between the leanest and the richest mixtures across all six cylinders as indicated by EGTs.
The first trick is to add a bit of carburetor heat. Since my 182 came equipped with a carburetor air temperature (CAT) gauge, I pulled the carb heat knob aft until the gauge read 50° F (10° C).
Jesch, who flies a 182 with an O-470-50 engine modified by P. Ponk, sets his carb heat to 45° F.
The second trick for the Continental crowd is to pull the throttle aft enough to get it off the full-in position; not enough to reduce manifold pressure (MAP), but enough to make it “twitch” a little bit. This cocks the throttle butterfly and creates a turbulent airflow upstream of the main discharge fuel nozzle, which also aids in fuel/air mixture mixing and distribution.
Jesch, who flew us to AirVenture and back in 2016, uses a very simple power management plan. The throttle is left wide open (except for the twitch) and rpm is adjusted to the top of the green band. Using this scheme and the two tricks outlined above, he can successfully lean to 11 gph in cruise at 65 percent power.
Lycoming-powered 182s are all fuel-injected, so these tricks are not applicable. GAMIjectors will reduce the differential between fuels flows across each cylinder. This will let Lycoming owners take full advantage of lean-of-peak mixture settings, if desired.
According to the manufacturer’s printed bulletins, Continental engines can be leaned to peak EGT at 65 percent power and below; Lycomings at 75 percent power and below.
Descent and landing
Cessna owner’s manuals and POHs advise pilots to adjust the mixture as needed during descent and to move the mixture control to full rich prior to landing. In my experience, there’s no reason to adjust any control except the throttle during descent.
As the power is reduced, the prop governor will continue to control prop rpm until the throttle is almost full aft and the manifold pressure is quite low.
The governor reduces blade pitch to maintain rpm until the blades are in the high rpm position and rest against the low pitch stop in the prop hub.
This is the correct time to move the prop control to the high rpm position to prepare for final approach, touchdown and a possible go-around.
This practice lessens noise since the prop is not “revved up” under power, nor do the passengers feel the rpm surge that’s part of pushing the prop control full forward while under power.
Pushing the mixture to the full rich position prior to let down is not necessary. You’ve set the mixture for cruise power and as you reduce power, the amount of fuel needed for combustion will go down.
Pushing the mixture forward will dump unneeded fuel into the mixture and cause a rapid change in internal cylinder temperatures.
Jesch doesn’t like to use full flaps (i.e., 40 degrees) for landing, explaining that it lowers the pitch attitude a bit, and all that extra drag “kind of makes the airframe shake a bit.” He uses 20 degrees for landing.
The key to spot landings in a 182 is speed control on final. Jesch uses 65 kias. The suggested final approach speed is 1.3 Vso. Most pilots land too fast.
A second reason to get in the habit of landing with 20 degrees of flaps is because it reduces the number of tasks required to transition from a landing configuration to power-up-and-go settings.
182s can climb with 40 degrees of flaps, but a 20-degree setting presents sensations and sights that are much closer to a normal takeoff. The last thing anyone needs during a go-around is a new set of sight pictures and performance anomalies.
The only time you again need full-rich mixture between cruise and touchdown is if you suddenly have to go around. If an airplane unexpectedly pulls onto the runway when you’re on short final, there will be time to advance the mixture and throttle.
Taxiing and refueling
Once on the ground and off the runway, open the cowl flaps, raise the flaps and lean the mixture. By reducing the amount of fuel flowing through the engine on the ground, you’re doing all you can do to reduce lead accumulation on the pistons and exhaust valves.
Move the fuel selector valve to “left” or “right” when fueling and whenever you park for the night on a ramp, stop for a $100 hamburger or make any other short trip away from the airplane. This simple step prevents fuel from crossfeeding from one tank to the other through the “both” setting on fuel selector valve.
These are only some of the 182-specific flying tips and tricks. Please take the time to share your favorite 182 flying tip, so we can pass it on to other Cessna Flyer readers. (Visit the forums at CessnaFlyer.org or email your favorite 182 tip to . —Ed.)
Finally, I recommend that every Cessna 182 pilot and owner read “The Skylane Pilots Companion” by Richard Coffey. New copies are no longer available but it is available online, and Coffey has given his permission for its free distribution.
These recommendations are for information only. When attempting new procedures, consider taking along a safety pilot or CFI.
Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and lives in Templeton, Calif. with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .
Further reading (e-books)
Cold weather ops – manufacturer information