The 182 That Got Away

The 182 That Got Away

Geoff Smathers always regretted the selling of the family 182. More than two decades later he bought it back.

“My dad loved to fly,” Geoff Smathers of Mars, Penn. told me. “The Skylane was his fifth or sixth airplane. He and my mom, Meg Smathers (now Meg S. Bauschard) used them for pleasure and business.”

His father purchased the 182L, N42364, new in 1968. “My brother, Win S. Smathers IV, was born the same year. I was born in 1970,” Smathers explained.

“My mom, my brother and I flew a lot with my dad in the 1970s,” he recalled. “My brother and I grew up flying with my dad—and fighting over the coveted copilot seat.”

His father based the plane at Butler County Airport (KBTP) in Butler, Penn. from 1968 to 1981. “My dad lost his medical in the early 1980s, and he let his business partner, Wilson Amsler, take the plane,” Smathers said.

Amsler was a U.S. Navy flight instructor in World War II. His daughter, Wendy Amsler, learned to fly, and so the Amslers kept the plane in Clarion, Penn. so Wendy could fly it. “But when Wilson Amsler died in 1989, my dad agreed to sell the Skylane to Wendy for $25,000,” said Smathers.

“I was beside myself. I asked my dad not to sell the airplane and he said to me, ‘Don’t worry, Geoff, we will buy a better one soon.’ That was in 1989.

“Dad died in 1992. Needless to say, we never bought the ‘better airplane’ as he had planned,” said Smathers.

Geoff Smathers’ father (left) flew with his son as PIC twice before he died. In this photo, Smathers is the little guy in the Michigan T-shirt; his brother is in the center.
Far left: Geoff Smathers in the copilot seat of N42364 as a child. Left: Smathers’ son Rome in the same seat of the very same plane. 
Smathers intends to get his son Rome hooked on flying to pay aviation forward. 
Flying history

In the spring of 1991 Geoff Smathers formally began flying lessons and attained his private pilot certificate that fall.

“After graduating from Washington and Jefferson College in the spring of 1992, I was planning on going to commercial flight school, but life got in the way,” Smathers explained.

“My dad died and I decided to go into the family business,” he said. The family business is real estate. As the years passed and Smathers started a family of his own, N42364 was never too far from his mind.


The search was on

“I loved every moment flying with my dad in this Skylane—even when I got airsick as a little kid and threw up into the instrument panel,” Smathers said. “I still remember that day. I warned my dad that we had better land because I was getting sick.

“He didn’t get the plane on the ground quick enough. We spent the rest of the day cleaning the airplane using Q-tips,” he recalled.

In early 2014, Smathers decided to track down his special Skylane. He researched the tail number and found that it had been sold by Wendy Amsler in 1999. Fortunately, the aircraft had stayed in Clarion.

“I wrote to the owner, John Schmader,” Smathers said. “Two months later, in June, I got a call. Just three days after that, my son and I drove up to look at it.

“It was just beautiful, with great paint—and it was like a time capsule inside. It was just exactly how I remembered it,” he explained. The aircraft was low-time for a 1968, with only 2,000 hours on the airframe.

Smathers wrote the check to hold it and scheduled the pre-purchase inspection. The inspection went well, and by mid-July 2014, Smathers was the new owner. “This was 95 percent a sentimental purchase,” Smathers admitted. “This plane helps me reconnect to my dad.”

And it has worked out very well so far.


First things first

The paint was in great shape, but everything else was either original or almost original. There were, of course, a few squawks. “I knew there was an alternator issue due to the headset noise and the bouncing amp meter needle,” Smathers explained.

The first upgrade was to install LED lighting on the exterior: the beacon, landing and taxi lights are all made by Whelen. “That solved the electric draw problems,” he said. He installed a new alternator, too.

In addition, Smathers decided to upgrade old radios and navigation to make it safer for flying with his family and to adhere to ADS-B requirements. For a cosmetic upgrade, he installed new carpet.

Avionics upgrades

“I have always loved Garmin products,” Smathers said. “My first portable GPSMAP 195 was mind-bending. I loved it!”

Smathers’ Skylane now has a Garmin GTN 750 GPS/Navcom MFD front and center. “The touchscreen Garmin is the most incredible device ever,” he explained. “I’m able to make trips I never would have made without it.”

The aircraft has Garmin GNC 255A VHF Navcom radios and a Garmin GDL 88 datalink to comply with ADS-B In and Out.

In addition, he uses Garmin Flight Stream 210 as a wireless gateway for
syncing flight plans with the GTN 750. Flight Stream also works with the Garmin Pilot App and the Garmin Aera 796 GPS on the yoke.

“The 796 on the yoke is hardwired to the GTN 750,” Smathers explained. “I use it as my ‘poor man’s HSI,’ and it does a great job,” he commented.

“The secondary navcom is a nice one, a GNC 255A. It also has a database. It tells you the airport or VOR that the frequency is for,” he explained.

Smathers’ Skylane has a Garmin GTN 750 GPS/Navcom MFD front and center. He calls the touchscreen MFD “the most incredible device ever” and is now able to make trips in N42364 he never would have made without it. 
Audio panel

In addition, Smathers installed new audio equipment. N42364 now has a PMA450 audio panel from PS Engineering, and the device includes Bluetooth as well as a USB charger.

One big improvement is that the aircraft now has 3-D audio. “I like that feature very much,” Smathers said. PS Engineering’s Intelliaudio feature means Com 1 transmits in the left ear while Com 2 is in the right ear.

“Both coms have monitor modes, four different frequencies for Unicom, ATIS, and whatever else,” he added. “The PMA450’s Bluetooth is useful, too. I use it to make phone calls, stream music and to pick up IFR flight plans via cell phone,” he said.

Flight planning software

Smathers has flight planning software well covered. His iPad is running Seattle Avionics’ FlyQ, Garmin Pilot and ForeFlight. “I bought them all and I like features on each of them,” he explained.

Smathers uses the Flight Stream 210 to communicate ADS-B traffic and weather to his iPad either via Garmin Pilot or ForeFlight. “Seattle Avionics’ FlyQ doesn’t talk to the Garmin—yet,” he said. Smathers finds himself switching between all three apps when on a cross-country.

His flight planning protocol goes like this: first, he files the flight plan on his iPad using DUATS. “Once it’s filed,” he continued, “Garmin Pilot sees the flight plan; I look at my iPad, select ‘Forward to GTN.’

“The message button blinks on the GTN and asks, ‘Would you like to accept?’ I can [then] modify the plan from the GTN 750 if needed.”

Planned upgrades

Some additional upgrades are on the horizon for N42364. The largest of these is a replacement for the 230 hp Continental O-470-R. “I am planning on upgrading to a 300 hp engine when the current engine gets to TBO,” Smathers reported.

The Cessna 300 Navomatic autopilot is inop. “It wanders all over the sky,” Smathers said. Currently, he hand-flies the aircraft everywhere. Recently Smathers decided Genesys Aerosystems’ System 30 fit his budget better than the System 55X, and the installation will be his winter upgrade.

Another project on the list for someday includes a Garmin G500 flight display or an Aspen Evolution 2000. “If the budget is tight, then the Evolution 1000,” Smathers explained. “I’d like to have some glass in the panel because I worry about the vacuum pump failing while in IMC.”

No doubt, all of these upgrades are costly. To help keep his (and perhaps, his wife’s) dismay about the financial outlay in check, Smathers prefers to think of the items in terms of Aviation Monetary Units, or AMUs—a term he borrowed from a pilot friend in his flying club at KPJC in Zelienople, Penn.

“Doesn’t $15,000 sound like a lot for an autopilot?” he asked. “But 15 AMUs, now, that sounds a lot better.”
Flying N42364

Right now, Smathers is just enjoying the wonderful experience of flying his father’s plane. He is an SE-L and instrument rated pilot with 1,000 hours and is currently preparing to take his helicopter private checkride.

“Hopefully by the publishing of this article I will have passed [my checkride] and have my helicopter rating,” he said. “I plan on getting a commercial and instructor helicopter rating and a commercial instructor airplane rating in the next 12 months. My philosophy is, ‘If you love it, do it and share it.’

“Mostly my plane is used for pleasure,” he continued. “Golf trips, beach trips, and just taking my son Rome and daughters Olivia and Lindsey for a very expensive breakfast. My son and I also flew to Frederick, Md. for the AOPA Fly-in last year.

“My wife, Jacqueline Rudolph Smathers, is a white-knuckled flyer,” he said. “She will go flying with me if we have a fun destination, like The Homestead [The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va.].”

He also uses the aircraft for business. “I’m a real estate agent and I use it for providing aerial photography,” he said. “However, with the new drone technology, it isn’t as economical or as high quality.”

The aircraft currently has two hangar homes; one at Zelienople Municipal (KPJC) in Zelienople, Penn. and at Butler Co. Airport (KBTP) in Butler, Penn. Soon, he will choose his Skylane’s permanent home. “I’m leaning toward KPJC because my A&P is based there; however, KBTP is closer to my home,” he explained.

With the exception of installing new carpet, the interior of this Skylane is like a time capsule from 1968.


Extremely fortunate

Regardless of where his plane is kept or the reason he is in the air, Smathers counts himself as extremely fortunate to have N42364. “After buying this plane, I’m not walking in my dad’s footsteps; I’m flying in his seat,” Smathers explained.

Private pilot Geoff Smathers grew up flying with his father, and loved every moment. 

“Each and every time I see this plane in my hangar and each time I fly it, I think of my dad.

“And Dad, apparently, was a great pilot. I say this because I remember him landing on Runway 26 at KBTP and stopping in such a short distance that he could easily turn off on Taxiway Echo to his T-hangar. That’s less than 1,000 feet every time.

“I have so far not been able stop the very same C-182 for that turnoff. Not even close! Perhaps my dad had stock in the brake manufacturer,” he joked.

Heather Skumatz is managing editor for Cessna Flyer. Send questions or comments to .


N42364 on YouTube

Avionics and Accessories

–CFA supporters

Garmin Ltd.
Whelen Engineering Co., Inc.
Aviation audio
PS Engineering, Inc.

Aviation apps

Garmin Pilot
Seattle Avionics’ FlyQ
DIY Wheel Bearing Service

DIY Wheel Bearing Service

A&P Jacqueline Shipe describes how to service wheel bearings in this article, the second in a DIY series for pilots who wish to take on preventive maintenance of their aircraft.

FAR 43 Appendix A lists the preventive maintenance items owners may legally perform on their planes. This list is fairly long—and some of the items are a little involved for a person to perform the first time by themselves, while other tasks on the list are pretty straightforward.  

There are several preventive maintenance tasks pertaining to the landing gear, including tire changes, strut servicing and servicing the wheel bearings. (Last month, Shipe discussed the steps involved in changing an aircraft tire. See the June 2016 issue for more information. —Ed.) 

A tapered roller bearing with pits on the rollers caused by corrosion due to water. 
Bearings: small but mighty

While cleaning and greasing wheel bearings doesn’t seem like too difficult a task, there are some guidelines that need to be followed. The failure of a wheel bearing can cause major damage to the wheel and can even allow the wheel assembly to slide off the axle.

Wheel bearings are relatively small, but are incredibly strong. They have to support the weight of the plane while allowing the wheel to spin freely in all types of temperatures and conditions. In addition, wheel bearings and races on airplane wheel assemblies also have to be capable of withstanding hard landings and both vertical and horizontal loads without failing.  

The race with lots of pitting; the race is in the process of being removed from the wheel half. 
Types of bearings

The bearings on most airplane wheel assemblies are the tapered roller-type. The outer part of the bearing is larger than the inner part, and the rollers are installed at an angle. 

The bearing itself rides in a metal cup called a race. The race has a “pressed in” fit in the wheel half, and is tapered on the inside to match the bearing. The biggest advantage of tapered bearings is the high load capacity that they can withstand. 

Automotive wheel bearings, on the other hand, usually use spherical rollers (i.e., balls). Ball bearings can withstand prolonged high speeds without building up too much heat, but cannot take high impact loads. 

Tapered bearings will bear up under the not-so-good landings that occur from time to time with an aircraft. In addition, proper servicing of these bearings will keep the wheels spinning freely and will last for a long time. 

The wheel half with the race removed. 
Removing the clips

Once a wheel assembly is removed from the axle, the wheel bearings are easily removed by taking out the metal retaining clips that secure the bearings and grease felts. 

There is an indention in the outer part of one end of the clip to allow a screwdriver to be used to pry it out. The clips don’t have a lot of tension on them and can be easily removed. 

Once the clip is off, the bearing, metal rings and grease felts can all be lifted out together. 

Be sure to keep all the rings and clips organized so they can be reinstalled into the same wheel half and in the same place. The metal rings that retain the bearing are sometimes slightly smaller on the outer half than the double rings used on the inner half, and can be easily mixed up. 

The race being installed. It has to be started evenly all the way around otherwise it will damage the wheel half as it is driven in.
Cleaning the parts 

A small bucket with 100LL Avgas works well to clean the bearings. Swishing the bearing around and spinning it by hand while it is submerged will clean all of the old grease and gunk out. 

The metal rings and clips should also be cleaned, but the felt material needs to be set aside; it should not be submersed in anything. There is really no way to clean the felt, anyway—as long as it is still in one piece, it’s good to go. Any grease felt that is torn or missing a section needs to be replaced. 

Once all the parts are cleaned, they should be blown out with compressed air (if available) or laid out on paper towels to dry. The parts need to be thoroughly clean and dry before fresh grease is applied.
Inspecting the parts

After the bearings, metal rings and clips are clean and dry, the bearing and race should be inspected for pitting or damage. If the race is smooth and has no corrosion, the bearing is generally corrosion-free as well. 

Races that have light surface corrosion can sometimes be smoothed out with a piece of light grit sandpaper (800 to start and 1200 to finish). Deep pits in a race mean replacement is needed. 

Discoloration on the bearing or race, such as a rainbow or gold color, can be a sign that these parts have generated excessive amounts of heat, in which case they should be replaced. 

The tiny section of aluminum at the bottom of the recess for the race is easily cracked if the race is driven in too far.  
Preventing corrosion

Wheel bearings typically fail for two reasons: corrosion or overheating. 

The greatest threat to airplane wheel bearings is usually corrosion. Almost all bearings and races will eventually require replacement due to water getting past the grease seals and accumulating in the bearing cavity, causing rust and pitting. 

When cleaning a plane, strong degreasers should not be used on wheel assemblies and wheels should never be sprayed with a water hose. The pressurized water will get past the grease seals and ruin the bearings. 

Folks that want their wheels clean can wipe them out with a rag that is lightly moistened with a little Gojo original white cream hand cleaner (the non-pumice kind). Then the wheels can be wiped clean with a dry rag. 

The back side of the wheel assembly should be closely inspected for any signs of cracking after a new race is installed.
Replacing the races

Wheel bearing replacement is easy, but replacement of the races is a little tough to do without the proper tools. 

Because the race has a pressed-in fit in the wheel half, it has to be driven out. This can be accomplished by using either a hammer and punch or a bearing driver tool. 

Occasionally a person encounters a wheel assembly with a race that has broken loose and is spinning in the wheel half itself. In this case, the wheel assembly has to be replaced; there is no permanent way to hold the race in place if the wheel assembly has lost enough metal that the race is no longer fitting tightly. 

The wheel is made of cast aluminum. When reinstalling the steel race, it is very important that it be driven in straight. If it gets cocked—even a little—the much softer aluminum will be gouged and damaged. 

The best tool for the job is a bearing driver, as it allows each blow of the hammer to be applied equally around the circumference of the race. 

Once the race is almost near the bottom of its recess, very light blows should be used to seat it in the wheel half. Many mechanics have driven the race in too far and cracked the fairly thin aluminum ring that retains the race. 

The wheel should always be thoroughly inspected for any sign of cracking on the front and back sides, whether or not a race is replaced.

A freshly greased bearing alongside its grease felt and retainer clip.
Packing the bearings and reinstalling 

Once all of the races are installed and the wheel halves are inspected, the bearings are ready to be packed and installed. A high-quality wheel bearing grease that has good water resistance should be used. 

The grease has to be pushed up through the bearing until it comes out the top between each roller. If it doesn’t squeeze through each opening, the inside of the bearing will have gaps and inadequate lubrication. 

It takes a little while to pack a bearing by hand. There are bearing packers sold in almost any automotive store that make the job a little faster and a little less messy. 

Once the bearing is packed, apply a layer of grease to the entire surface of the race to ensure it is covered as well. 

The bearing can then be reinstalled along with the correct order of retaining rings and grease felts. 

Lastly, reinstall the clip. It is a good idea to make sure the clip is pressed into place all the way around by pushing it outward with a screwdriver. 

After all the clips are in, the wheel bearing service is complete.

The greased bearing assembly installed in the wheel half. The wheel is ready for installation.
Jacqueline Shipe grew up in an aviation home; her dad was a flight instructor. She soloed at age 16 and went on to get her CFII and ATP certificate. Shipe also attended Kentucky Tech and obtained an airframe and powerplant license. She has worked as a mechanic for the airlines and on a variety of General Aviation planes. She’s also logged over 5,000 hours of flight instruction time. Send question or comments to .