New paint, new interior and new Plexiglas make John D. Ruley’s 1975 Cessna 182P look and feel like a factory-fresh airplane.
Sometimes, small problems can lead to more complex projects. This Skylane restoration started with a flat tire and fuel leak. The tire was a quick fix, and the fuel leak ended up being straightforward as well (leak at the filler neck). However, a check of the logs showed that N4696K’s fuel bladders were 20 years old—with an expected life of just 10 years. It was time for replacement. (For that story, see “Step-by-step Fuel Cell Replacement” in the January 2018 issue.) Once John Ruley and his four partners caught “upgrade fever,” they kept going.
This month, the Skylane restoration continues with several cosmetic and safety upgrades.
After N4696K’s fuel bladders were replaced in July and early August 2017, we once again had an airworthy aircraft, albeit one whose annual was coming due by the end of August. We elected to paint N4696K, redo the interior and replace the aged Plexiglas windshield and windows. The Plexiglas and glareshield would come first as part of the August annual.
Great Lakes Aero Plastics delivered the Plexiglas parts early, which provided plenty of time to unpack them. Installation was contingent upon receiving back the glareshield that was repaired by Dennis Wolter and the Air Mod team in Batavia, Ohio.
While waiting, the mechanics at Pacific Aircraft Service at my home base of Modesto, California (KMOD), drilled out the rivets that held in the original windshield and popped it out.
Installing the windshield
About a week later, after the refurbished glareshield arrived, the new windshield was installed. It was a three-person job, with Paul Kline and Rudy Valdez on the outside, and Shane Cooper inside. The outside men had to pound on the windshield to force the felt-covered edge into the channel. I made a small contribution to the effort by noticing that the airplane rolled back each time they hit the windshield—the parking brake wasn’t set. Setting the brake and chocking the tires helped.
The process was complicated by using a 30-minute sealant, which forced them to work fast before it set up (evidently the two-hour version was not on hand). Cleco fasteners were placed in all the rivet holes to hold the windshield in place until new screws could be installed.
Fastening the windshield was a two-person job, with Shane on the inside adding nuts and washers, while Paul handled the screws from the outside. On the whole, it was a quick but labor-intensive install. The process took a full day.
The following day, it was time to peel the protective paper off both sides of the windshield. It came away clean and looked awesome—much clearer than the original.
A bit of corrosion
Unfortunately, that same day Shane showed me a nasty surprise that turned up while he was behind the panel attaching screws and washers. A severely corroded area, probably due to factory insulation that trapped water, needed addressing.
The mechanics reassured me that despite an ugly look, it didn’t present any threat to the structure and wasn’t worth the effort to sand and treat with zinc chromate primer. Instead, it was soaked with ACF-50 anti-corrosion oil. Paul warned me that it would stink, but the smell would eventually go away.
While the fuel bladders and windshield were being done, the flaps came off and were sent off to West Coast Wings to replace the cracked plastic skins. Those were reinstalled shortly after the windshield. The rest of the annual inspection was completed and the airplane was returned to service by the end of August.
Repainting the airframe
We delayed installing the other windows until October, just before the airplane was shipped off for new paint and interior work. We knew that the new paint and interior would take time, and delaying until the fall—when the weather gets iffy and fewer partners fly—seemed like a good idea.
Just how long it would take we couldn’t have predicted. Installing the new windows and other prep took the guys at Pacific Aircraft just a few days. The airplane was delivered to the paint shop the first week in November. It finally emerged over three months later.
I’m not going to name the shop, but I will say they were highly recommended and ultimately did a fine job. Unfortunately, they were shorthanded, which led to a serious schedule slip.
That, in turn, delayed the interior work we’d planned to have done by Jeff Belardi in Watsonville, California. Jeff moved to a new location while waiting for the airplane to arrive and had to work us into his busy schedule. He did a fantastic job replacing the old fabric seat covers and cracked plastic trim.
Jeff also installed B.A.S. Inc. four-point inertia reel shoulder harness/lap belts for the pilot and copilot, something I had my doubts about. While the old manual belt and shoulder straps were not ideal, I’ve used updated four-point restraints in other aircraft, and have had trouble getting them on and adjusted.
The ones from B.A.S., however, are easy to get in and out of, comfortable—and could make all the difference in the event of a crash. Compliments to my partner Michael Iocca for insisting on them, and compliments to Jeff, too, for a classy installation.
N4696K flies home
I got a ride to Watsonville from friend and fellow Commemorative Air Force Col. Ron Ramont, and flew the airplane home—with my instructor in the right seat. By the time the aircraft left the shop, I was overdue for a biennial flight review and instrument proficiency check. I hadn’t been in the pilot seat for five months!
The result—as you can see in the photos—is an airplane that looks new and is a genuine pleasure to fly. The new solar gray windshield and windows not only offer a much clearer view than the old ones, but also noticeably reduce the temperature on sunny days, which is a big plus in California’s Central Valley. We couldn’t be more pleased with them!
Beyond ramp appeal and comfort, the airplane also benefits from overdue corrosion treatment and catching up on many minor deferred maintenance items. One of those turned out to have a surprising side effect that we’re still working on, however.
Our new antennas work—too well
I’m a bit of an avionics geek, and pushed for replacing the original VHF navcom antennas, which showed visible wear.
The new ones look great and work perfectly—which turns out to be a problem: the old antennas apparently did not transmit all the energy being delivered from the transmit side of the King (now BendixKing) KX-155A installed in our No. 2 slot. The new one does—and on some frequencies, it now interferes with our Garmin GNS 530 GPS.
I discovered this while doing practice approaches. The GNS 530 annunciated a warning that it had lost GPS position—something I had never seen it do before.
The lead avionics technician at Sky Trek Aviation contacted BendixKing and was told they have seen that before—and there’s no fix for it. The KX-155 series was designed before GPS. To eliminate the problem, we’re going to have to replace our KX-155A.
Fortunately, the folks at TKM Avionics have been working on a slide-in replacement which should work with our exist- ing wiring, but as of this writing, the MX155 is not yet shipping. In the meantime we’re working around the problem by changing which COM frequencies we tune on which radio.
There are two other upgrades we plan to do later this year. One will be purely cosmetic: while the new paint and interior work makes N4696K look new from the outside, we still have the same ugly cracked plastic covers on the instrument panel. A custom replacement cover to match the new interior will take care of that problem.
The second is a new transponder for ADS-B compliance. As the avionics geek among the partners, I’ve been tasked to recommend one. I’m leaning toward one of the newer Garmin models, because that will provide an option to display traffic and weather information on the GNS 530 as a backup to the iPads we all carry. (For more on ADS-B options, see Steve Ells’ ADS-B articles in the July 2017 and March 2018 issues. —Ed.)
The main lesson from our experience that may be significant for other pilots is that a restoration takes time—you have to coordinate between multiple locations (in our case, a local A&P, and remote paint and interior shops)—and a delay at any one can cascade through scheduling at the others.
But the result is worth it. N4696K looks and flies like a brand-new Skylane!
John D. Ruley is an instrument-rated pilot and freelance writer. He holds a master’s degree from the University of North Dakota Space Studies program (space.edu) and is archivist for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) operational history project. Ruley has been a volunteer pilot with ligainternational.org and angelflight.org, two charities which operate medical missions in northwest Mexico and provide medical patient transport, respectively. Send questions or comments to .
With a little hard work, help from his friends—and a reputable aircraft dealer—Steve Bloom turned his lifelong dream of aircraft ownership into a “better-than-expected 182” reality.
While I was walking the grounds of Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, last April, I received a surprise call from my nephew, Steve. He, along with his CFI and another pilot friend, had come to the spring fly-in to “look at airplanes”—nothing unusual there. Sun ‘n Fun is a great place for airplane geeks to ogle and goggle.
But when I finally tracked the trio down at an exhibit, Steve explained that in this case, “look” actually meant looking—as in, looking for what kind of airplane he wanted to buy. Needless to say, as his uncle and lifelong wannabe airplane owner myself, I was thrilled at the prospect of sharing the aircraft search-and-purchase adventure with my nephew. It was vicarious for sure, but better than nothing.
Sure, you say, buying an airplane is great, but it’s nothing unusual.
True, but I need to give you a bit of context. You see, back in mid-April, Steve had not yet earned his private certificate. In fact, he was scheduled to take his FAA checkride the following week at his home airport in Manassas, Virginia. (He aced the ride.)
We shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s start Steve Bloom’s adventure to aircraft ownership from the very beginning.
“Aviation has pretty much been a passion of mine a long as I can remember,” Steve said. “When I was a teenager, it was one thing my stepdad—who had owned an Aeronca Champ when he was young—and I shared. It was something we could enjoy and connect over.”
“On my 13th birthday, he and my mom got me a ride in a Stearman biplane at the Flying Circus Airshow in Bealeton, Virginia. And then for my 16th birthday, they gave me an introductory flight in a Cessna 152 at Manassas Airport (KHEF),” he said. “Other than that, there wasn’t much General Aviation experience in my life. But I became a complete geek for it. Every school project had to do with airplanes.”
In high school, young Steve had set his sights on attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University or Florida Institute of Technology to earn an aviation degree and pursue a career in the left seat. Unfortunately for the airlines, his less-than-first-class-medical-qualifying eyesight would keep that from happening.
“So, I did the responsible thing and got a degree in accounting from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina,” Steve said. “The college also has a really great aviation program and one of my best friends was going there. While my friend was building time toward his commercial, I got a lot of right-seat time in a 172. We flew all over the Carolinas and Georgia.”
Steve explained that while his dream of being a professional pilot didn’t pan out, in a way, his current job as the vice president of information technology for a major video game company is connected to his fascination with aviation.
“My original introduction and interest in the world of video games and simulations started with the hours and hours spent with the original [Microsoft] Flight Simulator,” he said. “It’s not nearly as popular now as it was then, but it was a chance to ‘fly’—and a lot of fun.”
Here’s where Steve’s road to piloting takes a course that’s all too familiar to so many of us: Life just got in the way of him achieving his lifelong dream of learning how to fly. But he didn’t lose the spark.
“Learning how to fly was always something I wanted to do, but just never could. I finally gave up and said it’s just going to be one of those unrealized dreams—and I was fine with that,” he explained. “I have a wonderful wife and daughter and a lot of amazing things going on in my life. Maybe God knew I would be a terrible pilot and was protecting me from myself.”
Just do it
“My wife, Danni, and I honeymooned at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Our family loves to spend our vacations out there. A couple of years ago, we decided to start looking at property for a vacation home,” Steve said. “From our home, it’s a six-hour drive [to the Outer Banks] on a good day.”
“Anyway, on the way home from a visit, I happened to mention how easy of a trip it would be in an airplane and if we were be going to make the trip more frequently, driving was the hard way.”
“Danni just looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t we just forget about the whole beach-house thing and you just go get your pilot’s license?’” Steve explained. “She said for me to just stop thinking and dreaming about it, and go do it.”
Steve heeded his wife’s advice and immediately went looking for a flight school, which ended up being a harder task than you might think. Primarily because of a shortage of full-time flight instructors, the few flight schools that are located at Steve’s home airport were swamped with students, especially on the weekends. His diligence finally paid off, and he started his training.
The lack of convenient instructors and available aircraft further cemented Steve’s idea that the only way to really be able to use his license was to buy his own airplane.
“I learned that in aviation—especially as a renter—you are always dependent on someone or something else, which limits your control,” he said. “As a bit of a Type A guy, I wanted to control as much of the process as I possibly could. I knew that when I got my private [certificate], I wanted to immediately start working toward my instrument rating. To do that, I needed to own my own airplane.”
Let the search begin
Obviously, the first step in looking for the perfect airplane to buy is deciding on just what that “perfect” airplane is. It’s not like you don’t have a plethora of options to choose from. But in Steve’s particular case, he wanted to stay in the Cessna family. Like so many of us, the familiarity he had developed during his flight training made the type his preferred choice.
But which one?
“I started looking at 172s, but quickly learned good ones are very difficult to find today. Flight schools really want them. Even the old ‘beaters’ that come on the market get sold quickly,” Steve said. “You can buy one, spend another $100,000, and have a really great four-place training airplane for way less than half the cost of a new one.”
Aside from the lack of available stock, the other negative on the 172 was the lack of useful load. Steve wanted an airplane that could carry his family and a bit of luggage for family trips.
He also looked at the fixed-gear Cessna 177B. And while he, as do many of us, really liked the Cardinal’s aggressive styling and spacious cabin, much like the 172, its useful load didn’t meet his needs. His search ultimately led to the venerable—and honestly, very hard to beat—Cessna 182 Skylane.
“My CFI, along with other of my aviation mentors, all said that the 182 would be the ideal ‘first’ airplane for me,” Steve said. “On one hand it’s a big 172, so it would be easy for me to transition to, and it had the power to carry pretty much whatever we want to put in it and still comfortably go as far as we want to go.”
“Also, unlike the majority of 172s,” he continued, “a 182 would not have typically been ‘beat up’ by primary flight students; although I was warned by everyone about 182s wanting to land hard on the nosegear. It was nothing to fear, but you have to pay attention to it and be properly trained. It’s been the bane of many 182 pilots.”
Once his mind was made up on the type, it came time for the daunting task of finding the right 182 out of all the candidates. Like everyone before him, Steve started his search by searching the pages of Trade-A-Plane, Controller, Barnstormers—all the popular places. The problem was they all seemed to have the same airplanes advertised.
As a social media kind of guy, Steve said he did find a lot of great information on the various aircraft buy/sell/trade groups available on Facebook.
“[The Facebook groups had] some fantastic information. I got an idea of what the real-world prices were for 182s and what I could expect to get within my budget,” Steve explained.
“The owners on Facebook were much more willing to share photos, logbook entries and other information about owning a particular type that you can’t get on the other sites,” he added. “And, besides, it’s a lot of fun just looking at the airplanes.”
A bit of uncle-ly advice
Throughout his online search, Steve would send me links to “interesting candidates” and ask my opinion on each.
I had previously contacted a couple of friends who own 182s and are A&Ps. They all shared the same advice: Rule No. 1 is, unless you are an A&P, DO NOT buy a fixer-upper. (The reasons are plentiful enough to warrant their own article.) Instead, find one with a mid-time airframe, low-time engine and serviceable avionics. That way you can start enjoying it right away.
As you can imagine, internet sites are packed with airplanes that may well have fit the bill. The problem is most owners are, let’s say, overly optimistic about the claims they make about their aircraft.
And besides, as Steve had already surmised, finding the airplane is just the first part of the complex purchasing puzzle.
“The biggest question I had when looking to buy an airplane on the open market was how does the process work? I know how to buy a car or a house, but not an airplane,” he said. “How do I make an offer? Who handles the contract? How do I do the pre-buy if the airplane is hundreds of miles away? How do I get financing or insurance?”
Sure, Steve’s a very smart guy and he would have figured it all out, but as his uncle, and with just a bit more experience and knowledge about the pitfalls of buying an airplane from an individual owner, my advice was to leave all that to the professionals.
When he asked my opinion, I said I felt his best avenue was to contract a reputable aircraft dealer and pay the dealer to put it all together for him. Sure, it may cost a bit more up front (I don’t mind spending his money), but my experienced opinion is that what it will save in worry and aggravation in the end is worth every penny.
I have known Fred Ahles and his team at Premier Aircraft Sales for a long time and they are the ones I would turn to if I were buying an airplane—especially my first airplane. So, I asked one of Premier’s regional sales managers, Barry Rutheiser, to contact Steve to see if the could work out an arrangement.
“When I talked to Barry about their acquisition services, I realized it was one simple answer to all of my questions,” Steve said. “Now, paying a sizable chunk of money up front as an acquisition fee is a little scary—you don’t get it back. This was also my first real realization that this was no longer a jaunt. It was serious.”
The first thing Rutheiser did was talk to Steve in-depth about what his goals were for flying and aircraft ownership.
“Just because Steve wanted a 182, didn’t mean that was the best airplane for him to buy. We need to consider the experience as a pilot and what they want to do with the airplane,” Rutheiser said. “You don’t want a buyer to be unrealistic in their search. For example, a Bonanza is fast and a great airplane, but it’s not ideal for the majority of low-time, first-time buyers.”
After their phone discussion, their mutual decision was that the Cessna 182 was indeed the ideal first airplane for Steve. Now the challenge was finding the right 182 to buy.
“There are a lot of 182s out there at all price points. It’s very difficult for the first-time buyer to weed through them all to find the right one,” Rutheiser said. “We go to other established dealers to see what they have available.”
“Working with an established dealer is important, because the dealer has already purchased the airplane from the owner and they’re not going to put their money at risk on a bad investment,” Rutheiser explained.
“In Steve’s case, I contacted a couple of trusted dealers and was able to find an unadvertised 1999 Cessna 182S with only 200 hours on the factory-remanufactured Lycoming engine,” he said. “It had a very nice Garmin avionics package and the cosmetics on the original interior and exterior were very good for its age. It was an exceptionally nice airplane.”
This particular Skylane was so nice, in fact, that Rutheiser made the decision that if Steve didn’t want it, he would buy it for Premier’s inventory.
“I signed the agreement with Barry on Friday and he called me the following Tuesday saying he thought he had found the ideal 182 for me,” Steve said. “When I saw the information on 4196 Delta, I realized the train was moving pretty fast. The market is hot for these airplanes.”
“I could have said I wasn’t interested, and Barry would have kept looking, but I didn’t want to miss out on the ideal airplane.”
“Then it came down to signing the contract and sending the deposit, setting up financing, all that stuff,” he said. “Now I was really committed. It was exciting—but a little nerve-wracking at the same time.”
While the proverbial clock was ticking, Steve stressed the fact that Rutheiser never put any pressure on him to make a decision.
“Barry gave me some great advice. He said, ‘Nothing happens quickly in aviation.’ I was all set to send the deposit and head to Fort Lauderdale [Florida] to pick up the airplane and he said to slow down. Premier wanted to first get the airplane to their shop and give it a thorough pre-buy inspection. If there was anything amiss, they wanted time to fix it,” Steve explained. “Barry made me comfortable with the whole process.”
If you’ve ever been on a blind date, well, it’s nothing compared to the anxiety you can feel after committing a bankroll of money and traveling from Virginia to Fort Lauderdale to buy an airplane that you’ve never seen.
Fortunately, for Steve and N4196 Delta, it was love at first flight.
“There were thunderstorms forecast in the area, so we decided to go fly as soon as my CFI and I arrived at Premier’s office,” Steve said. “Corbin Hallaran, Premier’s chief pilot, gave us a quick walkaround and I was ushered into the left seat.”
“I had never flown a high-performance airplane with a constant-speed prop and a more complicated avionics package before, but Corbin and my CFI assured me it was nothing to worry about. After all, it was just a more powerful l72.”
“After takeoff, I suddenly had this momentary feeling of severe buyer’s remorse. What was I doing? I am an idiot!” Steve said. “But, I’m a pretty levelheaded guy. ‘Don’t panic; fly the airplane,’ I thought. “With Corbin’s guidance, just as quickly as the anxiety came, it was gone—and I was enjoying flying my airplane.”
“It was overwhelming at first, but it was a lot of fun,” Steve said. “Corbin took the time to explain it all to me. It wasn’t a flight lesson; he was just introducing all of the components of the more complex airplane to me. It was a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but I was able to appreciate the fact that there I was, flying around Fort Lauderdale in an airplane I was soon going to own. That was pretty cool!”
After landing, Rutheiser and the rest of Premier’s team gathered in the conference room to go over all the aircraft records and logbooks. Prior to arrival, they had helped Steve with arranging financing through Dorr Aviation Credit Corporation (he can’t recommend them highly enough) and insurance through Falcon Aviation Insurance (great experience there as well).
Once all that was cleared, Steve contacted the bank and OK’d the transfer of the funds. All that was left to do was to go grab lunch at the airport diner.
“During lunch, I got the call from the bank saying the transfer was completed and the airplane was mine,” Steve said. “I never thought a ‘little-bit-more-than-a-hundred’ dollar hamburger could taste so good. It was the best lunch, and one of the best days of my life.”
After a few congratulatory handshakes, and with thunderstorms closing in along their route north, Steve and his CFI climbed aboard ‘96 Delta for the first leg of their trip home and Steve’s first chance to really get to know his new pride and joy.
Everything he wanted and more
Now that Steve and his family have had a few months to enjoy aircraft ownership, I had to ask: How does it feel?
“It’s everything I had hoped it would be,” Steve said. “It’s a beautiful airplane that’s everything I could hope for. It’s fulfilling my mission profile perfectly, which is smashing bugs on Saturday and just enjoying flying.”
“It will get my family safely wherever we want to go.”
“And it’s so, so much better than renting. I know it’s not cost-effective; I did all the math and my break-even point is 100 hours a year. But it’s definitely worth it for how I feel about airplanes and getting to own my own,” Steve said. “It’s an amazing feeling. Even if I just go to the airport and wipe the bugs off, I enjoy every minute of it.”
Steve said that while 4196 Delta was fulfilling his personal dream, it has already sparked a bit of the flying bug in a couple of his nieces and nephews.
“We had the airplane down at Kill Devil Hills [North Carolina] during our vacation this summer and we took all the nieces and nephews for rides along the coast. It was as much fun for me as it was for them,” he said. “One of my nieces said it was the coolest thing she had ever done. And my 15-year old nephew was so taken with it, he has decided to join the Air Force to become a pilot.”
You’ve got to admit that it’s a pretty great thing when achieving your dream helps someone else identify theirs.
Dale Smith has been an aviation journalist for 30 years. When he’s not writing aviation articles, Smith does commission aircraft illustrations specializing in seaplanes and flying boats. Smith has been a certificated pilot since 1974 and has flown 35 different types of General Aviation, business and World War II vintage aircraft. Send questions or comments to .
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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 .
After more than a decade and a half of upgrades and flying adventures—many of them published in Cessna Flyer—contributing editor Charles Lloyd recently handed off his pampered 182 to a new owner.
“There comes a time when two people sit down at a table to sign and exchange papers,” says aviation author Richard Bach.1 “Then an airplane, with all its logbooks and other important papers, flies away with a new owner.
“One thing that the previous owner never relinquishes,” Bach continues, “is the memories of flights in this wonderful flying machine.”
As I write this today, Bill, our pampered Cessna 182, has left his heated hangar at Lake Waltanna, Kan. (SN65) and headed east to a new home at St. Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS) in Cahokia, Ill.
During the last 16 years, Bill evolved from a homely 1966 Cessna 182 to a very nice IFR “get-you-where-you-need-to-go” airplane with many redundant systems.
Starting with obsolete King KX-170 radios and a transponder that worked most of the time, plus an inop autopilot and DME, the instrument panel layout was something that only a pinball game designer could love. Crazed acrylic made looking outside the aircraft a challenge… and let’s not even talk about the exterior paint condition.
Over a two-year period, new paint, a redesigned panel with three modes of panel lighting, and a new Garmin GNS 430, Stormscope and S-TEC autopilot transformed Bill into a magic carpet that traveled all over the United States.
After adding a GNS 530 GPS Nav/Com, WAAS, SiriusXM for weather, TIS-B traffic and altitude hold and a 252 hp engine upgrade, Bill became a dream airplane for any pilot. Today Bill has over 40 STCs and field approvals.
Lloyd transformed Bill into a nice IFR aircraft with many redundant systems. The redesigned panel has three modes of panel lighting, with a Garmin GNS 430, Stormscope, S-TEC autopilot, GNS
530 GPS Nav/Com, WAAS, SiriusXM for weather, TIS-B traffic and altitude hold. The installation of a G3 engine monitor from Insight was the topic of an article in this magazine in 2013.
Bill took me on trips to the four corners of the United States and to the Gulf of Mexico as well as to Wisconsin for Cessna Flyer Gatherings and EAA AirVenture. Some of my travels with Bill included a flight to one of my all-time favorite destinations, Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Grand Teton National Park (published in this magazine in March 2007).
I also wrote about my experiences at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. (March 2008); the Legoland theme park in Winter Haven, Fla. (March 2012); the Cessna Flyer Gathering at Waupaca and EAA AirVenture (October 2012); a trip to Cody, Wyo. (February 2014); and a tour of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center (April 2014).
Add to these all of my trips into Class B airspace in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York, Phoenix and Orlando—all were a great challenge (and a real kick!) to fly and fit in with the high-volume flow.
In addition to so many destinations, various weather challenges, new equipment and safety upgrades became worthwhile subjects for many other Cessna Flyer articles. (Members can log in to CessnaFlyer.org to read dozens of Charles Lloyd’s articles in the archives, including the popular three-part series “Avionics Bucket List.” Members can also reread features like “Look Inside Your Engine—from the Cockpit!” discussing the installation of an Insight G3 engine monitor and many other technology-focused stories. —Ed.)
After owning Bill for 16 years and enjoying 2,000 hours of flying, Charles Lloyd feels strongly that there is a time to own and enjoy a particular airplane, and then there is a time to let go. In the
summer of 2015, the time had come to let go of Bill.
The day finally came when it was time to hand Bill over to another owner.
After reading “The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying and Selling a Plane” (Cessna Flyer, December 2014), I called to ask author Michael Leighton for his advice on where to advertise Bill for sale. Leighton asked me about Bill’s model year and equipment, and recommended Barnstormers.com as a good place to start.
Lo and behold, before I even had my advertisement written, I came across a wanted ad: a Cessna 182 buyer was looking for an aircraft similar to Bill. After exchanging emails and sending pictures of specific items and places on the airframe, the buyer had enough interest to see, touch and fly Bill.
A trip to St. Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS) soon followed, where Bill underwent a pre-purchase inspection and demonstration flight. This led to final negotiations, a sales agreement and a target delivery date.
The big day had arrived. I walked into the hangar and started loading a lot of items into the backseat and baggage area. Bill’s ever-present curiosity got the best of him and he starting asking questions.
“Hey Charles,” I heard. “What is all that stuff you’re loading in me? Those aren’t the normal items we take on our trips out of Waltanna.”
“Well, Bill,” I replied, “I am not flying you as much as I used to, and I found you a new home over in the St. Louis area.”
“Yeah, I wondered why that stranger in St. Louis was poking around my insides,” he said. “I guess now I know.”
“Yes,” I said aloud. “The new owner has purchased a hangar for you and he’s excited about adding some additional equipment to your avionics panel.
“He seems like a really nice guy,” I added.
So, off we flew to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (KICT), formerly Wichita Mid-Continent, on our last flight together. The tower controller even commented that he understood this was Bill’s and my last flight together, which was nice.
After signing papers and checking with banks, Bill officially had a new owner. Hello
John Bradley, Bill’s new owner, comes from a similar mold as I do.
Bradley has a fascination for airplanes that goes back to early childhood when his father took him to the rooftop of the Tampa airport parking structure to watch the airplanes take off and land. A grandfather who flew a B-25 in World War II only added to his aviation interest.
Bradley’s activity in the Civil Air Patrol and Air Force ROTC put him on his way to a career as pilot with the U.S. Air Force and National Guard. These days, John Bradley is a first officer for a major airline and living his dream life.
He always harbored a yearning to own an airplane for personal travel in order to visit friends and family up and down the East Coast of the United States. Bradley wanted an aircraft that was reasonably fast, roomy and well equipped for IFR conditions, so he focused on a Garmin WAAS-equipped 182.
Bradley is also a Cessna Flyer Association member and enjoys Cessna Flyer magazine because it focuses on his personal flying interests.
After attending EAA AirVenture this year, he came back with tote bags of information on Garmin and Aspen glass panels, plus brochures on the many approaches to ADS-B. In addition to these plans, an immediate upgrade to the interior will finish off Bill’s cockpit in fine style.
My wife Sara was weepy as John prepared to fly Bill away, and she was concerned about how I would react. After owning Bill for 16 years and enjoying 2,000 hours of flying, I feel that there is a time to own and enjoy a particular airplane, and then there is a time to let go. This time had come.
Bill’s new owner reassured us that this ownership change is not the end of the book, it’s simply the end of one chapter—and the beginning of a new one.
John and Bill, may the sun always be over your shoulder and a tailwind your constant companion through blue skies for your future adventures.
Bill’s new owner, John Bradley, is a first officer for a major airline. Bradley wanted an aircraft that was reasonably fast, roomy and well equipped for IFR conditions. He is even a Cessna Flyer Association member!
1When author Charles Lloyd emailed to ask Richard Bach for proper attribution of his quote, Bach replied, “I remember writing a comment like that just a few months ago. But I have no idea now where it appeared.” If any CFA members can locate the work in which this passage was published, please email us at to enlighten us—and Mr. Bach.
Charles Lloyd has logged 10,000 hours since his first flying lesson in 1954. He worked for Cessna Aircraft for 16 years. Lloyd retired as captain of a Citation Encore Plus for a major fractional aircraft ownership company and recently sold his tricked-out 1966 Cessna 182, also known as Bill. Send questions or comments to .